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This New Taquería Comes From a Family of Taqueros From Puebla That Introduced TJ-Style Tacos to LA

5:08 PM PST on January 17, 2022

The guacamole is spread thick at Asadero El Poblano. Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. TACO.

The guacamole is spread thick at Asadero El Poblano. Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. TACO.

As the sun starts to set in South Central, El Asadero Poblano sets up, turning a car lot into a taquería. El Asadero Poblano was started by Jose Luis Aquino, one of twelve siblings from Puebla, who comes from a family of taqueros. After starting Tacos Los Poblanos with his brother Salustio in 2005, Jose Luis decided it was time to open his own taquería al estilo Tijuana. Today, the idea of an al carbon TJ-style taquería is easily understood especially with big success stories like Tacos 1986, but believe it or not, it wasn’t always a welcomed concept in LA, according to Jose Luis.

Back in 2005, Tacos Los Poblanos was a weekend operation at a swapmeet on 54th and Avalon, that would host local vendors. The same swap meet that inspired other South Central vendor Antojitos La Cosa Nuestra’s cheesy domain of fried quesadillas.

Salsas at Asadero El Poblano. Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. TACO.
Fresh asada being chopped at Asadero El Poblano. Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. TACO.
Fresh asada being chopped at Asadero El Poblano. Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. TACO.

Back in the Day

Jose Luis and his brother got to the states in 2004 when he was 19 and worked in the garment industry. The following year, Salustio suggested they start a taquería but Jose Luis feared being shut down by the city. “These days the city doesn’t come around as much but back then, [when] they came, they took everything,” explains Aquino. But his brother had a plan, he heard that there was an open spot at a nearby swap meet.

“It can be difficult because people ask a lot of questions. People would ask us ‘que es eso?’ About the guacamole, about the meat,” Jose Luis recalls. “This was before social media.” As part of the education process, they would give out free tacos, building understanding through tacos.

With a skeleton crew of Jose Luis, his brother and sister-in-law, Tacos Los Poblanos set up for a few months at the swapmeet before having to go back to Puebla, to take care of their sick mother. When they came back to the states, they lost their spot. The spots at this swapmeet were coveted and many of the taquerías and vendors already had established followings, making it difficult to get a spot again.

The next few years, they set up on 59th and Avalon. Then 57th and Central Avenue, before eventually settling at their current spot at a tire shop on Slauson and Avalon in 2015. Leaving a trail of wispy smoke all over South Central; picture a choo choo train with the exhaust filling the air with the smell of smokey carne asada.

If you’ve never been to Tacos Los Poblanos, one of their defining traits is the assembly line production for making tacos, so efficient that Henry Ford would be envious. When you get to the front of the line, the tortillera will ask if you’re ordering anything more complicated than a taco, so they can press it fresh. Then you get to the person who assembles the tacos, mulitas, quesadillas, or vampiros, swiftly chopping thin beef steaks and chorizo links still steaming from being grilled over the flame; asking every customer, “con todo?” With everything means a scoop of guacamole, a spoon toss of red (molcajete-made) salsa roja, garnished with chopped onions and cilantro, and wrapped in paper, like a Tijuana seal of approval.

The guacamole is spread thick at Asadero El Poblano. Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. TACO.
The guacamole is spread thick at Asadero El Poblano. Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. TACO.

The Aquinos Bring Tijuana Back Home to Puebla

In the 90s, some of Aquino's siblings left their pueblo of Colonia Agricola Hidalgo in Puebla. They heard there was work in Rosarito, as taqueros. After spending a decade learning all aspects of the trade, Luis, the eldest brother, decided to open a TJ-style taquería in Puebla. It’s still open today, and it's called Taqueria El Paisita, and his kids own a taquería with the same name in Bakersfield.

“In reality, I can guarantee you that most of the taqueros in Rosarito, Ensenada, and Tijuana, are from puebla. The majority,” Jose Luis boldly claims.

When Jose Luis was a kid, on weekends, he would go to the city to help at the taquería: grill meats, wipe down tables, mince veggies, and eventually dispatching tacos. “We’re a family of taqueros. That’s what we know how to do. It’s what we like, making tacos,” he says.

A Taquería of My Own

If you’d have asked Jose Luis five years ago if he wanted to open his own taquería, the answer would have been an emphatic no. Once Los Poblanos moved to their Slauson spot, the business had become stable, and Jose Luis was the manager. He was comfortable as a manager and didn’t want to deal with the hardships of running a business, and he didn’t want the taquería to take over his life.

Four years ago, Jose Luis got married and started having kids. Suddenly, he was concerned with creating security for his future and his children.

“I thought more about the future. When my brother started [Los Poblanos], his kids were very young, but now his daughter is almost done with university,” Jose Luis explains. “It was really difficult in the beginning, but the business has stabilized, and he can give his kids a nice life. I started asking myself, ‘where do I see myself in 10 years?’”

Earlier this year, Jose Luis told his brother about his plans to open a taqueria of his own and received overwhelming support. Salustrio offered Jose Luis anything he needed and told him to put his best foot forward. In September of this year, Jose Luis opened El Asadero Poblano with the same incredible family recipe for TJ-style tacos.

Torta de asada at asadero el poblano.
Torta de asada at asadero el poblano. Photo by Cesar Hernandez.
Inside a mulita at Asadero El Poblano. Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. TACO.
Inside a mulita at Asadero El Poblano. Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. TACO.

A Legacy of Taqueros

El Asadero Poblano isn’t the first taquero spin-off from Tacos Los Poblanos. In 2018, Vicente, one of the Aquino siblings, opened Tacos La Humadera (briefly Aquino’s Tacos estilo TJ). In other words, the Aquino family is possibly responsible for starting the TJ-style al carbon taqueria in L.A. Along with the interconnected web of Aquino-owned taquerias beyond LA.

So it was a natural breaking point for Jose Luis to start his taquería. Currently, El Asadero setups on Vernon Ave and San Pedro Pl in the lot of a window tint shop. Eating the tacos at Asadero has the unmistakable taste of Los Poblanos, of Tijuana. A freshly pressed tortilla, carne grilled over coals with crunchy bits of beef,  infusing layers of smoke and char, a spicy salsa, thick smear of creamy guacamole, and always wrapped in paper. Uncomplicated and straightforward, honest food that’s made in front of you.

Jose Luis’ favorite order is a quesadilla made with a corn tortilla with chopped asada and chorizo, a harmony of pork and beef in a blanket of oozing cheese.

The Aquino family is tight. They always support each other, sharing chairs, tables, canopies, and even the IG account. Jose Luis started the IG for Los Poblanos after seeing how it could impact the business. When Vicente opened La Humadera, he used the IG account name to spread awareness. Now that account belongs to El Asadero, giving them a platform for exposure. Each brother pitches in to ensure their family's success.

“We’ve always been unified, and we’ve never had a problem,” says Jose Luis, about his family of taqueros. When asked if he thinks this legacy will continue, he’s hopeful that it will. And just like his brother before him, when he retires, he’ll give his taquería to his children.

Address: 181 E Vernon Ave, LA 90011

Links to other taquerias by the Aquino Family
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