Tacolandia 2015!

TACOLANDIA. SATURDAY June 6, 2015, EL PUEBLO DE LOS ANGELES

A San Francisco native, I grew up eating some of the best taco’s, burritos and Mexican Food that the City by the Bay has to offer.  Post college, I moved to LA, and in my 10 years of living there, discovered and can confirm that The Southland has some of the best taco trucks ever – most of which don’t charge more than $1.50.  Basically, I’ve been spoiled with excellent, authentic tacos most of my life…. until now.

A few summers ago I moved to Brooklyn.  Mexican food here is below average; finding a great authentic taco in any of the 5 Boroughs, whether from a food/taco truck or restaurant is usually disappointing and will almost always burn a hole in your wallet. A few fellow Californians have made attempts at opening places in NY, but to me, they just don’t have the authentic flavor, seasoning and home cooked love you get when in California.

Lucky for me, Tacolandia 2015 coincided with my recent trip to LA!
I landed at Tacolandia a bit after 3 and the line was already wrapped along the sidewalk. It was a little slow moving, primarily due to people walking up to the front, not knowing where the end was, and bag/ ID checks for alcohol. Once that was done, getting in was easy. The lovely LA Weekly folks checking off names/handing out wristbands and the mini guide books were very pleasant and helpful.

tacolandia line line 2

Prior to arriving, I had a quick look at the list of over 80 vendors on the Tacolandia/LA Weekly website. Having eaten at a few of these establishments, I wanted to focus on places I’d never been. My strategy as a first time Tacolandia attendee, was to eat on the fly, eyeballing what looked delicious, checking out the places with the longer lines, asking people what they liked and trying to eat more eclectic, interesting & adventurous tacos. I wanted to eat my way through Tacolandia one area at a time, as opposed to running around the entire venue. My overall goal was to eat as many tacos that I’ve never tried, in hopes these vendors wouldn’t run out of food before I got to them.

The Pluses:
None of the lines, even for the most popular spots were too long, and everyone patiently waited their turn (no cutting)
Most vendors didn’t run out of food until about 6:30pm; a few a bit later, which is reasonable since the event started at 3 pm.
Speedy, efficient and friendly service from the vendors
You were served a hearty full sized taco, (normal portions) with the exception of a few vendors I visited who served Calamari and Seafood; those were cut in half.
Easy enough to find places to sit and eat; some with tables.
Plenty of stands to buy alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages
Dessert options were on the premises for anyone craving sugar
Trash cans available throughout the premises
Free non alcoholic beverages and samples – Jarrito’s, right as you enter, as well as a sweet mango and chile juice/drink, and fizzy exotic flavored water to name a few.
Great presentation and good food porn opportunities
Disappointment:
None whatsoever, except for one…
Quite a few vendors didn’t display a description of what they’re serving and what you’re actually eating. It’s not a bad thing, as many adventurous hungry Taco fans (such as myself) might want to be surprised here and there.  But from a marketing/pr point of view, it would be great to have have a sign, chalkboard etc in addition to a sample on the table.

My favorite Tacos, the best of what I ate:

beef heart taco
Border Grill
Anticuchos Taco
Grilled beef heart, Black Beans,  Avocado Corn Salsa on a Corn Tortilla – total genius!

squid ink tortilla blue corn
Taco Maria
Calamari, Chili Dusted Peanuts and Purslane on a Squid Ink Tortilla – beautifully presented, and cooked to order

pork belly puffy taco
Bar Ama
Puffy Pork Belly Taco

A San Antonio Classic ( I’ve never eaten or found one outside of Texas),  consisting of a lightly fried corn tortilla so it puffs up, complimented by chunks of juicy fried pork belly

ricky's fish taco
Ricky’s Fish Taco’s
Classic fried Fish Taco with Ricky, the master himself at the fryer!

the oinky
Bull Taco
The Oinky
For those who love pork as much as I do- Pork, Bacon, Chorizo mixed into one yummy taco!

cactus tortilla mole and cactus tortilla
Rocio’s Mole De Los Dioses
Shrimp taco with delicious rich dark Mole Oaxaqueno on a Green Cactus Tortilla!

manzanilla squid taco
Manzanilla
Grilled Calamari Taco; simple but delicious!

Surprises:
Cult movie and tv star Danny Trejo in the flesh.  I didn’t get to sample his taco, but excited he’s opening his own taco joint on LaBrea!

susan and mary sue
Food TV superstars and Border Grill masterminds, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Miliken serving all their hungry customers and posing for photos.

top chef
Top chef Katsubi Tanabe serving his “Filthy Taco” I regretfully gave the line a miss on this one, but it sure looked good!

la tortilla factory
Coupons for a free pack of handmade tortillas of your choice from the LA Tortilla Factory (this was especially exciting as I had planned on buying tortillas to bring back to NY)
Reasonably clean honey buckets, portable faucets with ample paper towels, soap and running water (considering the drought)
Easy parking (I drove and parked in Chinatown for $4)

In sum, I didn’t get to taste 80 tacos, but I did leave Tacolandia, fully and happily stuffed, a little after 7 pm. The entire experience was deliciously amazing, and it made me wonder why I ever left The Southland… On my way home, I stopped at both Kogi and Leo’s to buy some tacos for the long plane ride home.  Kudo’s to the LA Weekly for such a great, delicious, well organized event!  I will hopefully return to Tacolandia in 2016!

the end

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