Over the weekend we paid a visit to Tacolandia in the historic El Pueblo de Los Angeles. Let me set the scene. The locale: the original site of the second established town in California, founded in 1781 by the Spaniards. The food: over 70 of the most successful taco purveyors in the southland. The beer: Montejo...think of shittier Corona (yes, it does exist). But we’re not here for the beer. The tequila: Hornitos (see previous sentence). The people: a great mix of our beautifully diverse city from every corner of the metropolis. The weather: 80 and sunny with a SoCal breeze that whipped through the city’s palms and cooled you off at the most opportune times. The music: Thee Commons, a blend of 50’s Rock & Roll, Latin Punk, with a bit of dub influence. Stage set.
Tacos al pastor, al carnitas, de camarones, de pescado, de lengua, y de pollo…oh my! Vegetarian was available, but I couldn’t be bothered. Not because I don’t like vegan options - I love them - but if you are an omnivore at an event like this…why? And how would you like all of that beautiful bounty cooked? Tacos de asador, de cazo, de cazuela, de asador: it’s all available. I started off strong, hitting up all the front and center tents, only later learning this was a foolish and amateur mistake for newbies. The prime spots located near the entrance were all taken by the larger, more well known Mexican restaurants around greater Los Angeles. I pounded down four tacos immediately, washed down by the ever-improving Montejos.
Upon turning the first corner, I realized my mistake - not that any of the tacos were bad by any stretch, they just weren’t what I was looking for. Going down the second and third corridors, I ran into some amazing restaurants where mothers & grandmas armed with their families’ recipes greeted each guest and told them as much as they’d listen to. Within these corridors were tents such as Rocio’s Mole de los Dios and Mole’s la Tia, with selections from the famous seven of Oaxaca’s available moles, and Los Originales Tacos Arabes de Puebla, a.k.a. the Platonic ideal of tacos. At this point I was done, fin, basta, terminada, and oh so happy. Afterward we made a quick stop at the gazebo where we were sucked into the rollicking guitar and drums of Thee Commons.
It wasn’t just the food that made this day a great start to summer; it was the true confluence of what we look for in life. All of our senses were teased and enlightened at the same time by the taste and smell of the food, the sound of the music, the visual history of our surroundings. This was an appreciation of the history and people brought together by a shared love for one thing: tacos.
And what does one do after that? Go to Chinatown and buy some records, I suppose.