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Bone Marrow Tacos Have Arrived In the Streets of Boyle Heights, Here’s Where to Order Them

5:20 PM PDT on October 24, 2019

    [dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he draw at Pepe’s Red Tacos, the latest addition to the row of taqueros on Olympic Boulevard east of Soto Street, is the “Huesi-taco," aka, a tuétano taco, or bone marrow taco. 

    However, while the new white truck advertises “Birria de Res” across the front of it, they actually focus on beef barbacoa. Part of that speaks to the idea that in certain regions, those two terms are used interchangeably. Yaneva Mercado, co-owner, explains that in Guadalajara, where her father Pepe is from, birria usually reserved for chivo—goat—and barbacoa is in the beef dominion.

    They had their grand opening this past Sunday. The first 50 customers received a sample platter of what they offer and people in line were met with live music. Balloons adorned the surrounding space around the lonchera and a modest line started to form around noon.

    Pepe’s Red Tacos was started by a dad and daughter duo, Pepe and Yaneva Mercado. Pepe has been working in the food truck business for 35 years and for Pepe’s Red Tacos he teamed up with his daughter, she runs the marketing and he’s handling the cooking. The beef barbacoa comes from a recipe handed down from their family three generations ago.

    “We make everything the old way, no pressure cookers, or anything like that. Our barbacoa is slowly cooked for five hours.” Mercado tells L.A. Taco. “It’s like birria and barbacoa but this is our own version.”

    After seeing the trend in Guadalajara (one of their relatives sent a picture), they wanted to bring it to L.A. Luckily their carnicero was able to get them a consistent supply of chamorro de res (beef shank) and they started experimenting with preparation. The bone is simmered in their consomé, then seared on the plancha to finish it off. The huesi-taco is essentially a version of their barbacoa de res taco, with a marrow-filled bone resting on top of the meat. Inside that bone is the jiggly clump of tuétano that you push out into the taco.

    While it’s certainly an indulgence, the bone marrow adds an extra beefy flavor once you mix the rendered fat with the rest of protein—spoon over some consomé to get optimal flavor.

    The bone marrow works to remedy some of the dryness of their lean barbacoa. The consomé tastes more like a tomato beef broth, which they serve free with each order, for your dipping pleasure. Pepe’s also suffers from average tortillas, which is not uncommon in L.A.’s taco scene, but it does weigh down the tacos. Nonetheless, Pepe’s has a solid product that can only improve with time, seeing as they’ve only been open for a week.

    With the taco game being so saturated with braised beef, be it birria or barbacoa, its difficult for newcomers to stand out. Pepe’s differentiates themselves with their bone marrow taco which will be documented as the first street taquero to do it in the city. It will expose many Angelenos, like myself, to tuétano. Now you don’t have to drive down to San Ysidro or Bestia to get your bone marrow fix.

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