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Your Guide to Finding Each Taco Featured in the Netflix Series ‘Taco Chronicles’ in L.A.

[dropcap size=big]R[/dropcap]aise your hand if watching Las Crónicas Del Taco on Netflix over the weekend stirred the most insatiable appetite for tacos that you have ever experienced in your life? You are not alone. Tweets and comments poured in over the weekend from viewers around the world; all proclaiming that the show echoed the same effect on them. 

Fortunately, for you, me, and everyone who chooses to live in the city of Los Angeles, you can find very nice specimens of each of the six tacos that are featured. Here is our official list, curated by yours truly, the series’ Taco Scout and Associate Producer, and none other than L.A. Taco editor Daniel Hernandez, who was featured in the Netflix show as one of our leading resident taco philosophers.

As you begin your L.A. Taco Chronicles quest, remember, do not forget the importance of the tortilla. As Daniel kindly points out in his appearance, “The tortilla is essential.” 

Al Pastor

L.A. Taco Pick: Leo’s Tacos 

While scouting for Las Crónicas del Taco, I had a stupid amount of al pastor tacos all over Mexico. In my first mission to Mexico City, I arrived at 10 PM and I ate at five different al pastor spots that same night, finishing at 3 AM. That was my general pace of eating throughout the entire research process. I had everything, from a memorable hybrid trompo that was made from 80 percent beef and 20 percent pork in Monterrey at a neighborhood taqueria called La Playita to the stunning jet-black trompo at Mercurio that showed the evolution of the trompo in the episode. 

In Los Angeles, like many others, I have found myself scarfing down al pastor under the midnight moon more times that I’m willing to admit. The trompo that I always find myself returning to that I find the most similar in technique and flavor to the ones in Mexico is undoubtedly Leo's Tacos. They are the most consistent and I am of the school of thought that if a slice of al pastor touches the grill, it is no longer considered al pastor. (At that point, it becomes a taco de adobado). Lastly, the slices of meat and pineapple should be as paper-thin as possible. All of these criteria in which Leo’s excels in. I recently had al pastor from one of a taqueria that is considered their serious rivals, but nope, Leo’s is still king. Bonus points if you were among the proud few L.A. taco heads who recognized Leo's Tacos's legendary trompo briefly making an appearance in the episode.

Carnitas

L.A. Taco Pick: Carnitas El Momo

Remember the cutaway scene in the series when a woman in Michoacán proudly reveals, “The fattiness in the carnitas is what makes them tasty.” She is 100 percent correct. The one thing I learned in my life-changing carnitas journey is that if you’re going to eat carnitas, you gotta pretty much take a fucken swan-dive into the pool of the luscious rendered carnitas fat. If that fat isn’t running down your chin, arms, and your fingers aren’t sticky after with manteca, then you or the vendor didn’t do it properly. The best spots I ate at in Quiroga, Morelia, and Huandacareo all had one thing in common: The meat melted in your mouth and the caramelized pork skin was so gelatinous that it resembled freshly made chewy caramel. 

There is only one carnitas master in Los Angeles I’ve had that mimics with buttery, sweet, salty, pork euphoria: Carnitas El Momo. If you want to have it as close to the stuff in Michoacán, ask for your taco to be filled with surtido, a ratio of meat and skin that descended from the gates of heaven. Note: Enthusiasts and Michoacános believe that a true taco de carnitas shouldn’t have salsa, just pickled chiles. 

 

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Buenos dias ya estan listos @tacos_de_canasta_el_abuelo

A post shared by Tac🍅s De Canasta El Abuel🍅 (@tacos_de_canasta_el_abuelo) on

Canasta

L.A. Taco Pick: Tacos De Canasta El Abuelo

This taco truly put my gut to the test. It is utterly satisfying and the working-class workhorse of the state of Mexico and Tlaxcala. However, through its rib-sticking deliciousness, it is deceivingly rich. Relying on not one, not two, but three layers of fat to make sure its fans don’t have to eat again until very later that same day. First, you have the saucy, rich guisado, then you have the chewy tortillas that are glazed in either glistening, highly seasoned oil or lard, and lastly, when all the tacos are assembled in the basket, a liter or two of boiling oil is poured over it all to make sure the tacos stay warm all day. 

