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Tacos For Mental Health: 20 Cents Of Every Single Dollar At This New Taquería Goes To a Charity Supporting Transitional Youth

[dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]t Gogo’s, it’s less about the food and more about the cause. Gogo’s Tacos, a new taquería inspired by the street tacos that you grew up with, is the latest venture from 28-year-old Brittney Valles of Guerrilla Tacos. Twenty cents of every dollar you spend goes to Valles’ charity, the Juan Carlos Cantoni Foundation, which provides resources for young adults aging out of foster care and other social services.

Valles sits in front of her laptop on a slow Wednesday afternoon while she slowly sips on an ice cream float. She doesn’t typically have dessert for lunch, but today Valles claims she was forced to because one of her new employees is learning how to use the ice cream machine (“it’s not as easy as you think”). In between bites, during an interview with L.A. TACO, Valles explains where the concept for Gogo’s originated while reflecting on her taco journey.

“When I found a place I liked, I would go every single night—like I was that person,” says Valles. As a teen, she recalls hitting up street taco spots when you could only find a limited number of taco offerings in the city. “At the time, it was like you'd get like asada, chicken, carnitas, you know, and then you'd pick if you want a burrito, taco, quesadilla...and there wasn't like a huge birria movement or barbacoa movement at the time or ‘TJ-style,’ we were just eating like very basic...like what Americans think a street taco is.”

Photo via Gogo's Tacos.
Photos via Gogo's Tacos.

At Gogo’s, you’ll pick between five basic protein options: asada, carnitas, chicken, mushroom, or shrimp. All of which can be stuffed into a burrito or quesadilla or piled onto a two-bite-sized tortilla from La Princesita Tortilleria. For dessert, they have classic ice cream cones and floats. On the surface, Gogo’s is a vibrant-colored, straightforward taco spot in a neighborhood that could use more tacos—Gogo’s opened at the former Tacos Mexico in between Silver Lake and Koreatown and shares a parking lot with a sit-down Mexican restaurant—but beyond that, it’s a concept that Valles hopes can help people in the process. “There’s so much need if we can use tacos as a venue to get money to support the need...I think that is awesome,” the young entrepreneur told L.A. TACO.

The charity aspect behind Gogo’s was influenced by a loss that Valles suffered during one of the most challenging years of her life. Last summer, during the pandemic, Valles’ former boyfriend died by suicide. “It was like the first person so close to me that like had died...like in any way, in any way at all. And then it was suicide, so there was this extra level.” Valles took advantage of the fact that business was slow due to the pandemic and focused on healing. “So I really mourned, like it was tough. And I was like, wanting to feel better because I'm very much that person. Like I don't have time to feel like shit,” said Valles. She went through Reiki therapy and explored other options to help her through the process. But she still felt stuck.

Then she decided to launch a non-profit. “I wanted to do something to get me going because I was stuck...like I wasn't going to work for a couple of weeks, I needed something. So I decided that it would be really cool to do something community-based...like a community center.” She named the charity after Juan Carlos, her former partner.

But unlike the Boys & Girls Clubs that Valles grew up going to, she wants her organization to provide more valuable resources like financial literacy courses. “I used to go to the Boys and Girls Club, but it wasn't the most helpful. I had my first kiss at a Boys and Girls Club because nobody was watching.”

Valles’ charity is currently helping four young adults between 18 to 25 with their personal, professional, and educational goals. “So, for example, Andrea, she happens to work here. She's a mother of two. She's 19, and she wants to get her GED, so we set her up with a tutor.” Additionally, Valles’ charity provided the young mother with a computer for Zoom sessions. “[The tutor] set her up to take the GED, and then we're setting up the next step so that she can get into community college because she wants to be a lawyer.”

Aside from the charity aspect to Gogo’s, Valles clarifies that the restaurant is a for-profit business that she hopes to expand. “I want to make something that can be a constant revenue source for my nonprofit endeavors that can scale,” the entrepreneur said. But unlike Guerilla Tacos, Valles’ up-scale restaurant in the Arts District, she sees Gogo’s as a brand that can be replicated. “My idea was to do what I always had kind of in the back of my head, which is make really classic, old school L.A. style street tacos, and like, try to take it on a national scale.”

Valles said she’ll know when she’s reached a successful point with Gogo’s when they open a franchise in Wyoming or a state that isn’t necessarily known for their tacos. “I want to introduce this style of taco to the rest of the country,” said Valles. That taco-style consists of a street-taco-size tortilla from the local tortilleria, La Princesita, the long-standing East L.A. tortillería known for being one of the few tortilla makers that utilize a traditional nixtamalization process. Their asada uses trimmings (the pieces that are too small to sell) from prime angus ribeye, and their chicken is sourced from a farm in the Pacific Palisades. Although the menu is simple at Gogo’s, they still use high-quality and at times locally sourced ingredients, similar to what you’ll find at Guerilla Tacos (which includes a $90 steak on their menu).

Painted white with colorful streaks of pink and yellow and blue, Gogo’s happens to be located at arguably one of the worst intersections in Los Angeles (the junction where Silverlake Blvd, Beverly Blvd, Temple Street, and Virgil Avenue all intersect). 

Next time you find yourself craving food while sitting in traffic, trying to fight your way through hell, not only can you stop by Gogo’s for a few tacos or a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone to take the edge off, you’ll know that your money is going to help transitional youth with mental health resources. 

Gogo's Tacos is at 3660 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90004

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