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Tito's Tacos ~11222 Washington Blvd. Culver City, CA 90230 ~ (310) 391-5780

Tito's Tacos is a 48-year old Los Angeles roadside legend selling the city's gringo-est tacos. It might be the only one selling gringo tacos exclusively these days. Gringo tacos is not meant as a diss of course, tacos being the most unifying food force we, in the Southland, share today through our various backgrounds and customs. We all have our own style, right? Why deny tacos their eccentricities and mutations?

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Not to be confused with Gardena's Tacos el Tito, which reaches acmes of taco truck authenticity, Tito's in Culver has seen it all while pumping out the variety of hard-shell, cheddar cheese topped, slim iceberg taco treats as familiar to today's U.S. households as burgers and apple pie. If you rock roots from anywhere but Mexico, this is the taco you probably grew up eating at home and school.

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If you've made it to the tar-pits stage of exploring this city, you've been to Tito's. Author and native-son Dan Fante even let it be known it's his favorite place for tacos in all of Los Angeles. I got to Tito's early, around 11:20 in the morning and the line was already swollen with the West side lunch crowd. This is one of those classics like Pink's or Tommy's, where the cooks know you're not going anywhere else, so they take their time in putting the pre-made ingredients together. I stood around eyeing the Restitution Press bandit, among some other shady characters, and getting hungrier...

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I think Tito's only has beef tacos. I got two, plus a tamale to inject some diversity in the party that was to happen in my mouth. Tito's tacos are thin but tall, with unmelted cheddar overflowing from the tops like head on a beer. I took them to my recon vehicle and made a picnic on the hood. The tacos are really nothing special, but are sort of a great taste in and of themselves, like a Big Mac or something. Tito's tacos are a guilty pleasure, not the medium's bar-raiser. The beef sits at the bottom, very shredded and mashed up, about the consistency of tuna fish, but not as moist, in a thick line like the guts of a Dutch.

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The hard, sometimes stale-ish shell smashes apart within a few crunches. With luck or tongue agility, the beef can be scooped up with enough lettuce and cheese for a really satisfying bite. Most of the time though, you get a big bite of cheese and work yourself down ingredient by ingredient to the beef, passing crunchy lettuce and dollops of sour cream until you have a last incredible juicy, greasy lil' bite.

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The best part of Tito's, to me, is the red sauce that comes with it. It has a dark, smoky taste, almost like a red mole of some kind, but oily and thin. In fact, I think eating your tacos secos here really requires it. Tito's buries you in chips, so I went ape with that sauce, dipping it, sticking it, licking it, and drinking it straight from the cup like my big brother Silencer is want to do. By this time, my hands were pretty nasty with taco meat and sauce and oil and ting. I was licking my fingers and wiping them on my taco box, red sauce on my face, hissing at senior citizens when they crossed my path and made eye-contact, just for dramatic, Manson-like effect.

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The chicken tamale was pretty tasty. Super wet and undercooked (served sans husk), the corn-meal had a lot of natural sweet flavor, and they sure pack a lot of meat into that tube. The thin tamale skin barely clings to the surface, so a good mix of meat pours out of the center, nicely spiced, shredded and packed kinda like those tacos. Again, not mind-blowing, but certainly tasty.

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Tito's Tacos will never ever ever EVER CLOSE! I don't know, this is Los Angeles and it may be turned into a lame mall someday. But for now, get thine ass to Tito's regularly, just to show on of our city's taco legends some love. If you get there early, you can satisfy your Tito's jones and still find room for some soft-corn tortilla encased asada tacos at Tacos el Tito later.

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