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Amid a Looming Recession, Five of L.A.’s Best Taquerías Fight to Open New Locations

2:23 PM PDT on June 23, 2022

Are tacos recession-proof? 

Despite the cost of food going up 11 percent in just one year and the cost of beef, chicken, and seafood, going up by as much as 16 percent, L.A.’s fearless taqueros continue to heed the insatiable call of L.A.’s Taco Life.   

Sonoratown, The Goat Mafia, Los Originales Tacos Árabes de Puebla, Tacos y Birria La Única, and Mariscos Jalisco have all recently opened new locations recently. 

“The pandemic was a true horror, but my survival instinct kicked in, and I realized the show had to go on,” Jenn Feltham, co-owner of Sonoratown, tells L.A. TACO. They were just about to sign on to a second location in Inglewood before the landlord became “unreasonable and speculative about the rent,” which forced her and her partner Teo Diaz to walk from the deal. “I think I took the lesson that takeout was a really important way to get our food out to people. Pivoting to takeout (especially in large-format orders) eventually made us profitable during the pandemic.” 

With this new take-out focus as a priority, her two-week-old second restaurant in mid-city happened after she literally took a protractor to map out the radius of the second location with a map. “From that one little storefront, we could hit so many neighborhoods of L.A. And I didn’t know too much about mid-city, but I figured if mid-city didn’t take to us, then surely one of these other enclaves would.” Feltham’s logic proved to be worth the gamble. Their sales have been consistent and “great,” mostly from her supportive neighbors that are a mix of blue-collar workers and city employees. “It’s important to me that Sonoratown serves a diverse array of folks, so glad we can do that in two locations now.”   

Goat Mafia's first ever takeout-window, ten years later.
The Goat Mafia's first ever takeout-window, ten years later. Photo via The Goat Mafia.

In South Central, 11 miles away at El Faro Plaza, The Goat Mafia is finally going to open the doors to their first-ever brick-and-mortar location since they sold one of L.A.’s first birria quesatacos in 2012. “As an immigrant to this country, recession or not, tenemos que comer,” Juan Garcia, founder and lead taquero behind The Goat Mafia, tells L.A. TACO. For a decade, Garcia and his give-me-goat-or-give-me-death philosophy towards birria were only via pop-ups, and more recently, Smorgasburg L.A. He couldn’t be happier and is not concerned about inflation, mainly because he recently secured a consistent source of California-raised Halal goatmeat for his birria. Until this new supply, Garcia had issues sourcing quality goats. “Our Alameda location will now be there to continue to preserve the goat Birria tradition. 

“Expanding is always on our minds.” - Raul Ortega of Mariscos Jalisco

For Yasmaní Mendoza, founder of Tacos y Birra La Única, their decision to open their second truck in mid-city came from a poll they posted on their Instagram account, which has 164k followers. “We decided to open in mid-city because we have a lot of clientele who come out from West L.A. and surrounding communities,” Mendoza says. He shares that they have seen a dip in sales and customers in the last couple of weeks, but they are holding steady and doing all they can to resist the urge to increase prices for their Chrissy Teigan-approved birria mulitas. “We do not want to be that taquería that people say, ‘Oh, it’s too expensive, so we are purposely not raising the prices to keep our tacos accessible to all during these hard times.” 

Tacos de Birria from La Única.
Tacos de Birria from La Única. Photo via La Única.

Three weeks ago, Los Originales Tacos Árabes de Puebla also headed west to the intersection of La Cienega and Sawyer in search of more customers hungry to try their regional tacos. Arely Villegas, who operates the food truck with her parents and brother, tells L.A. TACO that a west L.A. location was a long time coming. “I used to go to art shows out in that area ten years ago, and I knew I always wanted to return, so I finally convinced my parents to do it.” According to her brother Alfredo, the move was necessary to make up for the gradual loss in customers in their Boyle Heights location. Arely shares that, fortunately, the diversification of customers has helped her family-owned taquería break even as the prices of her overhead soar. But the newfound success has come with new operating costs of driving a food truck across town, including new costs to fix anything that breaks down and gas. “What else can you do? We’re paying through it all just like everyone else.”

Raul Ortega, the founder of Mariscos Jalisco, is reaping the benefits of being one of the first taco trucks to head west into mid-city last year. “So far, our customers are still coming out to eat tacos. I think at the end of the day. People will eat tacos because they know it will not cost them over a hundred dollars for a full meal like if you were to go to a restaurant.” Ortega shows no signs of stopping, with four locations up and running and two more trucks ready for shrimp taco duty as soon as he finds enough staff to power it. 

“Expanding is always on our minds.” 

Editor’s note: The interviews were done in Spanish and translated into English. Make sure to check each taquería's Instagram account to confirm they are there before visiting. 

Sonoratown: 610 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019

The Goat Mafia: 4433 S Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90058 (Inside El Faro Plaza swap meet)

Los Originales Tacos Árabes de Puebla: Corner of La Cienega and Sawyer

Tacos Y Birria La Única: 5871 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90019 

Mariscos Jalisco: 1830 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035

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