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L.A.’s Next Great Sinaloan-Style Taco Is At a Target Parking Lot in North Long Beach

The taco tides are turning in Los Angeles. After years of birria and Tijuana-style tacos controlling the city's Taco Life, another taco style is emerging as a new trend: Sinaloa-style. But even more specifically, El Verde, Sinaloa. Check out where to find the latest and greatest handmade chorreada in Los Angeles.

7:00 AM PDT on June 30, 2023

    The taco tides are turning in Los Angeles. After years of birria and Tijuana-style tacos controlling the city's Taco Life, another taco style is emerging as a new trend: Sinaloa-style. But even more specifically, El Verde, Sinaloa.

    The latest contender is Tacos El Chapoteco in north Long Beach.

    The month-old trailer specializes in tacos in the style of El Verde, Sinaloa, a small town an hour's drive away from Mazatlán. Coincidentally, the winner of this year's TACO MADNESS champion, Tacos La Carreta, also specializes in El Verde, Sinaloa-style tacos. Both trailers are located about a mile and a half from each other, a few blocks away from the 91 Freeway.

    A couple of toritos and a taco at Tacos El Chapoteco. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.
    Vampiros at Tacos El Chapoteco. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

    What differentiates a Sinaloan-style taco from the rest of L.A.'s taco universe are two specific taco variations that are only found at these kinds of taco establishments: Their torito (a roasted Anaheim green chile with a little cheese, mesquite-grilled carne asada on a flour tortilla) and chorreadas (a corn tortilla that is layered with aciento—toasted chicharrón paste, along with melted cheese, and asada). The other giveaway is when a taco is topped with extremely finely minced cabbage. They do a very curious blend of lettuce and cabbage at this spot. Lastly, instead of horchata, you will see agua de cebada, which is eerily similar but just made with toasted ground barley flour instead of toasted rice.

    At Tacos El Chapoteco, they excel in all the Sinaloan staples.

    It's worth driving from anywhere in Los Angeles County to try their chorreada, which stands out against others in the city because the owner and taquera Mayra Valenzuela make each and every one of them by hand. They are chewy masa disks that hold about two tacos-worth of asada, with slightly crisped-up edges and a delicately chewy center. The aciento (chicharrón paste) is spooned over the thick tortilla and tastes almost exactly like brown butter, nutty, with just a scant amount of chicharrón shreds to make it not taste like just another taco.

    This chorreada may the most exciting masa development in a Long Beach parking lot since Don Ramon and his incredible tamales down Cherry Street in...another parking lot.

    With the tender, chopped asada, gazpacho-like runny tomato salsa that is also standard in Sinaloan taquerías, this taco variation may conjure up memories of the first time you had a proper memela in Oaxaca. This chorreada may the most exciting masa development in a Long Beach parking lot since Don Ramon and his incredible tamales down Cherry Street in...another parking lot.

    El Chapoteco's toritos are also worth clamoring over. Adding a whole roasted green chile to a taco does wonders for its integrity, adding a juicy, charred vegetal layer to the onslaught of meat, corn, and salsa. The flour tortillas here are not handmade, but they taste almost homemade.

    A perfect order at El Chapoteco would be a chorreada, a torito, and their agua de cebada, which is about half as sweet as other Sinaloan places and twice as refreshing. If you're particularly famished, order their "papa loca." It's a whole baked potato filled with carne asada, cheese, and butter. It's served with a pile of tortillas and enough for two people. It's not strictly Sinaloan, but Sinaloans do know how to make a damn good one. El Chapoteco also stands out for offering grilled chicken and, if you're lucky enough to get there before they run out, mesquite-grilled tripa (delicious intestine).

    A chorreada at Tacos El Chapoteco. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.
    A papa loca de asada at Tacos El Chapoteco. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

    Tacos El Chapoteco has been a journey for the Valenzuela family. El Chapoteco is the name of the small ranch in El Verde where Alejandro is from. He is the husband of Mayra and co-founding taquero of the trailer. They are both from El Verde and immigrated to Los Angeles in 2003. They work the trailer—carreta, as it's known in Spanish—with their two teenage children and Enrique, who is Alejandro's brother. The family decided to give running a carreta a shot a couple of months ago when their home operation in Compton became too successful.

    "Our customers were causing traffic jams and double-parking! They would do anything for our tacos, so we knew it was time to move on," Alexandro tells L.A. TACO. They both rent the trailer legally, with permits and park it in a nearby commissary, where they also prepare the food in an industrial kitchen. It's only been a month since they've occupied the four furthest parking spaces in the northeastern point of a Target parking lot that otherwise sits unused every day and night.

    Fernando, Enrique, Alejandro, Yaretzy, and Mayra. The Valenzuela family behind Tacos El Chapoteco. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

    "The security guards have told us 'thank you' for opening here because now they have somewhere delicious to eat for lunch and dinner," Mayra says excitedly. She shares a bit about the trials and tribulations of being a female taquera in L.A.'s male-dominated taco world. "When I first tried to set up shop closer to my home in Compton, another taquero who set up a few blocks away came up to me and told me I couldn't be there. He threatened me, and I didn't want any problems for my family, so I found this new place," she says.

    The customers pulling up in their BMWs and SUVs on a Sunday afternoon followed the trailer here after getting a taste of the Valenzuela family's sazón in their home. Other customers, two young men, are Sinaloan-American and occasionally work with "Tacos El Paloma," a Sinaloan taco pioneer in Compton. They heard about El Chapoteco through their family and friends and came out to taste and support the Valenzuela family's new venture. "They're bomb," one says after the first bite of his crunchy vampiros.

    Tacos El Chapoteco follows the lineage of great taqueros from El Verde Sinaloa, earning their respect in the taco wars of Los Angeles, just like La Carreta and Tacos El Paloma. Mayra's next goal is to be open more days a week.

    "Gracias a Dios, ahí vamos poco a poco."

    Tacos El Chapoteco is open Friday through Sunday from 3:30 PM to 10 PM at 6750 Cherry Avenue, Long Beach 90805. Closest transit lines and stop: Long Beach Transit Lines 21 and 23 - "Cherry/68th" or Long Beach Transit Line 141 - "Artesia/Cherry."

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