I’m a taco purist. Although I appreciate restaurants specializing in artisan tacos filled with exotic toppings and strange meats that you would never think compliments a tortilla, I much rather have a taco de buche from the corner taco spot. I would even go as far as to say the recent gentrification of Los Angeles has even spilled over to our classic and beloved Mexican dish. Never fear. I am here to guide you in your search for tacos that stay true to their timeless taste and quickly recognize the signs of a good taco spot.
1 . Meat names are in Spanish.
When you go into the restaurant or walk up to the food truck you suspect may have some bomb tacos, the first thing you want to look for is the language the meat names are in. If you see the words Steak or Chicken then you may want to consider the following:
The words you are looking for are Asada, Al Pastor, Carnitas. If you see Lengua, Buche, Chorizo, Suadero etc. then we’re really cooking! Get your ass in line! Not every taco spot has a wide selection and not all locations that have their menus in English are terrible but your odds of having shit tacos greatly diminish by keeping an eye out for this simple sign.
2 . Al Pastor is proudly on display
The Al Pastor should look a little something like this:
That’s right! What a fucking glorious manifestation of pork, pineapple, and perfectly marinated bliss. Just looking at it as I type this makes me want to drop everything and bury my face in that giant slab of fatty deliciousness. So if you see one of these bad boys out on display, you better believe they mean business.
3. A line that makes you question how badly you want to wait.
This is sort of a dead giveaway not only for tacos but for any sort of restaurant. For tacos, it is especially crucial. Good taco spots don’t remain a secret for very long and they will attract a quick following once everyone in town gets the chisme. People who aren’t used to street food are sometimes weary of places that may not look “up to code” but if you see a line there and it’s 10 pm on a Thursday then you’ll be glad you waited.
4. Buffet-style toppings.
Not all taco places offer this but the ones that do are usually the best. Some might ask you if you want onions and cilantro but then offer a small arrangement of extra toppings on a nearby table. The best places look like they are getting ready to feed the entire city of Los Angeles and make sure they have enough options for you to customize those tacos to your heart’s content.
The best thing about tacos is that everyone has their own unique way to prepare their own. Some like their tacos Con Todo while others pick and choose their favorite combination creating their very own masterpiece. That’s why seeing a toppings table is always a sign that you made a good decision.
5. The cheaper, the better.
There is a direct correlation between the price of a taco and its taste. One would imagine that the better the taco, the higher the price, right? It’s actually the opposite. Some of the best tacos I’ve ever tasted only cost $1 and some of the worst cost $5 PER TACO. Personally, anything over $2 per taco makes me suspicious. Anything over $3 gives me cause for concern. Anything over $4 pisses me the fuck off. So if you see those tacos are only a buck twenty-five, you’ll be alright.
So there you have it, boys and girls. Now go out there and eat some tacos and if you find any good ones, let me know!