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L.A.’s ‘Taco King’ Opens Second Taquería in the SGV, Offering Pollo Pibil, Chinese-Mexican Al Pastor, and a Secret Menu

12:00 PM PDT on September 17, 2020

[dropcap size=big]F[/dropcap]rom working in a Wienerschnitzel out of high school in Calexico to opening a taquería in a former A-frame building that used to house one in the San Gabriel Valley, Esdras Ochoa has come full circle. 

Mexicali San Gabriel officially opened a couple of days ago, but this second location offering his pioneering flour tortilla concept in L.A. has been a long time coming for Ochoa. “My dream was always to open up more Mexicalis, but we were so new...little did we know how hard it was to open more,” Ochoa tells L.A. Taco.  

Eleven years after opening his first Mexicali-style street taquería in a parking lot in downtown L.A. and eight years after opening his first brick and mortar, Ochoa reflects on his journey from being a humble taquero to the “King of Tacos.” It is a nickname earned while cooking his way through The Final Table on Netflix and consulting Mexican concepts across Asia. It took a pandemic grounding him in Los Angeles to finally get serious about this second location with his partner, Paul Yoo.   

“Now that I’ve been around for a while and traveled around the world, I’ve learned a few things, and I can’t hold back my love for the culture, especially in the SGV and after living in Hong Kong,” Ochoa says.  

He has his taquero heart set on growing Mexicali to other locations across Los Angeles. Namely Koreatown and Glendale. “Depending on the neighborhood, we will always have something [as an homage] to the location we are opening in.” 

Specifically, Ochoa hints about some ingredients and techniques he learned from his time in Hong Kong that made their way into a marinade for the al pastor, exclusive to this SGV location. Looking at it closely, seeing his hometown’s notoriety for being the capital of Chinese immigrants in Mexico, this second location in the San Gabriel Valley heart perfectly sums up Ochoa’s life. Aside from the Chinese influences, Ochoa is also making a unique pollo pibil taco inspired by his travels in the Yucatán and is even bringing a little bit of his Tex-Mex flexibilities with a bonafide queso dip from his concept in Austin, Texas. 

He has his taquero heart set on growing Mexicali to other locations across Los Angeles. Namely Koreatown and Glendale. “Depending on the neighborhood, we will always have something [as an homage] to the location we are opening in.” 

For his hardcore fans and devotees of the Taco Life, Ochoa teases of a secret menu at this new location. 

“If you’re really, really hungry, just order ‘Zuperman’s Dad!’”  

Ochoa will be working in the kitchen for the rest of this month “every single day,” before continuing with his culinary-based travels and consulting. Ivis Morales, an immigrant from Honduras who worked his way up from being a dishwasher in the original location, will oversee both operations. 

1811 South San Gabriel Boulevard, San Gabriel, CA. Check out last night's soft opening in photos...

All photos by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.

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