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In Remembrance of L.A.’s Taquero with the ‘Magic Hands’ Behind ‘Por Lo Menos Un Taco’ Pop-Up

[dropcap size=big]P[/dropcap]ork en chile verde topped with some pickled onions and Fresno chile on a corn tortilla was the last taco Jose Solis served at his pop-up taquería, Por Lo Menos Un Taco

This article should have been a write-up about a Guatemalan taquero whose "magic hands" were slowly influencing the taco scene in Los Angeles. I should be talking about his pork belly taco with grilled peaches and guacamole. This should be a breakdown of his Guatemalan enchiladas, a tostada with carne de res, huevo duro, curtido, and salsa de tomate, that was quickly earning the admiration of customers and prominent taqueros in L.A. 

Instead, I reflect on Solis and remember the good times had over his excellent food. I took him and his tacos for granted. I'm sorry I didn't shine a light on his incredible food, his family, and his wonderful personality when he was still with us. I regret putting it off, thinking he'd be there next week. It only comes to show you that nothing in life, not even tacos, is forever.

After returning to the pop-up scene this past Saturday, Solis did not wake up on Monday morning. A dedicated Dodger fan, he passed away in his sleep, probably dreaming of a Dodgers World Series win. He was beloved in the taco community as much as he loved the Dodgers. While boys in blue went on to win it all, his family, while mourning, celebrated the World Series win in his place. "Fly high, my angel in heaven! Your boys in blue did the damn thing. I fuckin' love you," his sister writes on an Instagram post picturing Jose, her daughter, and herself at Dodger Stadium.

The 37-year-old chef of Guatemalan descent leaves behind his younger sister, Natalia, his mother, Sonia, his nephew Fredy, and his niece Lei, of whom Natalia writes in an Instagram post, "The best Tio! I'll miss watching the bond you guys had. The laughs. No one brought him to life like Lei did, she owned his whole heart."   

...nothing in life, not even tacos, is forever.

He has rejoined his father, Fredy, who supported Solis' culinary aspirations and passed away almost ten years ago. "He watched my dad in the kitchen." Natalia tells L.A. Taco, "My dad stayed up nights with him to complete projects for culinary school. When he graduated, my dad got him his first catering gigs and would go with him. They were a riot together and are now reunited."

Guatemalan enchilada. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. Taco.

After 18 years of working in the industry, the Bell native decided to venture off on his own in May of 2018. In January of 2019, he launched Por Lo Menos Un Taco with support from his mom and sister. According to his GoFundMe page, "He became "El Patron." El hombre con las Manos Magicas! (The Boss—the man with the Magical Hands). He truly was a magician in the kitchen with his unique flavors and his love for hospitality, he was like no other." 

In the short time that Solis was popping up, his talents as a chef and his loving personality significantly impacted the community. The IG post announcing his passing was flooded with comments of disbelief and adoration by his taco peers. 

Comments from Evil Cooks, Beer Thug Life, Indie Brew Co, Tijuana Freddy's Salsa, Dia de Los Puercos, and more poured in, showing the great impact Solis' love and craft was having on the taco community. 

"One of the most down-to-earth guys I've had a pleasure of meeting. Always down to chat and answer some questions," writes A's BBQ. Chef Wes Avila chimed in with disbelief, "I just saw you guys Saturday. My condolences to you and your family." Comments from Evil Cooks, Beer Thug Life, Indie Brew Co, Tijuana Freddy's Salsa, Dia de Los Puercos, and more poured in, showing the great impact Solis' love and craft was having on the taco community. 

Natalia tells us, "Jose was the best son any mother could ask for. He gave without expecting anything in return. His dedication to his family was unmatched. As his only sister, I experienced his love like no one else, and that will remain with me forever. He loved my babies as his own. Leilani will miss her tío's cuddles, and Fredy will miss all his kisses. I'll love you forever!"

A GoFundMe has been set up to assist with funeral expenses. You can donate here.

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