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‘SOLD OUT’ ~ The Last Day of the Guerrilla Tacos Truck

2:30 PM PDT on July 20, 2018

    More than 300 people showed up for Guerrilla Taco’s last taco truck dinner service in Silver Lake, July 19, 2018.

    [dropcap size=big]C[/dropcap]hef Wes Avila pulled into his last ever taco truck service Thursday wearing locs and a hat that said “No Cerveza. No trabajo.” No beer. No Work. It was the last night Guerrilla Tacos would serve its gourmet fare from the truck and Avila was ready to move to the next phase.  

    “I’m so done with this motherfucker,” Avila told L.A. Taco.

    It was the calm before the storm, before hundreds of people would come out to Silver Lake to pay tribute and devour the menu at the last stop on the truck’s farewell tour. But Avila gave no indication that it was anything but another day at the office. No signs of nostalgia for police confiscations of his taco cart, for nights broken down on the side of the road in Venice, for being the best tortilla meal on four wheels.

    Chef Wes Avila in his last Guerrilla taco truck service, July 19, 2018.
    Chef Wes Avila

    “None of this was ever been by choice,” Avila explained. “First it was the cart because we had no other options. Then they forced us into a truck. But now this is my choice. The restaurant is by free will.”

    After 6 years of roaming the streets of Los Angeles serving what are widely considered to be the city's finest gourmet tacos, Avila and his business partner Brittney Valles are opening a brick and mortar restaurant in the heart of Downtown L.A.’s Arts District starting Thursday at the corner of 7th and Mateo.

    “We are very excited,” Valles told L.A. Taco. “We are going from about seven employees to 50. The menu is expanding. Wes is taking his skills to the bar making signature drinks. It’s going to be amazing.”

    Guerrilla Tacos final taco truck lunch service was mostly calm but steady, July 19, 2018.
    The calm before the storm. Guerrilla Tacos final lunch service, Thursday July 20, 2018.

    [dropcap size=big]F[/dropcap]or Guerrilla’s most loyal patrons, saying farewell Thursday was bittersweet. It was a moment to be completely happy for Avila, while also lamenting the loss of something special.

    “I always come, but today feels different,” Bob Castro told L.A. Taco. He was standing in line for the third time Thursday. “It’s been years for me. Sunday’s in Venice. Tuesday’s at The Row. Thursday’s in Silver Lake. I loved following the updates online.”

    Castro was one of the first to arrive Thursday at Silverlake Wine, where Guerrilla opened the window at 5 pm. He had already hit up the Dinosaur Coffee location for lunch, when the grilled octopus quesadilla was the first thing to sell out.

    Zeke Hernandez, who works across the street from Dinosaur Coffee, told L.A. Taco he was sad to see the truck go. “I come every other week. I like to see what the new thing on the menu is going to be.” Hernandez ordered 2 of everything on the menu. “It’s sad, you know. But we frequent the Art’s District a lot too, so I’m sure we’ll go over there.”

    “Thursday’s are usually pretty mellow,” Cala Murry, who running the lunch service, told L.A. Taco. She spent the afternoon giving people hugs and telling them to come to the new restaurant. “People have been coming out from all over, especially because the truck broke down the last couple of days and we didn’t get to say goodbye to our stops at The Row or Culver City. Tonight, I think tonight is going to be an epic service.”

    More than 300 people showed up for Guerrilla Taco's last taco truck dinner service in Silver Lake, July 19, 2018.
    More than 300 people showed up for Guerrilla Taco's last taco truck dinner service in Silver Lake, July 19, 2018.

    From the moment dinner service started at 5, there was hardly a moment of respite for Avila or his crew. Within the hour, the fried oyster tacos were sold out. Moments later, the hibachi tuna tostada was a goner.

    “This is the busiest we’ve ever been!” Guerrilla Tacos manager Jessie Melara was exasperated, running around taking orders, filling in cups of the strawberry pineapple agua fresca and having to say her goodbyes to the Guerrilla faithful.

    Two hours into the service, Avila had to switch up the menu as items were vanishing.

    “I know. It’s so sad,” she’d say in a hug to one of the regulars who walked away carrying 4 boxes of tacos and bag full of wine. “But I’ll see you next week at the restaurant,” she’d shoot back to a man with a furry dog.

    And so it went. Dogs, wine, tacos and people of all ages, shapes and ethnicities together to say goodbye and pay respect to the man that James Beard winning food writer Bill Esparza called the mayor of taco city.

    Even Avila was taken aback by the outpouring of support. “It’s been so busy. Busier than we’ve ever been.”

    Guerrilla Taco's closed the night with 190 covers or tables served, July 19, 2018.
    Guerrilla Taco's closed the night with 190 covers or tables served, July 19, 2018.

    Two hours into the service, Avila had to switch up the menu as more items were vanishing. The fried oyster tacos were replaced with artichoke tacos. The hibachi tostada was replaced with albacore. The agua fresca was gone and a new batch couldn't be served since they were all out of cups.

    Less than an hour later, the soft shell crab tacos were replaced with lamb tacos. Those didn’t last long either. Soon, all there was left was the classic sweet potato tacos. After serving the equivalent of 190 tables and more than 300 people, the service that was supposed to last until 9 pm ended 30 minutes short of that with nearly a dozen people still standing in line and nothing but a few orange Fantas left.

    “It’s going to be really easy to unload the truck,” Valles said. “I feel like shit,” Avila said. Melara erased the board of all the menu items and wrote “SOLD OUT THANK YOU LA” in large letters with sad faces in the Os and a heart after LA.

    Then she ran back and erased it one last time. “No sad faces,” she said and she drew a final large heart with the address of the new location under it.

    Guerrilla Taco's last taco truck service was called early after selling out on everything, July 19, 2018.
    Guerrilla Taco's last taco truck service was called early after selling out on everything, July 19, 2018.

    Avila went into Silver Lake Wine to thank his supporters. Then he came out and told his staff he’d see them soon at their new home. He was about to get into his car and drive off into the night, when L.A. Taco stopped him to ask if he wanted one last picture with the truck.

    “Nah. I’d rather wait and take a bunch of pictures in the restaurant,” he explained. “I’m so ready to move on to the next thing.”

    He got in his car and drove off. Valles packed up some of the stuff from the truck she wants to frame. Melara went off to celebrate with her people inside Silver Lake Wine. And suddenly, the legendary mobile restaurant was just a truck sitting on the side of an empty sidewalk.

    ALSO BY THE AUTHOR:

    It’s Last Call at Ports O’Call ~ Scenes From the Final Days at L.A.’s Waterfront Village

    How a ‘Lil Libros‘ on Selena Quintanilla Shot to the Top of Amazon’s Best Seller List

    This Viral Donut Shop in Downey Is Doing Bionico, Mazapan, and Selena-Inspired Donuts

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