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Weekend Taco Mission: Three Tasty Tacos to Try in West L.A.’s Sawtelle Neighborhood

2:01 PM PST on January 7, 2022

    Sawtelle, the venerable West Los Angeles neighborhood hemmed between the 405 freeway and Centinela’s borderline to Santa Monica, is fused by the intriguing intersection of Persian, Japanese, and Oaxacan eats. When the sun goes down at night, its blocks glow faintly from a light parade of Oaxacan trucks selling tlayudas, memelas, and tasajo plates to L.A.'s westsiders.

    Whether its the barbacoa or chile relleno picadillo at Monte Alban, the mole negro at Juquila, the ribeye tacos at Sonoritas, or the tejate-and-tamal strapped menudo stand that sets up on Sunday mornings in front of La Flama’s Oaxacan market.

    Given its strong Oaxacan presence, Sawtelle is a neighborhood where taquerías tend to not be the main epicurean attraction. But a few recent debuts are hoping to shake up this scene. Two are stands bringing street-style taquerías to its sidewalks and are worth investigating when you’re in the area, and another is a but of a weird-o, a culinary freak that we’re still attemping to process.

    Let’s explore. Shall we?

    We shall.

    Taquería Carrasco

    You can smell this two-man operation from a street away, as billows of steam rise from its hot griddles to permeate the ether of its Santa Monica Boulevard block. Currently our go-to for takeout tacos in this neighborhood, Carrasco excels with a strong supply of Oaxacan meats. Our preferences run to the ragged cuts of cecina, painted in a thick red marinade, and sweet, cinnamon-kissed chorizo, with dueling squiggles of creamy avocado salsa and a deep red salsa roja packed into their doubled-up tortillas. We’ve also taken a liking to Carrasco’s spherical tortas, spread with black beans and bonded by quesillo Oaxaqueño.

    Taquería Carrasco sets up at the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Armacost Avenue.

    God Taco

    Upon first glimpse of the name and signage at God Taco—depicting a divine cartoon hand throwing Satanic metal horns—our hearts kicked in that way only other freelance writers in search of a story must know. These feelings were further boosted when we looked onto the window menu at this small strip mall storefront known as the Food Factory, which is shared by a Japanese ramen joint and curry maker, and a Korean business. It first looked to be a realization of this offal-lovers’ fantasies, with chicken skin tacos and another made with small intestine, alongside tacos bursting with bulgogi, egg, and spicy ground pork. We were less impressed when the tacos came out looking like something McDonald’s might label a taco, with delectable meats hidden under a mountain of shredded raw cabbage in a unremarkable pale white corn tortilla and a side of “spicy mayo” and generic hot sauce. One half of our party enjoyed the style nonetheless, though we remain doubtful in the supremacy of this God. Still, we can’t help but remain a little intrigued by its eccentricity. It's worth a try for any taco head.

    Tacos Barrios

    Tacos Barrios is a flattop-strapped, family-run stand hanging out in the early evening in the maw of an alley off Brockton Avenue, just north of Santa Monica Boulevard. The menu’s focus is on $1.50 street tacos, as well as tortas, quesadillas, burritos, and quesabirrías. Each are made particularly meaty with your choice of asada, pollo, pastor, birria, or lengua along with a salsa roja and salsa verde. Food tends to be a notch above the standard taquería fare in this zip code, though not exactly worth crossing neighborhood lines for. We’ve had the best success with the crisp-edged pastor and thick cuts of tender tongue, especially on one of its gooey, griddled tortas, especially when chased by a refreshing bionico or gelatina for dessert. They also sell a “Philly Cheesesteak” torta smeared with chipotle aioli, of which we’re yet to fuck with.

    There are two things we remain sure of in regards to the 90025:

    1) The Sawtelle area is full of treasures both time-honored and novel that buck many people’s expectations of a Westside neighborhood, including two cherished arthouse movie temples, a handful of historic Japanese nurseries, the perpetually-pandemic-postponed Feria de Tejate, skilled itamae, a bakery for fresh sangak, 134-year-old spread for U.S. war veterans,  Tokyo-fresh toy stores, a slamming South American churro spot, back alley mangals, and at least one preserved Tongvan/Gabrielino sacred spring within a LAUSD high school.

    2) With single family homes going the way of the dodo, and entire blocks up for lease or being wiped off the map entirely, this is a neighborhood that won’t look the same in five years. We recommend you see it today before its reingcast as a mixed use apartment stronghold.

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