August 15, 2009

L.A. Taco Crawl

This month's taco crawl, sponsored by my uncle, is brought to you by:

Some family was in town along w/ my cousin's bf from Philly, and they wanted some Mexican food, so what better way to do it than a taco crawl? I did a little bit of research with the help from Bandini, whose website has now moved here, and we were ready to go.

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The game plan. A. El Taurino B. King Taco C. El Parian D. Kogi E. Dessert @ Ice Kiss

We met up at El Taurino. I have written about them before, but I think this is definitely one of the must tries if you are ever in L.A. And if you like spicy, try their salsa roja.

The place is adorned with lots of bull fighting memorabilia.

They sell pitchers of Michelob or Bud for $7. Good for 5 people. Yes, it was lunch time when we did this, but as DCfoodie once told me, "It's 5:00 somewhere!"

I got the Al Pastor Tostada ($3.49), cooked slowly on a trompo (a vertical rotating spit) that was topped with an onion, and once again, it did not disappoint. All that sour cream and cheese along w/ the beer made this a bit heavy. Underneath that snowy mountain were some onions, tomatoes, a slice of avocado, delicious pork, and beans. The crunchy tostada shell was a little on the thick side. I'm not sure what's the proper way to eat this, but I like to break little pieces of the shell w/ my fork and fingers and eat it, doused w/ some of their fiery salsa roja. I also enjoy their verde.

As noted before, El Taurino has a nice parking in the back of their restaurant.

We then hopped in the car and drove onto Pico to King Taco. It is walking distance, less than .3 miles I think, but we couldn't leave our cars at El Taurino...

King Taco is a famous Mexican Chain that has even made its way into Ontario, a location I've been meaning to check out since it's a lot closer to me than L.A. I've heard that King Taco owns El Taurino. This was further confirmed when I once bought a tamale and found the wrapper stamped with King Taco's signature.

We each ordered a taco: two carne asadas, one carnitas, and a pollo ($1.25 each). They were street taco size, meaning you could eat it in 2-3 bites. I tried the carne, and while it was good, I found it lacked that citrusy taste that El Taurino has. Their roja tasted pretty similar to ET, but it was a bit on the sweet side, nowhere as spicy, and didn't have that smoky taste. Still, it's a solid taco, and I would come back again to try their other meats. My cousin didn't like her chicken (which was prepared on a rotisserie) at all and also said the taco was soggy. She also thought their verde was better than El Taurino's.

Also got a side of jalapenos. There were also some pieces of cauliflower in it, which I hadn't seen before at a Mexican place, but I didn't get to try it because someone got to it before I did. Who dunnit remains a mystery.

Parking: King Taco has a smaller lot, as it is shared with other businesses in a little plaza. I ended up just parking on Pico, which I recommend because then you can walk a few blocks down to El Parian.

At this point, it was about 2:00. Kogi was going to be on Hope until 3:00. I had tried Kogi before and wasn't too impressed, but some of the group hadn't tried it and wanted to. From my past experiences, I decided to skip El Parian for now and head straight over there first, remembering on their website that they stop taking orders 30 minutes before closing. I silently prayed that the wait wouldn't be long since we were going at an odd hour.

I have to say that the first time I went to get Kogi was quite an adventure, looking for the taco truck and then finding it. I'm not sure why, but it was kind of exciting to go all that way to find a truck. Today was no different as I was fueled by adrenaline pumping through my body, nervous we would not get there in time/have to wait in a long ass line again.

What we saw however was a great joy. There was no line, and very few people standing around the truck. And when I saw very few, I mean 6! We all ordered a chicken taco ($2 each + tax now) because they were out of short ribs. They seem to have updated their menu as well as they now regularly offer Kogi Dogs, sliders, and kimchi quesadillas.

Grilled chicken street size tacos topped with a Korean slaw of cabbage, onions, and cilantro. I couldn't really taste their signature salsa roja, but what I did taste was that same Korean soy vinaigrette you often get at KBBQ joints in your salad. I thought this was a more positive experience than the last time. I could actually taste the chicken, the dressing didn't overpower the taco as much, and the cabbage was cooked just right. The tortillas were a little too greasy for my liking. Overall a decent taco although I wish we had gotten a little more meat.

