There’s a new street taco stand quickly taking over Los Angeles, and it’s not doing it with the power of social media; it’s using the force of a formidable brick-colored Sonora-style trompo de adobada.
In just over a year and a half, wife and husband duo Mariana Yepes and Arturo Vasquez have taken Ricos Tacos Naomi from one taco stand on Nordoff and Woodman in Arleta to 14 stands all over the city. Mariana opened the valley location in 2018, but on January 28th, 2021, they began their expansion with their second stand in their hometown of Lennox, California. These aren’t simple stands, either. From the trompo on one end to the meat jacuzzi on the other, they offer a glut of meats from suadero and buche to flame-grilled asada. Additionally, six of their locations provide handmade tortillas.
In the substratum of Naomi’s taco assembly line, there is a history of vintage L.A. taquerías influencing Tacos Naomi. Mariana, from Obregon, Sonora, and Arturo, who is from Guatemala, first met and fell in love working side by side in Kogi’s first taco truck. Arturo eventually ended up at Roy Choi’s A-Frame restaurant in Culver City, while Mariana moved on to King Taco. Tacos Naomi’s red salsa is inspired by King Taco’s.
Most of the recipes for the meats and other salsas were passed down by Mariana’s mother. But to make the adobada for the Trompo, Mariana got help from “Al Pastor Taquería Vista Hermosa” in Mercado Paloma, where she also worked a bit. Although the trompo from Mercado Paloma is called al pastor and the original chef is from Michoacán, Mariana, when asked, stated her trompo is a Sonora-style adobada with her own flavors. “Most trompos out there are very simple, just some chiles, salt, and pepper. Ours is a better marinade,” Arturo tells L.A. TACO.
And in truth, the marinade on the spit even looks different. You can almost taste the flavor of the adobada with your eyes alone as the trompo handler turns the spit with his blade and slices delicately chard pork ribbons onto a tortilla in his left hand as he prepares taco after taco. It’s like watching a potter sculpt a terra-cotta pot made from flame-kissed pork. It doesn’t have any sharp notes, it’s not over-salted, and it doesn’t taste like a richly painted bland pork. It’s earthy, seasoned well, and so well-balanced that it just tastes like a solid but gentle embrace after a long day.
Fourteen years after meeting inside Kogi’s Taco Truck, they now have fourteen trompos around the city in taco stands named after their fourteen-year-old daughter, Dankary Naomi Yepes. From the Valley to the west side to even as far as Thousand Palms by Coachella, this street taco power duo is having an unprecedented growth rate attributed to their great salsas and a vigorously flavored trompo. No social media or influencer investments; just bomb tacos that people keep coming back for.
Expansion this quick does come with its share of problems, though. This week, the city and about six cops threw away all their food at their original Valley location. In Lennox, the caravan of taco trucks that park on Hawthorne Boulevard forced Tacos Naomi to move to the side street on Lennox. With a growing operation in a city getting full of average taqueros, the taco turf war is ever-increasing, and this operation is the newest contender. It’s tough out there, but may the best trompo win, and it looks like Naomi’s is winning.
You can find most of Tacos Naomi’s locations on their Instagram or linktree, although not all are listed. They operate from Tuesday through Sunday evenings, and you can spot them wearing a black or burgundy polo with their yellow logo printed on the back.
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