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‘Banger Tacos’ Brings Filipino Flavors and Adobo Consomé to Skate Parks Across Southern California

Banger Tacos’ chicken adobo tacos (left), and sisig taco (far right)

Los Ángeles is a city of tacos with new taquerías popping up on street corners around the county on a weekly basis. To help us get through them all, L.A. TACO presents our new “Taco of the Week” column, where we celebrate the latest taco we’ve eaten that blew our minds.

It can come as a shocking revelation for somebody who grew up in the 80s and 90s to find out that rollerblading is still cool.

But there we were at Sun Valley’s Sheldon Skatepark on the first Sunday morning of June, lured by the promise of Filipino fusion, while a diverse crowd of tatted-up inline skaters swarmed around us, grinding rails over graffitied concrete and occasionally slamming onto the pavement without so much as a grimace, as Wu-Tang bombed atomically above it all.

We’d arrived at First Sundays, a monthly bashment for inline and quad skaters organized at a changing roster of Southern California skate parks by Mike Obedoza, who is also the mastermind behind a nascent Filipino-influenced food pop-up known as Banger Tacos.

Growing up in Carson with immigrant parents, rollerblading served as Obedoza’s diversion from the gang violence hemorrhaging into the streets and suburban cul de sacs of 1990s L.A. County. In time, he grew into his own as a skater, eventually being sponsored and filming sections for different companies, with his name on everything but his own wheel. A broken ankle from a fall got him into exploring the culinary arts and creating a cooking video series called Blading With Chef Knives.

Today, he throws First Sundays to rally a community of like-minded skaters and companies like custom obstacle-maker DRAILZ, Project Thirty Five, and One Trick a Day into a grassroots event, while also exploring his heritage through the Filipino recipes and Mexican cooking he grew up on. Obedoza also runs his own team, equipment, and apparel firm named RollerBanger.

“Inline skating was a contributing factor that defined me,” he tells L.A. TACO. “Being able to create these skate sessions allows me to do what we would be doing otherwise, going to a skatepark and having tacos after, but now I get to share these tacos that I'm super stoked about that don't exist anywhere.”

Mike’s transition to traveling taquero took root not long after his fall. He studied restaurant management at CalPoly Pomona with the goal of opening his own skatepark restaurant, and later, at CIA in Napa, leading to work as a professional chef for high-end hotels in OC and Long Beach, including at Terranea in Palos Verdes.

With Banger, he is finally zeroing in on flavors from the Philippines. Inspired by Roy Choi’s Kogi and the recent boom of birria de res, Obedoza found an outlet for personal expression, like so many in our region, in the middle of a corn tortilla. A trip to the motherland with his father made him fall in love with sisig, which started the wheels of his mind spinning inwardly.

“I wanted to give my take on that,” Obedoza says of Kogi’s influence. “Chicken adobo and pork sinigang with white rice that my mom made, this was the closest I was going to get to the Philippines, aside from her cursing at me in Tagalog when I was in trouble. Otherwise, I grew up eating Cali burritos and tacos. So, I’m staying true to all of my influences, fusing Mexican tacos plus Filipino flavors that defined me.  It was 100% me, a Filipino raised in L.A. In food form.”

Mike Obedoza's forearm ink
Mike Obedoza's forearm ink

The name Banger Tacos seemed like a natural fit, an inside joke from his youth, when one of his close friends had to be jumped out of his gang in order to pursue rollerblading professionally and their favorite Carson skate park fell frequent victim to fights and violence. Heading out to skate one night, the friend’s mother innocently asked them, “Are you going to go out gangbanging?” to which he replied, “no Mom, we’re going to go rollerbanging.”

Chicken adobo in the pot
Chicken adobo in the pot

While the skaters skate and their families hang out in support at First Sundays, Obedoza lifts the lid off of a steel pot of chicken adobo, the star of Banger’s signature taco. While chicken tacos can sometimes feel like an antojitos stand’s obligatory taco, his braised meat is super tender, centered on the pure taste of poultry, garlic, and bay leaf, and hewing to a regional style that goes noticeably light on the expected vinegar.

Banger Tacos, unadorned, chicken adobo (left) and pork sisig (right)
Banger Tacos, naked, chicken adobo (left) and pork sisig (right)

The chicken’s texture is right on target, not sopping nor falling apart, though undeniably juicy and flavor-rich. The entire fusion-ness of his medium-sized, three-biter taco doesn’t wallop you over the head with sauces, gimmicks, or tricks. It’s just a solid chicken taco in a lightly crisped tortilla that puts the focus on the braised meat. One that pairs quite well with hanging out, a customary scattering of cilantro and diced cebolla, and a squirt of the tomatillo and toasted chile de árbol salsa his Buena Park-raised partner, Sarah Garcia, makes.

Inspired by L.A.’s ubiquitous, Tijuana-gifted birria de res tacos, another braise that’s typically served with consomé, Obedoza offers his chicken adobo taco with a small cup of sabao, or broth, the bay leaf-and-black pepper-rich braising liquid left over from making his adobo.

Banger Tacos is still in its infancy and is a family-run affair, with Mike’s stepson manning the register while his infant daughter is being chauffeured in a stroller nearby by the salsa-making Sarah. During our visit, Mike also debuted a taco with pork sisig and apple-jicama slaw. So far, he’s sold out of everything at every appearance.

Outside of his day job, he’s busy tweaking the recipes and plans for growth that will bring Banger Tacos to a hopeful brick-and-mortar address someday. And also scheduling the upcoming months of First Sundays to unite inline skaters across the state. The next get-together looks like it might be in Tustin on July 3rd. In case you want to skate or eat tacos, or both, with him and his friends.

“You could throw a dart at a map and find bladers to hang out with,” he says. “The whole event is for the community, and it’s just a lot of love. Being able to spread these vibrations, from L.A. to San Diego, is awesome.

Stay tuned to Roller Bangers’ Instagram for updates on the next pop-up.

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