Also got a can of some Crushed Pear Juice. Made with Asian pears, and there were some small particles of pear floating about in the drink. A cool refresher although it can't beat a nice bottle of Jarritos or Sidral Mundet =p

They got three trucks now and also serve food complete with a dessert chef at The Alibi Lounge, which I will be checking out sometime soon w/ another friend who wishes to try Kogi. For more info, check out their website.

I parked on Hope for *ouch* 4 bucks an hour, metered parking.

Walking back to my ride, we saw another taco truck parked about 10 cars down. Curious, we decided to check it out, and what we saw was quite a surprise.

It was another Korean taco truck! Talk about cutthroat competition. And if you notice closely on their menu below, they beat Kogi's 1 cent LOL. (I hate myself everytime I use that word, but for some reason, it seems appropriate here.)

It was called Bool, which means fire. There were some patrons around the truck, happily eating their tacos and praising Bool. There was an ajooma (a middle aged Korean woman) manning the truck along with some other workers, who were all quite friendly and stuck up a conversation with us, saying they had just purchased a second truck and were going to go out to Orange County soon.

Their Menu (courtesy of Cousin J's camera phone)

Since we were denied the short ribs at Kogi, we ordered the Beef Tacos here ($1.99 each + tax). These were also street sized tacos. The first thing we noticed was that these tacos were HOT. They were filled with long strips (opposed to Kogi's chopped short ribs) of sweetly marinated Korean beef bbq, sliced onions, chopped cilantro, siracha, and a kimchi slaw that although looked spicy, was more sweet and vinegary. When the tacos first came out, I thought the kimchi was cheese because it kinda looked like it. Kogi's meat is definitely more tender, but Bool gives you a lot more for your money. We all liked Bool better and were pretty impressed. Maybe I will come by again to try their other meats if I am ever in L.A.

For more info, check out their twitter/website on the address above.

Thinking about it now, the people at Kogi were a bit younger than the ones around Bool. I noticed the same thing when I was in line last week in DB. Most of them had to be in high school or college. It makes me wonder, has Kogi become something "hip" and trendy? Either I'm one of the few people that just don't get it, or all these people that would still wait 2 hours for some okay tacos are baa baa baadly trying to be cool. And more importantly, you have to wonder how long this craze for Korean tacos will last...

We were all pretty content/full at this point, so sadly, we didn't get to go to El Parian, but that is definitely something on my list to try. Perhaps on another taco crawl?

We then decided on what to get for dessert. Originally we had planned to go try a place called Mr. Churro's. We were also quite close to Little Tokyo and had the option of picking up something there. But given the warm weather, shaved ice sounded a lot better, so we headed back towards K-town for some pat bing soo (red bean shaved ice).

Shaved ice (w/ cherry syrup?), red beans, rice powder, bananas, canned grapes and pineapples, chewy not soft mochi (which I really enjoyed), topped with two scoops of ice cream, vanilla and strawberry, a dollop of whipped cream, and to finish a sprinkle of fruity pebbles, artistically scattered (haha) around the shaved ice. The patbingsoo was pretty good, and the choice to get shaved ice was a good call.

This was one size under the monster and cost $13. A bit expensive. Not sure how this compares to the prices at Guppy's. But it was just the right size for 5 people to share. Some of you that are not distracted by the food may be thinking, wait, is that a...? Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. It was served in a friggin doggy bowl. I was a little turned off by this. It wasn't that big of a deal, but if you sit down and think about it, you have to wonder, how the hell did these people come up w/ the idea to serve their shaved ice in a doggy bowl?

We killed it. Normally I don't take pictures of the damage done, but I wanted to show you how deep the bowl was.

The crawl was topped off with the long drive back home through L.A. traffic, which surprisingly wasn't too bad, considering it was traffic hour on a Friday. I'm not complaining though. It was a lot better than the end of my last taco crawl a few months back. Overall, I had a lot of fun and hope everyone else did too.

And if you have gotten this far and read my ramblings, kudos!

L.A. Taco Crawl Success!

6 rah rah rahs:

Dennis K. said...

Ah man they ALL look SO Good! Nice plan of attack, I'd never be that organized!

Anonymous said...

Awesome crawl! The bool tacos looks good.

Mike said...

Looks like an afternoon well spent!

Sawyer said...

thanks everyone. it was definitely fun. i hope to do one in sd sometime as well =) read about an awesome churro cart past downtown...

Mary said...

Aw man. I am totally hungry for tacos now.

Sawyer said...

hey mary, i can always go for some tacos haha. i just had some yesterday. what's your favorite taco joint in sd?

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