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Angel’s Tijuana Tacos Is a Slice of Baja California in North Hollywood

[dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]ngel’s Tijuana Tacos is in North Hollywood but it might as well be in the Altámira. The spot has the TJ flavors down and it also has the vibe of a small Tijuana neighborhood taquero.

Angel's is set next to a chain-link fence in a dirt lot on a major avenue that sort of breaks the whole neighborhood open to a commercial center. The cars are all parked wherever there is room. And a massive cloud of charcoal smoke flies high into the pitch black night, colored only by grilled meats and incandescent lights – an L.A. answer to the iconic Tijuana arc on Avenida Revolucion.

All photos by Erick Galindo

It’s also cash only, which only an amateur – or someone who gave all his cash to the kids earlier in the day and forgot – might find out the hard way. Luckily I had four dollars in quarters in the car, enough for two tacos and a lovely conversation with Mariela, the Guatemalan grill master flipping asada and chorizo on a cold Wednesday night.

“I love these tacos,” she tells me. “You think I’d get tired of them working here but I never do.” Angel’s tacos will leave you wishing you had rolls and rolls of quarters, or a nearby ATM machine.

The light brown masa is rolled and flattened on a wood press and given tortilla life on a large iron comal. Mariela gives the meat to taquero Marco, who chops it with a butcher knife into small squares. He grabs a sheet of butcher paper, fits in the tortilla, and fills it with the precious cargo.

He tops that with cilantro y cebolla. Then he asks what kind of salsa I’d prefer. “Roja or verde?” My answer is both, obviously. He splashes one, then the other, and tops it all off with le pièce de résistance – a simple but perfect guacamole.

[dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]ngel’s markets itself as “The FIRST and only TJ-style taco in the Valley!” I don’t know about that. I’m an interloper from Southeast L.A. who will go anywhere for truly good Tijuana-style asada. But Angel’s Tacos are up there with the new Tijuana-style taquero class that has steadily been filling L.A.'s streets.

“It all comes from the same place,” Marco says. “It basically all started as Poblano style and from there it has multiplied and spread all over DF, Tijuana, here, everywhere.”

Marco tells me that the owner, Angel, is originally from Guerrero, but the family recipe for the seasoning comes from Tijuana. So do many of the staff on hand on this Wednesday night.

I ask them all what their favorite tacos in Tijuana are and out come the neighborhoods: Claveria, El Centro, Morelos, etc. Mariela tells me about Guatemalan tacos. "The meat is basically boiled in a consomé and then rolled in big-ish tortillas," she explains. "They are very different but also very much tacos. And like all tacos they are perfect and very popular."

Mariela asks me what I'm doing in North Hollywood. "You don't look like you're from around here," she says. I tell her that I was in Burbank for a special screening of Miss BalaI explain the plot to her and how it was cool to see Tijuana in a big Hollywood popcorn flick. "It wasn't as good as the original," I tell her. "But it was close and more modern. Lot's of fun and action."

She asks if that's why I came to eat Tijuana tacos. "Did the movie inspire you?" It was serendipity, I say and choke a little on the cloud of smoke. "You should get out of the smoke," she cautions.

But I love the smoke.

Angel’s Tijuana Tacos is located at 6148 Vineland Ave and open Tuesday through Sunday from 6 pm until they sell out.

RELATED: The Inevitable Fusion of Tijuana and Ciudad de México Tacos Is Here ~ Don Goyo in Downey

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