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What We’re Currently Eating: We Finally Try Mr. Menudo and Howlin Ray’s Invents Itself a Taco

Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco

We eat more than tacos at L.A. Taco, not to say that we don’t live and breathe tacos, but this is the space for our favorite food of the week (which is often ... tacos). Consider this the food journal of the Taco staff. And this week, I’ll start us off ...

Menudo from Mr. Menudo

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]’ve been seeing and hearing all the hype about this spot for over a month but felt shame that I was late to it. Especially considering that it is my backyard, who could have known that my new favorite meundo spot would be a short drive away down Atlantic Boulevard. Mr. Menudo is located curbside on Atlantic, a short walk away from the East Rancho Dominguez Library and across the street from a line of loncheras this part of East Compton is known for.

Mr. Menudo is a pop-up by Roger and Joel Mendez, who are trying to upgrade the menudo game. Joel used to be one of the main generals involved in the lauded but now closed Juanito’s Tamales. Roger, Joel’s son, is a butcher and approached his dad about selling a proper menudo.

They only sell menudo, though they plan to get back into the tamal game in the future. But the menudo deserves the same praise Juanito’s Tamales once got. The soup base is clean and well-spiced with chiles imported from Zacatecas but the tripe is the star.

The clean beef stomach has a soft bounce and magnificently soaks up the soup base. Each plato is served with large tortillas for rolling and dipping or just supplement the meal. You can dust the top of the plate with their fiery chile tepin rub if you need to sweat out a hangover. Mr. Menudo joins the ranks of East Compton's phenomenal food offerings which are all within walking distance of each other.

RELATED: The Best Hangover Food in L.A.

Photo by Cesar Hernandez.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez.

Howlin Ray’s Invents Itself a Taco

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]’ve built a rapport with the crew at Howlin’ Ray’s. They know me as the “taco guy,” since we usually talk about our favorite spots whenever I swing by. A couple of the crewmembers are from Southeast L.A. and South Central, where some of the best taqueros can be found. But this weekend things got a bit more interesting when I got introduced to one of the appetizers they give to waiting customers.

Howlin’ Ray’s made me a taco … sort of.

On a recent Friday night, one of the crew members came up to me and asked if I liked tacos and before I could answer, he said he had something for me: the fried chicken joint’s version a taco. Like other eateries tend to do, the cooks here get creative sometimes and make new things out of the already existing menu. Customers get wind of it, and it became this secret menu. But the fried chicken taco is more of an appetizer. You can’t really order it, rather you are just blessed with one if you’re lucky.

The “taco” is two slices of white toast, a chicken tender, topped with their vinegar slaw, pickles, and comeback sauce. The version I received was Carlos-style, based on one of the chefs, Carlos Cruz, which uses a grilled cheese sandwich as the tortilla. Cruz told L.A. Taco “my inspiration was a quesa-taco.”

It’s like an open-face version of their Luis-style sando. The spice level of each taco can be adjusted with a shake of their spice blend (I don’t venture past “hot”), and the crunch from the chicken tender stays present. Slaw and pickles provides the acidity, but I wouldn’t be the taco guy if I didn’t think it need some cilantro, salsa, and a sprinkle of limón. And maybe next time a tortilla?

RELATED: Restaurant Guide: Howlin' Rays

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