Fun fact: We like food basically all the time. And we like exploring Southern California, at least some of the time. And we like remembering these experiences and sharing them through words and pictures. For several of the past few years, we’ve done summer food quests — tacos, neighborhood joints (sometimes terrifying ones), pizza, sandwiches, and falafel. And we’ve occasionally dropped in single-day adventures: burrito days, quesadilla cheese days (I know), torta days, and on.
We came to a realization after our recent FalafelQuest©: trying to fit in a comprehensive journey through focused regional food offerings during a single summer is less enjoyable — gustatorily, exploratorily — than having a more relaxed, ongoing approach. We’ve come to feel as spread thin as a layer of garlic paste on a pita while doing these food offerings. What might follow falafel? Chicken sandwiches? No thanks. Noodles? We love ’em but damn the carbs. Salads? That’s not how you win friends. Hamburgers and french fries? Nope, not up our alley.
What is up our alley, though, always and forever, is tacos. Our individual taco histories have humble roots. Like many white middle-classish GenX Americans, we grew up in homes with Taco Night, and taco night meant crunchy shells (either pre-made or pan-fried corn tortillas dusted with canned parmesan cheese), base fillings of ground beef mixed with Lawry’s Taco Seasoning and maybe some canned refried beans, and all those wonderful little bowls of condiments: shredded cheddar cheese. Diced tomatoes. Black olive slices. Pace Picante. Iceberg lettuce. (Iceberg lettuce? You bet your ass.) Add a bit more parmesan on top, please.
We weren’t fancy. But the world changes, and it makes you change with it. We’ve adulted alongside the Food Network (bam, sigh), with Top Chef, with Anthony Bourdain and Marcus Samuelsson, with David Chang and, of course, the great Jonathan Gold. The food world now isn’t what it was forty years ago–it’s not the Julia Child-bring-the-outside-world-into-your-kitchen-world so much as it is get-your-ass-out-of-the-house-and-actually-step-into-those-other-worlds world. And we’ve tried, and we’ll keep trying, to step into those other worlds. They’re interesting, they’re diverse, they’re challenging, they’re smart–and best of all, they’re surprising.
We’ve eaten a lot — a lot! — of tacos over our years, which now entail at least parts of both two centuries and five decades. (Holy. Shit.) We’ve progressed from Taco Night to Taco Bell soft tacos to Nico’s chicken tacos to whatever tacos Vieve ate in Santa Cruz to Midwestern tacos (Taco John–ugh–, those great little tacos in Hills, even, spectacularly, the cochinita pibil at Frontera) to Jimboy’s to where we are now.
Where we are now is Southern California, 2022. Arguably The Historic Taco Capital of the World. We have eaten here tacos we couldn’t even have dreamed of–and some maybe we actually dreamed into existence. I’m talking Tacos La Central in Colton. Guisados in Boyle Heights. Tacos Mike in Tijuana. Sonoratown. Long Beach’s Al Pastor Alley (the place we really might have dreamed in our sleep, then found somehow in real existence). The little pop-up stand a half-mile away, on Towne and Arrow. The brisket taco from Heritage Barbecue. We still grieve the loss of Colonia Taco Lounge–their chicken tesmole might have been the best taco we’ve ever had.
We love tacos. We should! They’re easy and delicious. They’re photogenic. They’re small enough to eat in multitudes, and they aren’t fussy–but they allow you to be, if that’s your jam. So we’re going to be eating tacos, and we’re going to be sharing about it. If you want to eat tacos with us, let us know. It’ll be a good time. Please join us on this ongoing adventure–as the boy said, it’ll be an awfully big one.
Next up: Tacos Judith, Cheo’s/Tacos El Guerito, La Bufadora Grill, and Teddy’s Red Tacos.