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The Inevitable Fusion of Tijuana and Ciudad de México Tacos Is Here ~ Don Goyo in Downey

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]acos Don Goyo is a dream 18 years in the making from a Mexico City transplant who almost died crossing the Sonoran desert. Its owner says it was worth the journey. One bite will tell you it was worth the wait.

Don Goyo may not look like much from the outside, but that may be the best part. Sticking on the edge of the Downey and Pico Rivera line, behind a Starbucks, and inside a tiny yellow shack, you will find some of the best Mexican street tacos outside of Tijuana or Ciudad de Mexico.

Tripas, asada, al pastor, lengua, all served on handmade tortillas with some of the best guacamole salsa you’ll ever try. It even goes great with the chunks of pineapple in your al pastor tacos. “I don’t like to call it any style,” Don Goyo chef and owner Ricardo Jasso told L.A. Taco. “It’s like a fusion of styles from DF and Tijuana.”

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Don Goyo chef and owner Ricardo Jasso. Photo by Jose Lizarde.

It’s got the feel of it. Like they just rolled up the metal doors and slammed on the open flame on the corner of Calle 8. But it looks more like a hot dog hut from the 90s and it’s run by a Chilango who made his bones working the kitchens at pricey joints like Dal Rae and The Cheese Cake Factory.

Era dificil.” Jasso explained the difficulty of his journey at 18 years old from DF, up los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, and through the treacherous desert to reach the U.S. “I had to go without water and food for a couple of days. I guess you can say I was close to not making it,” Jasso said, standing in the middle of his kitchen after hours late one Tuesday night.

“You don’t really imagine how dangerous it’s going to be at first. You don’t even really think about the graves of people who died trying to do it that you see along the way,” he said.

Jasso smiled to catch a tear from trickling out of his wide eyes.

The al pastor spit was glistening behind him. Then he continued. “But when the exhaustion kicks in and there’s no food, water, anything, you really start to see how much you are risking your life. I started thinking about my parents, how I was never going to see them again.”

He paused again and looked around his taqueria. “But now I’m here. And it was worth it.”

The journey that nearly cost him his life came with a steep price tag of $1,100, which may seem cheap by today’s standards. Put another way, it would be the equivalent of 733 tacos de asada at Don Goyo today.

Photo by Jose Hernandez.

[dropcap size=big]J[/dropcap]asso told L.A. Taco he opened Don Goyo 18 years after his journey to the U.S. and one month after his father died back in Ciudad de México, where he worked restoring furniture. His father was Don Goyo so Jasso named the little restaurant after his old man. “I never got to tell my father that I was finally opening the restaurant,” Jasso explained. “But I wanted to honor him.”

Tacos Don Goyo is also in honor of the hundreds of taqueros on the streets of Mexico City, Jasso said. “The first thing I missed when I got here was the tacos. It was very hard to find good Mexico City tacos then, especially al pastor.”

Don Goyo's al pastor trompo is less red or pink than most spits you will see. That's intentional, Jasso said. The rub is a family recipe. It's got the look of fine cuts of charred pork steaks slung together like magnetic bands wrapping around a spinning top.

Jasso spent the majority of his life in the states before opening Don Goyo working L.A.'s kitchens. He started as a dishwasher in a Cuban restaurant before moving his way up to a line cook in several fine dining restaurants. He eventually wound up managing the Cuban restaurant for eight years. “I learned a lot about restaurants there,” he recalled. “A lot of the basics of running a business too.”

The more you think about something, the more it comes to you.

[dropcap size=big]B[/dropcap]ut the dream of owning his own Mexico City taqueria never died. “I even thought about going to culinary school, but it’s so expensive and I was learning so much in the kitchens,” Jasso explained. “And I had a family to support. So I had to keep working.” Instead of culinary school, Jasso started slowly saving up money for his own shop.

Jasso said he stumbled onto the Don Goyo location at 8502 Telegraph Rd in late 2017 and jumped at it. “They say that the more you think about something, the more it comes to you. I think that’s what happened here. I saw it and pictured it in my head, and now I’m picturing many more locations.”

Carne asada fries at Tacos Don Goyo. Photo courtesy of Tacos Don Goyo.
Photo courtesy of Tacos Don Goyo.

Don Goyo has been stepping up his game lately, throwing things on the menu like some eyegasm inspiring carne asada fries, a SoCal border staple, and other items he’s developed after talking to his growing customer base.

“In DF, you don’t really find a lot of carne asada – at least not when I grew up there – but talking to people here is when I decided to make my own version of that,” he explained.

The asada is perfectly seasoned, cut thin, and grilled over a flame on thick metal bars that look like they are holding the fire prisoner. The bars leave dark marks on the meat that anyone grilling in their backyard will recognize. The kind of marks only a well-worn grill can leave — like flavors of carne asadas past.

“It’s been very well received,” Jasso smiled. “My al pastor recipe, though, that’s a family recipe passed down from my aunt who sells tacos in Mexico City. So people say ‘it’s Tijuana style’ or ‘It’s Mexico City style’ but I say it’s just Mexican style. It’s my style.”

RELATED: Taco Tastes: Carlos's Tijuana Style Tacos Arrives in Whittier

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