Thursday, October 9, 2008

Taco Truck Thursday: Two Trucks, One Night

The economy is a mess, people are being laid off, and the Dow is down 2200 points in the last 7 days. Beautiful Iceland has a collapsing (collapsed) economy that was based on the growth and health of foreign markers and has also become the UK's scapegoat for their own financial woes. There have been a run on the sale of safes and safety deposit boxes in Britain (Iceland's fault, of course). Mother's cookie company has gone out of business, and the last of these will soon be gone from store shelves.

All of this strange, riveting and disturbing news is causing many of us to tighten the reins on our spending, inhabitants at Portia Street included. I look back on the posts about expense account level restaurants and think of all the money we have spent putting fancy food in our pie holes. A posting on Chowhound from a foreigner recently reminded me of the wealth of inexpensive ethnic cuisine available just minutes from my front door. I am launching on some new adventures in eating. I am going to mix it up, dear readers. Starting last night. The first Taco Crawl, for Food, She Thought.

I used Bandini's Taco Hunt blog as a launching point.

He has listed in all of central LA only one 5/5 stars taco spot, El Parian. We hit that, and we hit an east L.A. truck, Jeesy's Tacos, for our first foray. We started at El Parian in the Pico Union neighborhood, mostly because they serve beer. Beer good.

El Parian
1528 Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA

I love the sunny interior of this family restaurant. The two waitresses hurried from table to table, serving the delicious food off the very short menu. I love that you can see right into the kitchen as you enter and give the chef a very big greasy grin on the exit.

There was only one other two top occupied when we arrived around 6:45, but the place was almost full when we left around 7:45. The locals know their food.

Beer and salsa to start..not too hot on the salsa and ice cold on the beer, with lots 'o limes.

D likes to pour whatever is available tableside on the chips. This was a vinegary hot sauce. Whatever, dude. I don't have to understand you. I just have to love you anyway.

Below is D's taco de puerco. Please note the generosity in the amount of meat stuffed up in there.

He was particularly enamored of all the accompaniments on the plata. Radishes, cilantro, cebolla, tomatoes, carrots, limes...Honestly, while I like the construction and generosity, I found the puerco to be overly salty. He dug it.

He was cautioned not to over order, as I intended to hit three more spots last night, two at least. Caution ignored. He wanted to try the carne, so he also ordered the tostada de carne asada. Tostado giganticus. This meat was delicious. Succulent. Well seasoned and juicy.

This is really beautiful to look at...the tortilla had a thin layer of beans on the bottom and made for a slightly to the tooth beany/tortilla nom after the goodies on top were gone.

I tried the taco de birria. This was just amazing. Again, so generous of portion. I found the birria to be rather lean, and again very well seasoned.

The same accompaniments as the taco de puerco, but they also added some birria jus. The jus was more goaty than the meat, and I dipped the corners of my taco in it before every single bite. Heaven in a tortilla.

This is how I like to dress my taco. I like only one tortilla. I like the meat spread out lightly but evenly. Lots and lots of cilantro, there is never enough cilantro. Never. Then a generous and slightly offensive amount of onions. Wrap it up. Eat it.

I cannot share Bandini's 5/5 stars for El Parian. I gotta say 4/5. Maybe 4.5/5. The puerco was too salty and I think the tortillas could have been fresher. But that birria was a winner, as was the service and the beer selection.

The hands down best thing about eating at El Parian was running into one of my ex-students, Miguel, and his whole family. The school I taught at for nearly ten years is just a hop, skip and a jump west down Pico from El Parian. I am not exaggerating when I say that Miguel was one of my favorite students in my entire teaching career. Top 5. I taught him science and social studies in both his 6th and 8th grade years. He is doing well in life. He is a junior in high school, he passed the CAHSEE on the first try, he is making all A's and B's and he was recruited for the varsity baseball team when he was in 10th grade (pticher, short stop and 2nd base). He has always wanted to be a baseball player, since he was 11 years old. I am so happy he is meeting his goals..I smiled ear to ear all evening. This really made my week. Great to see his mom again, and see how tight his family is. We all obsessively checked the Dodger's/Philly score throughout dinner. Dodger's lost, and I didn't even care. My belly and soul were happy. Le sigh.

After making a brief pit-stop for a cocktail and a tummy rest at The Library Bar downtown, we headed out of familiar territory toward east L.A. and the Taco Jeesy truck

Taco Jeesy
Cesar Chavez at Carmelita
Los Angeles, CA

Taco Jeesy sits on busy Cesar Chavez, next to a strip mall with hair salon and a tienda de musica. Um, is that Shaggy heading in the Salon de Belleza?

We ordered from the friendly couple at the window two tacos de pollo (wtf? not MY order), two tacos al pastor and one carnitas.

I love to watch the cooking meat...

and grilling tortillas!

Fast hands.

D sauced his tacos de pollo up with salsa rojo, spicy but scrumptious. Alas, too spicy for D.

I sauced my tacos up with salsa verde, just for variety. Secretly, this is my favorite salsa.

I have to share with you, that the al pastor from Taco Jeesy were the stand out items of the night. The meat was toothsome and flavorful and the salsa verde added enough kick to accent the meat without overpowering or making my lips burn. (I like the burn, but the most burn should come latest in the meal, IMO, as I am sure it affects the taste buds.)

Taco Jeesy gets my 5/5 stars. Everything about it was taco perfection. Freshness, flavors, and price. I will be back, Taco Jeesy. Mark my words.

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