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Taco of the Week: A New Contender For L.A.’s ‘Best Al Pastor’ Emerges in the Streets of Hollywood

11:23 AM PDT on May 24, 2022

    Los Ángeles is a city of tacos with new taquerías popping up on street corners around the county on a weekly basis. To help us get through them all, L.A. TACO presents our new "Taco of the Week" column, where we celebrate the latest taco we’ve eaten that blew our minds.

    Every once in a big while you encounter a taco in the streets of Los Angeles that reminds you why life is beautiful and why we are the best city in the country for tacos. Like last night, when I stumbled onto an al pastor taco in Hollywood that stopped me in my tracks at first bite. Fellow Taco Life followers, let’s give a warm welcome to Taquería Juquilita, who I am willing to say is making L.A.’s best al pastor I’ve had yet.     

    The unassuming taco stand outside of Hollywood Forever cemetery was first covered on our news trompo last week by Odilia Romero. Her first report for L.A. TACO traces how Oaxaca’s Indigenous Mixe culture has gone on to open some of the city’s best al pastor taquerias, including Leo’s Tacos and Tacos Tamix (both L.A. TACO hall of famers). In her story, she generously disclosed some of her current favorite Mixe-powered al pastor tacos in L.A., including Taquería Juquilita.

    Their stand on the south side of Santa Monica Street, in front of a strip mall, is easy to spot but hard to make time for, disappearing into L.A. County’s taco universe like a salsa spoon swallowed by the salsa that never gets seen again. Chances are you’ve driven by it, going way over the speed limit to get to the 101 south or just to not miss the opening act at the Masonic Lodge next door. 

    But next time you pass, stop for a few minutes and order a couple of their tacos al pastor that rival—or hell, fuck it, are maybe even better—than the ones I’ve had in Mexico City. You see, the thing that no one tells you when you write about tacos for a living is that you become incredibly jaded when it comes to eating tacos. 

    A naked pair of cabeza and al pastor tacos. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

    It takes a lot to blow your mind, so when I find a new (to me) taco that stands out for its flavor and technique, you are damn right I am going to yell it from the rooftops. What stands out from the al pastor at Taquería Juquilita is the tightly-stacked trompo. The layers are compressed as tightly as a chocolate babka and the crimson adobo’s tinge appears to have seeped deeply into the thinly-carved pork. This shows that the pork had enough time to marinate in the adobo before being stacked and impaled on the trompo. 

    The second thing that stands out is the trompero’s (the taquero who has the specific job of carving the trompo) slices. They are effortless and precise with each finesse of the knife. What many people don’t realize is that a trompero’s experience directly affects your al pastor experience. If he is confident and talented enough to rotate and fire up the flame to cook the trompo, the thinly-sliced meat will be cooked through and even a little crispy. If the trompero is still a rookie, then he will butcher the trompo slices a la Texas Chainsaw Massacre, right onto the grill underneath so that the al pastor finishes cooking on the flat-top instead of by live fire. But all this secondary grilling usually does is dry out the al pastor. 

    They also have one of the more buttery cabezas that I’ve had in this city full of collagen, fat, and rendered cheek meat...

    Al pastor should always be sliced directly onto the tortilla. If you see anything else, run for the hills, or the next closest trompero. The Mixe factor comes in with the brightness and spices deployed in their adobo. It is bright-tasting stuff, thanks to the ample use of vinegar, just like in Oaxaca’s chorizo culture, similarly also adobo-based, but using more vinegar to make the chorizo flavor even brighter. The final result is a flavor bomb version of al pastor that delivers true taco euphoria and keeps you ordering more and more. 

    The tortillas are not handmade but that is okay in this situation as they are still specifically sourced. Of course, they come kissed by the trompo’s drippings and are also of the yellow corn variety, which delivers greater flavor. Nor are the salsas watered-down. They also have one of the more buttery cabezas that I’ve had in this city full of collagen, fat, and rendered cheek meat, and their asada is grilled al carbon too. 

    All this to say, whenever I am within a 10-mile radius of Juquilita, I will drive out of my way to eat as many tacos there as I can, and also try to be less of a jaded bastard in the future.

    5944 Santa Monica Blvd. 90038. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 4 - "Santa Monica/Bronson."

    Follow Taquería Juquilita on Instagram here.    

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