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Villas Tacos in Highland Park Serves ‘The Seven Layer Taco of Your Dreams’

8:00 AM PDT on July 29, 2020

You would think that in a city known for its plethora of tacos you could answer this simple question without hesitation: “What is an L.A.-style taco?” 

If you were asked about Sonora style tacos, you’d think of fresh flour tortillas with grilled asada, or if you were asked about tacos estilo Guadalajara, the Lynwood shop with the literal same name comes to mind, serving tender cabeza on fluffy bite-sized steamed corn tortillas. But what is an L.A. taco? It’s a question that broke our taco obsessed newsroom perhaps because no one has ever stopped to ask themselves. Well one young taquero from Highland Park has an answer and it’s as L.A. as it gets. 

Victor Villa grew up in Atwater Village, but spent most of his time at his abuelitas house in Highland Park where he currently operates his taco stand, Villas Tacos. Fresh out of CSUN in 2015 with big entrepreneurial eyes, he looked at the cornucopia of tacos that is Los Angeles and thought to himself, “I want to bring something new and true to myself. Something I’d never seen in Mexico or in L.A. Something unique, innovative and most important, fucking delicious. My style, estilo Los Ángeles.” 

That’s when the queso-taco 2.0 was created. It’s layers of vibrant flavors, textures, and ingredients carefully orchestrated into a mariachi song for your eyes and taste buds. The taco essentially is Victor Villa in its colorfulness, depth, and enjoyment. It has a strong character and is unafraid of being loud while remaining tempered and gracious.

To start, Dodger fan Villa decided Villas Tacos would be served on handmade, Dodger-blue corn tortillas made with masa from Kernel of Truth Organics. It’s an earthier tortilla compared to it’s yellow counterpart that’s fitting for Villa’s down-to-earth personality. The tortilla is then coated with cheese grilled to a melted crisp before adding a coat of creamy black refried beans. 

For the meats, Villa takes the helm of a Santa Maria grill which helps him control the mesquite flames cooking his thick cuts of quality seasoned carne ranchera, chicken, and chorizo to a juicy finish. Chicharron and potato are also palate soothing options prepared separately.

From there, the tacos are topped off with diced onions and cilantro, a drizzle of crema, a sprinkle of cotija, and a rich dollop of fresh chunky guacamole making it the seven layer taco of your dreams. 

Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. Taco.

Trying to pick a salsa can feel like choosing your favorite Jose Alfredo Jimenez song, it kind of depends on what mood you’re in. At times, they’ve served up to twelve different salsas crafted mostly by Villa’s abuelita. Villa’s dad contributes a “Jiquilsalsa” named after his hometown of Jiquilpan, Michoacan. It’s a spicy and chunky tomato salsa with radish, onions and cilantro. He also makes a mango pico de gallo that is Villa’s personal favorite. 

Some other regular options include a refreshing ensalada de nopal or you could go hard on the heat with his mango habanero. But don’t pass up on the hibiscus pickled red onions. That’s a game changer that adds a nice layer of sweet acidity to cut through the seven layers of richness on the taco. 

Is the Villas queso-taco 2.0 the answer to what is an L.A.-style taco? Perhaps not in its make up, but maybe in its spirit. 

It’s a taco that, just like the city it was born in, is made up of complex layers of intersecting flavors living together on a bright blue tortilla. It’s as L.A. as Kogi’s Korean BBQ, Guerrilla’s sweet potato, or Macheen’s pork belly. It’s a taco made in the image of its creator, an expression that says boldly, “This is me. This is my style. And there’s not another one like it.”

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