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Los Feliz

Yuca’s ~ Los Feliz

10:31 AM PDT on October 24, 2007

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Yuca's ~ 2056 Hillhurst Ave. Los Feliz, CA 90027 ~ (323) 662-1214

Wherein I get to one of my top favorite taco spots, the tiny orange-on-brown wonderhut dubbed Yuca's on Hillhurst in Los Feliz. Bound to an unattractive parking lot, Yuca's legend is truly an example of how tacos change lives. Opened in 1976 by the Herrera family with loot from an accident suffered by el dueño, Jaime, the early days saw Jamie Jr. flagging down cars offering 'you don't pay if you don't like it' promotions to get Yuca's tacos and burritos into people's hands.

In time, 'Mama' Socorro's delicious food brought people in droves, with a boost by an early article in the Times. The Herrera hustle endowed the family with enough cheddar to see their kids (including daughter Dora) off to Ivy League business schools, then return to bolster the family company. Today, Yuca's is a heavy-hitter on the world taco scene, having even won the prestigious James Beard Award for excellent eats in 2005.

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There's always a little line at Yuca's, but a quick and efficient turn-around. You leave your order with Mama herself who scrawls it on a paper plate and passes it to the wee kitchen. A few minutes later your food emerges wrapped in foil, and you scramble, search, or beg for a place to sit. Many brown-bag it from the deli next door. I had my feast on my hood, which helps keep the tacos warm.

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I got a sampling of each of Yuca's four tacos (well above market averages at $2-$2.25, but hearty). The secret seems to be a recipe that has the meats exploding with natural juice and super-buttery flavor. It's almost as if the animals had spent their short lives swimming laps in butter trofts.

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The asada has the toughest texture of their meats, although it still delivers on the tender, juicy standards of Yuca's, bleeding buttery goodness along with a complex medley of flavors. The tacos contain no fatty bits, providing big meatty mouthfuls with a rough-chopped pico de gallo providing some crunch. The machaca was not so tough and kinky, as machaca tends to be, but came very moist, with a heavy hint of black pepper and a taste of something sorta sweet permeating the mix.  Opening up Yuca's tacos, there's that definite blunt-wrap effect, a narrow fill of shredded, stewed meat in a straight line, rolled tight.

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The carnitas were super-buttery, almost melting in the mouth they were so soft, so wet...completely exploding with flavors both natural and spice-infused. The tacos are big but gone in about three bites.

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And for the near-perfect ochinita pibil, which is  a slow-roasted stewed pork from the Yucatan peninsula,  traditionally use dwith a tender, defenseless baby pig (think Babe). The cochinita pibil at yuca's looks so fresh and clean as you can see above, the meat is very high-quality in appearence and taste. The flavors are fresh pork with some undertones of citrus and raisin. The meat is completely saturated with juice, which comes seeps in every bite while the pork seems to disappear on the tongue. Yuca's cochinita pibil taco is fit for God.

So do it and do it again, Los Angeles! Yuca's is a shining star of our taco scene and a hometown favorite we'll be back for again and again.

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