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Your Compton Taco Crawl: Nayarit-Style Al Vapor Tacos, Jalisco-Style Tostadas Raspadas, and OG TJ-Style Asada

2:00 PM PDT on July 9, 2021

    [dropcap size=big]E[/dropcap]njoying all that L.A.’s Taco Life has to offer is a matter of constantly pushing yourself to cruise through new neighborhoods and stopping randomly at taquerías along the way. Some surefire signs of stumbling into unforgettable tacos are trucks, restaurants, or stands that have large crowds, or simply a truck offering a taco-style or from a different region that you haven’t seen before.

    Yes, this very much means driving out of the neighborhood you live in and hopping on the freeway in the search for tacos that are new to you. It also means relying a bit on that old-school spirit of adventure and leaving your taco fate up to the Taco Gods. Maybe it’s time to replace your Yelp app with L.A. TACO’s official app (that is still in beta, chill). It’s OK not to have an exact itinerary. It’s also normal having a few mediocre tacos before you find one that was worth the journey. I'll never forget a valuable piece of advice that my mentor Jonathan Gold told me when I was still a lil' Teenager Glutster: "For every great meal, you will have at least 10 bad ones." This is also more or less accurate when talking about traversing your way through L.A.'s Taco Life.

    I recently pushed myself to do precisely this and chose Compton as my destination taco ‘hood. I allowed myself to do one quick Google search to find a solid-looking destination to pin on the map. This first location served as a starting point and an offering to my bottomless taco stomach. It also prevents the predicament of driving aimlessly while hangry, which is a recipe for taco disaster so don't make that rookie mistake.

    Nonetheless, here are my top three spots from that crawl. 

    tacos de requesón
    Tacos de requesón at Antojitos Los Cuates. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.
    Tacos de requesón at Antojitos Los Cuates. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

    Antojitos Los Cuates

    1811 N Long Beach Blvd, Compton, CA 90221

    One of L.A.’s very few weaknesses in our Mexican food tacoscape is the lack of cenadurías and places strictly dedicated to the craft of evening antojitos and pozole. All over Mexico, cenadurías are an institution and is another late-night option alongside taco stands offering the usual asada-cabeza-tripa cannon of tacos. You can find crispy tacos at these magical places filled with seasoned requesón (Mexican-style ricotta cheese), picadillo, and, of course, potato. But you can also find a reliably delicious plate of other antojitos like enchiladas, rojas or verdes, pozole, and tamales. Antojitos Los Cuates offers amazing versions of each of these antojitos. Owner and Jalisquillo Fernando Gonzalez hails from Ciudad Guzman, Jalisco, and realized right away the dearth of antojito houses in L.A., so he did something about it. He DIY imports tostadas raspadas from Jalisco that taste like popcorn. He makes his requesón from scratch. He proudly does not use canned hominy for his pozole blanco, pinching the pericarp off each grain of hominy so that the corn puffs up like popcorn in the pork bone broth. He also pickles his own gelatinous pig feet and snout for his tostadas. He’s doing every single thing right and deserves a place in L.A.’s best Mexican restaurants. 

    tacos al vapor
    Tacos al vapor at El Cacheton. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.
    Tacos al vapor at El Cacheton. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

    Tacos Al Vapor El Cacheton

    4518 Rosecrans Ave, Compton, CA 90221

    Tacos al vapor are a taco expert’s favorite taco-style. Out of all the tacos in the world, this regional taco holds the most integrity and respect for meat and tortillas due to the ultra-pure cooking medium that is steam and only steam. The beef head is steamed and separated for each taco according to each meat’s respective skull compartments for this style. Usually, the tacos you can order at these establishments are cachete (beef cheek), labio (beef lip), lengua (beef tongue), sesos (beef brain), and surtido, which is sometimes called “cabeza” and usually means a mixture of all the meats and then some. In Los Angeles, we are lucky to have many options for tacos al vapor, and in Compton, the go-to spot is Tacos El Cacheton. It is a truck that specializes in Nayarit-style tacos al vapor. The salsas range from refreshing (a delightfully watery green one) and a fiery habanero orange one. This truck also has a unique “asada” option that is mesquite-grilled asada chilled and then re-steamed, creating an exceptionally tender and smoky taco.

    TJ-style guacamole tacos.

     

    Taquería El Poblano Estilo Tijuana

    4253 E Compton Blvd, Compton, CA 90221

    If you “El Poblano” or “Los Poblanos” next to tacos anywhere in Southern California or Baja, you can rest assured that the tacos will probably be decent at worse. The Poblano/Poblanos and all their restaurants along Baja and L.A. are the pioneers of the Tijuana-style taco: mesquite-grilled smoky asada, a thick dollop of guacamole, spicy salsa de molcajete, handmade corn tortilla, and all rolled up in a cone shape. In Compton, Daniel Alonso, taquero and founder of Taquería El Poblano Estilo Tijuana is one of L.A.’s OGs in the Poblano TJ-style. He’s had this taquería in Compton for five years, just opened another one on Rosecrans Avenue, and is about to open another one near Disneyland for all the paisas to eat after spending a day at the Happiest Place on Earth. All that success has been built on his taco de asada. He is originally from Puebla but worked and lived at different taquerías throughout Tijuana for three years. There is a reason why the wait for this TJ-style taco can be up to 30 minutes, even on a weeknight.

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