We’re back! And of course we never really left off eating tacos, because eating tacos is just a thing we do. Writing about it may come and go, but the tacos never leave. Below is not-too-quick recap of recent-ish adventures; if you want the quick version, here goes: go eat at Birrieria El Tijuanazo. Just do it. And if you want good cheap tacos with nice salsas and beans on the side, check out the lovely hole in the wall that is Tacos y Mariscos La Gloria. (And if you’re ever stuck at Taco Bell? You can do worse than the potato tacos.) Quick version done, now commencing longer.
Oct 22: Tacos Estilo Guadalajara, 724 W Holt Blvd, Ontario, CA 91762. Tacos Estilo Guadalajara is hugely loved on Yelp and, the Saturday morning we went, it was doing brisk business. Set in what looks like a former Sonic or some other bizarre old style fast food chain, Tacos Estilo Guadalajara was entirely solid. It had well-flavored al pastor a bit on the fatty side, and very, very good carne asada. See for yourself:
If we ever ended upat Tacos Estilo Guadalajara and had to get three or so carne asada tacos, we would not be unhappy. But why get tacos from one new place when you go to a second? After we left T.E.G., we immediately headed down Mission Boulevard until we found Tacos y Mariscos La Gloria (1405 W Mission Blvd, Ontario). Great place! Indoor dining, soccer on the TV, the man at the cashier–also the cook, we think?–didn’t speak a great deal of English just as we didn’t speak a great deal of Spanish. Yet all the same we ended up with tacos and there were smiles on all concerned faces. Do small human obstacles overcome make food taste better? Maybe so. Since we weren’t exactly starving, we planned to just get two tacos. Then this happened:
Yeah, we officially LOVE Tacos y Mariscos La Gloria. We haven’t yet been back, but we will be. They have an ongoing crazy deal: 4 tacos (carnitas and/or pollo), $4. The carnitas are succulent, crisp and tender both. The chicken was spiced enough and well-grilled. And the salsas were excellent. Dollar tacos. Free beans. That’s crazy. That’s delicious.
Moving on. I think three times this fall semester, including December 15, I made my way to Mi Cocina in downtown La Verne (it’s right across the street from campus and lives in the odd restaurant space that has, in my time here, hosted a Chinese restaurant, a barbecue place, a hot dog place, and Pappas, one of the most maddening local restaurants I’ve ever known: such high highs, such low lows).
Anyway: Mi Cocina is fine. They have a huge menu–pancakes? Molcajetes? Chicken tenders? Tacos? Street tacos? I’ve ordered a few things in my various visits, and while I don’t love Mi Cocina–I’d recommend Tavos Tacos, the truck across campus on Arrow Highway–you can get through it: if you’re ever stuck at Mi Cocina, I suggest getting the street (not regular) tacos, probably with shredded beef (it’s a quasi-barbacoa) or the carnitas. It’s not great but will do.
On December 27, we admittedly stopped at a Taco Bell on our holiday drive back from the Bay Area. On long drives like these, some people avoid the caloric allure of fast food stops and instead pack PB&Js or other treats, or they pause to eat a sit-down meal at Pea Soup Anderson’s or the like. We don’t like to stop for too long, especially on I-5–it’s a drive to get over and done. But we also admittedly enjoy going through our fairly poor fast food options on such drives. When else do you scour the online offerings at Arby’s with something akin to anticipation? Or look forward to getting a Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich? (Well, that’s always). So this time: Taco Bell. We’ve been to Taco Bell three times in the past year or so … which also make it … (doing addition) … three times in the past decade. Why? Because we were sort of dared to try the Mexican pizza, which is essentially disgusting late night bar food (so: kind of good). And we also tried the potato tacos … and they really aren’t bad. It’s hard to go wrong with salsa, cheese, and crisped potatos on a tortilla. A totally fine fall-back option. That’s what we got on our drive home, and it was entirely mediocre. Yay Taco Bell! Mediocre for the win!
And another admission: we go to Del Taco far more than we should. We’ll get into the intricacies of Del Taco’s menu offerings at another time (read: never, it’s too embarrassing), but suffice to say that during our visits we frequently get two of their basic taco offerings: the currently named Del Taco (classic American style: crunchy corn shell, ground beef, and grated cheddar). It’s a very Tito’s taco, and like Tito’s, it’s fine, even good. The meat is well-seasoned, and if you load it up with hot sauce, it’s not at all bad. Crunchy tacos are anti-autentico … but crunching meaty things loaded up with fat in your mouth is nicely animalistic. America: where we take non-elegant food like street tacos and make them almost cannibalistic. Our other Del Taco standard is the grilled chicken taco. It’s totally fine. Is the flour tortilla good? No. Is the creamy sauce amazing? No, it’s fine. The cheese, fine. The chicken is simple: nicely grilled, no real frills. Easy enough.
Enough about fast food. Moving onto something a touch more elevated: birria. We’re not the biggest birria fans, as we’ve said before (not counting La Palma, one of our favoritest faves … that somehow fell from #15 on the 2021 LA Times Top 101 to entirely off the 2022 list? WTF, Bill Addison?). That famous redness that slicks the top of a bowl or cup of birria, that lauded redness that stains tortillas and fingers and lips and shirts and tablecloths and napkins? That’s grease, yo.
But still we try. We saw that there was a newly celebrated birria place in Ontario (1517 N Baker Ave, Ontario, CA 91764, just north of I-10, unlike the two taco places listed above), and we thought: Why not try again. We’re hopeful folx, it’s true. Thankfully this happened:
Holy shit. Birrieria El Tijuanazo is amazing. The menu is almost hilarious in its simplicity. Want birria? That’s good, because you can get it here in the form of: burrito (with rice), taco (with/without cheese), quesadilla (on corn or flour), ramen (no joke–and it’s probably amazing), torta, and as straight up consomme (that’s the soulful birria broth with spoonfuls of delicious shredded beef mixed in). The thing about the birria here (and at La Palma) is that it doesn’t have those sedimentary layers of red greasiness you need a new heart valve to penetrate: the kind cooks skim away the fat and leave you the good stuff, all the savory broth and meat … and it is … so … savory. We got the quesabirria tacos, a small cup of consomme, and one of each quesadilla. The flour quesadilla was enough for two-plus people. The tacos are ridiculous. The rich meaty birria is intense and whole and warming — standout winter food — and made only better with generous squeezes of lime (the acid both brightens and cuts the meatiness), their house-made thick, fiery, and smoky red salsa, and spoon- or fingerfuls of pickled onion, raw chopped onion, and cilantro. Yes to all this.
If you want something else from Birrieria El Tijuanazo, in a non-birria category … well. That’s. Too. Bad. Because you aren’t getting it here, not even a simple bean and cheese burrito (no beans on the menu). And that’s fine with us: we love restaurants that fully commit to the thing they do extremely well, just as we’re happy to dive into a bowl of their consomme with whomever, whenever. Just let us know.