I love tacos, but I'm also a horrible taco snob. I only like mine served off a truck in a parking lot in Los Angeles. I want them to be small, tasty, and very, very cheap.
(Although I admit that I agree with Anthony Bourdain that we shouldn't just assume that all Mexican cuisine should be bargain-oriented; some more respect from our wallets is probably overdue.)
I spent the better part of a decade eating off taco trucks in LA, and in 2007, I found MY truck: Tacos La Estrella, always parked at a gas station on Colorado Boulevard in LA's Eagle Rock neighborhood, northeast of Downtown.
Then I moved back to New York. "You will never have good tacos again," people warned me, ominously. Yes, when I lived in NYC a decade earlier, it was a Mexican-food wasteland. But surely, with the whole food-truck revolution, that had changed?
Nope. Every purported "taco" truck I tried was a massive fail. Tacos too big. Tacos too busy (Lettuce? Shredded cheese? Sloshings of guacamole?). Tacos uncheap. A great taco is less than $2 (sorry, Bourdain, but you're gonna have to give me this one). Period. It's usually significantly less.
Every purveyor I tried — and I got away from the trucks after a while — botched the job. New York taco-makers seemed to think that a simple little piece of street food, made from unwanted cuts of meat and rendered delicious through ingenuity and an obsession with freshness, had to be improved. More meat. Fancier preparations. Ungodly sauces.
There was even an unfortunate enchilada taco that I heard about. Enchiladas and tacos are different things, people.
Great tacos are an art form, every bit as exacting in the details as great sushi, but at a much, much lower price. They are street art. And this art was long ago perfected in Southern California. It should be copied, not modified.
Thankfully, after a year and half of suffering, I got back to LA for the Los Angeles auto show last year. I went straight to the parking lot, fingers crossed that my beloved truck would be there.
It was a gorgeous, sunny day in Eagle Rock.
I headed for the gas station where I used to get my cars smog-checked.
OK, I wasn't getting this car smogged. It was a $400,000 McLaren 675LT supercar that I borrowed for a few days. But what's that in the background?
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