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How a Taco Truck in Huntington Beach Is Serving Guerrero-Inspired Flavors in MAGA-Land

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]o give you an idea of the street food scene in Huntington Beach, I’m going to let Bladimir Barrientos, the man behind Blady’s Tacos, tell you how his first week on the job went:

“We had the cops called on us,” recalls Barrientos. “People were asking us if we had our permits and if we were up to code.” Also, this gem: “We had a lady walk by with her dog and just give us the meanest look.  She said street food is unclean and dirty.”

Not exactly the warmest of welcomes. But, in a city known for holding Trump rallies and alt-right gatherings, and Basilico’s Pasta y Vino, the restaurant making headlines recently for requiring patrons to prove that they are unvaccinated in order to receive service. Unvaccinated.

This is what the Barrientos family was up against.

Street food and taqueros just don’t happen in Huntington Beach. There are Chipotles, Taco Bells, and Fred’s, a place overlooking the ocean that serves, yes, a cheeseburger taco. Nonetheless, for the Barrientos, being able to have the opportunity to provide meals to their community is a blessing.

“The same cops that were called on us during our first week are now some of our best customers,” says Bladimir, or Blady of the eponymous food truck with the same name.  

In addition to the cops, these customers also include the Huntington Beach Fire Department, paramedics, and city construction workers. The latter customer demographic is often an indicator of geat food. 

The Blady's Tacos trailer.
The Blady's Tacos trailer. Photo by Sean Vukan for L.A. TACO.

The Barrientos’ customers also include people such as Guadalupe, her daughter Mary, and eight-year-old granddaughter Allison, who live in Costa Mesa and drive down the 405 whenever they are craving good tacos. She found them on Instagram about five months ago and they have been coming here ever since, sometimes two to three times a week.

 For Mary, it’s the keto tacos, substituting a tortilla for a crispy cheese and the quesabirria taco. For Allison, her eyes widen as big as the flour tortilla her asada burrito comes wrapped in as she tells me it’s her favorite.  

Orange County’s Mexican food scene can easily be found along the Interstate 5 corridor. Cities with large Latino populations such as Buena Park, Anaheim, Santa Ana, and to an extent, pockets of San Juan Capistrano, but not so much along the Pacific Coast Highway behind the Orange curtain.

Yet, for customers like Esbeida, a resident of Santa Ana who brought ten of her family members on this night for dinner and bypassed numerous taco options in Santa Ana to make the drive to Huntington Beach for the Barrientos’ tacos, these tacos are as legit as they come. “They remind me of tacos I would get in Mexico,” she says.

As Orange County becomes increasingly blue politically, communities such as Huntington Beach and Garden Grove are having a reckoning as they play this balancing act with trying desperately to hold onto the past as they make more attempts to hear and be empathetic towards the voices of the traditionally marginalized within the community-fighting to be heard.

Blady’s Tacos opened last year, mid-pandemic, just a few miles away from where anti-mask, stop the steal, and pro-Trump rallies would also be held during 2020.  

Huntington Beach’s history with its Latino population has primarily been one of dismissiveness, despite the existence of Oak View Barrio and its elementary school next to a garbage dump. 

As Orange County becomes increasingly blue politically, communities such as Huntington Beach and Garden Grove are having a reckoning as they play this balancing act with trying desperately to hold onto the past as they make more attempts to hear and be empathetic towards the voices of the traditionally marginalized within the community-fighting to be heard.

A plate of tacos at Blady's.
A plate of tacos at Blady's. Photo by Sean Vukan for L.A. TACO.

For Bladimir, his wife Vivian, and teenage daughter Brianna, they want to let their food speak for itself.  Vivian is in charge of the salsas, and at Blady’s, you get three: a guacamole-lime, a habanero-style red salsa, and of course, the “secret recipe” green salsa. Bladimir cooks the tacos, using recipes he created, but is inspired by years of watching his mom cook in the kitchen. He is from El Ocotito, Guerrero. He never worked in a restaurant prior to becoming a taquero and started making tacos after he was laid off from his old job working in an investment firm.   

“If you only knew how many times my dog got so many carnitas and tripas scraps.  He ate like a king,” laughs Bladimir, referring to how many recipes he experimented with to get to the current menu at his taquería.

“I feel we have a responsibility to be at this location only because there are people who depend on us to provide that dinner meal, and we need to be here for them.”

The menu focuses on the taquero basics: asada, pollo, pastor, cabeza, birria, chorizo, choriqueso, and quesabirria, and cecina, a dry-aged asada that’s salted and thinly sliced beef. Get any of those meats in a burrito, taco, torta, or quesadilla. They’re simple but delicious.  Meat, tortilla, onion, cilantro, and the optional radish; That’s it, and that’s all you need. Tender, marinated meat cradled inside tortillas made fresh for Barrientos every morning from Tortillería Dios del Maiz in Santa Ana. And get one of Vivian’s salsas.

Tacos this delicious existing in Huntington Beach in 2021 is a form of direct resistance. 

Prior to opening the truck, the Barrientos ran a taquiza catering business, going to parties and events where they would cook up their tacos. The more events they did, the more customers would encourage them to open up a truck.  Last June, they finally did.

“We’ve been asked to go to local breweries and other locations, but we’ve declined,” says Bladimir.  “I feel we have a responsibility to be at this location only because there are people who depend on us to provide that dinner meal, and we need to be here for them.”

“We weren’t here last Monday due to a family emergency, and people were getting worried that we had got shut down,” says Vivian. “When we came back the next day, they were so relieved to see us!”

Is the street food scene in Huntington Beach changing?  Barrientos hopes so. He has withstood a pandemic and misconceptions throughout his first year and hopes that disgruntled taqueros and other taco trucks from Santa Ana and other surrounding cities that can’t find a place to park in their city can hopefully find a spot in his.

“We’re just blessed to be here. To have this opportunity,” says Vivian. “We just want to give back and be something that the people can depend on.”

Blady's Tacos is open daily from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM. They are located at 16672 Beach Blvd. Huntington Beach, CA 92647. Follow them on Instagram for more information. 

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