Los Angeles is shockingly devoid of a taco de canasta institution but the closest we get is El Abuelo in Boyle Heights. As you will see on their Instagram page, they are well on their way there. They have pickled vegetables, which is traditional and highly necessary in this taco style to counter the richness of it all. Get there early to avoid taco heartbreak because they are known to run out. 

Photo by Javier Cabral
Photo by Javier Cabral

Asada

L.A. Taco Pick: Sonoratown

It is safe to say that the research required for the carne asada broke me emotionally and I will never be the same again. It took a trip to Sonora to make me realize how many bad, sinewy, gristly, steamed, rubbery, chancla asada I’ve had in my life and how this kind of lackluster experience had become the norm in my city. That is, until Sonoratown opened their doors and unleashed the powers of their ever-sizzling asador. In Sonora, carne asada is a way of life. Just ask anyone who is from Sonora or Nuevo Leon. Sonoratown, carries this sentiment through every single taco that owner Jenn serves to you with perhaps the biggest smile found in all of downtown Los Angeles.

This is illustrated in the episode clearly as one of the only two taqueros featured in the U.S. is Sonoratown. If you follow them on social media, they will be overly humble and say “we know our asada will never be the same as Sonora but we try our hardest.” Well, the reality is that it is actually very similar and perhaps the most similar to its Mexican counterpart in all of Los Angeles. You can blame their obsession with mesquite and driving to Sonora to lug back sacks of Mexican flour for their flour tortillas for this distinction. It has become my go-to recommendation when someone from out of town asks for “tacos.” 

 

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The BEST barbacoa & consome 😋

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Barbacoa

L.A. Taco Pick: La Barbacha 

Nothing will ever or even get close to rivaling the near-holy experience of eating underground-oven pit roasted, freshly slaughtered high-quality lamb that you will find every other mile on any given weekend in the state of Hidalgo, but sometimes all you need is something to get you by until the next time you are in Mexico. 

When the craving for barbacoa gets to critical levels while watching the episode, La Barbacha will be there to answer your craving with a pile of fall-apart quality roasted lamb and a mug of pulque. Like carnitas, if your fingers aren’t sticky from the rendered lamb fat after getting down on a plate of barbacoa and the meat doesn’t haunt your body for the rest of the day, they didn’t do it right. At La Barbacha, you can rest assured that your fingers will be sticky as hell and you will smell of delicious roasted lamb. My protip: I ask for costillas, the lamb ribs that are almost always tender and juicy. Also, pulque is this taco’s pairing for a reason. I swear it helps you digest it all and gives you a much-needed refreshingly fermented assist to the act of pure lamb savagery that is eating barbacoa. 

Guisados

L.A. Taco Pick: Mercado Olympic

Guisado is the most versatile taco of all. Because their fillings range from eggs, meat, vegetables, cheese, beans, and every single thing in between, there is a filling for all mealtimes of the day. In the series, L.A.’s golden boy of tacos Wes Avila of Guerrilla Tacos is showcased for his decidedly modern interpretation of tacos. Many of which can be categorized as a form of modern guisados 

But if you are craving old school-style guisados, then Mercado Olympic is your destination. That is the unofficial name given to the weekend-only open-air street food market on the intersection of Central and Olympic in downtown L.A.

It is a little slice of Mexico within city limits and the sights, smells, and sounds can match those of any tianguis found in Mexico. The same goes for most of its food vendors. There is great barbacoa, carnitas, tacos de canasta, birria, churros, and guisados. There are a few vendors as you walk the tortilla-paved sidewalk that specialize in guisados, including some across the street, so follow your nose to the ones that look the best to you. You will know it is a guisado stand because you will see about a half a dozen fillings lined up, ready to be spooned into a tortilla or quesadilla. The one benefit that is unique to this taco style is that there are usually a few options for non-meat eaters, like squash blossoms, huitlacoche, green beans, or nopalitos. The way to do guisados is to point to the guisado that look the most appetizing and try as many as you can. This is the time-honored guisado process.

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