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El Tarasco ~ Manhattan Beach

11:29 AM PDT on August 8, 2006

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316 Rosecrans Ave. ~ 310-545-4241 ~ Manhattan Beach (TACO Map)

I had been to El Tarasco near LAX on Sepulveda and wasn't too stoked on the 2nd rate Chile Relleno burritos I had forced upon a friend visiting from Argentina. But the vibe at Manhattan Beach's original location was better; less generic, beachier, crammed, and jumping with local residents who have been loyal for 20 years or more. The walls of this tiny, crowded hole-in-the-wall are slathered in cool stickers advertising indie surf companies and esoteric artist collectives. I met up there with fellow taco-nut and nightime-body surfing legend CBro, who will weigh in on El Tarasco as well.

El Tarasco

I went straight for a carnitas taco. The first thing that struck me was the size of the meat cuts. They were giant, as was the taco itself. The carnitas had a nice golden brown color with a slightly glazed coat and rough-hewn edges, that unfortunately did not crumble into mouth-melting strings of juicy pork as my vivid imagination was hoping...

The pork seems baked instead of stewed. If they ever were stewed, it was a long time ago. There's no juice in them, an essential ingredient for great carnitas. I thought the salsa was sort of bland, and besides the generous dousing of gauc, it really didn't excite my tastebuds very much. I found the carnitas to be too dry, too big, and a little too like chicken to really notice much value in this choice at $2.55.

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But El Tarasco has been here for two decades and is popular as sunshine in these parts. Maybe it established its rep before truly authentic Mexican food was found widespread outside of the home in Los Angeles, forever spoiling our senses.

Anything you wanna say about El Tarasco, CBro?

CBRO: When flying solo late night through the South Bay, count on Tarasco to keep the light on for ya, it's open late and truly dependable. Saddle up to the counter for South American "telenovelas" while chowing down on generous portions of classics that fill Manhattan's barren bellies on the daily. This place receives a lot of sticker love, too. Step outside to catch views of incoming tsunamis pealing off the Pacific, or cross the street to visit your bail bondsman-he's open 25 hrs.!!

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El Tarasco
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