If the former Playa Rivera, as it stood on Beverly Boulevard, offered a somewhat intimidating Mexi-China concept for the price point at which it met its clientele, then perhaps Petty Cash Taqueria will benefit from all the lessons learnt. The menu is streamlined straight toward Baja, peppered with a beverage selection fit to satisfy the fussiest drinkers in LA. While quality ingredients are in the picture, that doesn’t begin to describe how well the tacos and flavor combinations are executed.
After all, who else would show the people of Hancock Park that a charred octopus taco is always what they’ve wanted?
The food festival circuit is a doozy, these days. And with how exhausting each event is, it’s easy to fatigue early on. There’s dealing with the line wait in front of the popular stands, but there’s also the prioritizing that goes on to ensure you’re getting the good stuff before you get full. The sold-out Tacolandia stood to be no different.
I remember the anticipation we all felt when the Baja chefs came to Street Food Fest at the Rose Bowl in the summer of 2011. It was just the ingredient needed to take the festival to a new level. Not only would we be having access to some of the best street food in LA at one place, we’d also be experiencing the best of Baja.
Thanks to Reverse Coyote Bill Esparza, there’s been quite a bit of sharing going on across the California-Mexico border. We Angelenos get to reap the benefits at Playa, the playground of Sedlar’s latest experimentation. As he is currently changing the menus here, we’ll get to go straight to the sources of his inspiration thanks to this series.
Cue the installment going on now, starting with Sabina Bandera Gonzales of La Guerrerense, who will be cooking with Chef Sedlar now until tomorrow, Tuesday, September 18th – though the menus for each installment will actually be available all week long. Sabina brings dishes her top seafood stand seasoned with a variety of unique salsas. A la carte menu items are $5-$18 and include:
It was a late night in San Felipe when we decided to make probably our 10th stop of the day at El Filete. We ordered lips, tripe and carne asada as we were all eager to see what kind of tacos we had in store. Women’s boxing played on the overhead TVs in the heavily flourescent-lit shop, and I admit that I got really into it – including the surprising, Pacquiao-esque, end decision.
Bill had been on a mission for lips (labio) tacos and was excited El Filete had them. I, though eager to prove that I had no prejudgments when it comes to parts of the animal, preferred the carne asada ones by far. The tripe indeed was flavorful, but I loved how the carne asada really caught the flavor of the mesquite grill. It was also testament to the fact that not all carne asada is the same.
Far from it. It was probably the most complex flavored carne I had had ever, and when I saw the grill, I could see why: The flame grill glowed with mesquite peeping out at the bottom. It was like I had never actually eaten real carne asada before; I found it almost preposterous how much better these tasted than anything I’ve had in LA when carne, in general, is so common. I guess that’s another way of describing something as “plain.”
Call it the re-education of carne asada. Mesquite is where it’s at. I’ve really no other advice other than to get down to Mexico to see what it’s really supposed to taste like…
11 AM – 12 am
Asadero El Filete San Felipe Baja California, Mexico
There in our van, with exterior temperatures having hovered around 90 to 100 degrees for the 5th and final day, were Bill and his wife Ariana, Barbara, Fiona and I being driven by the tireless, hospitable Ruben. We were heading home from San Felipe on our drive through Baja California, concluding with a jaunt through Mexicali – the Chinese food capital of Mexico – and to Tecate. Then, back to Tijuana.
Almost home, but not quite.
Time for a taco.
In between Mexicali and Tecate lies La Rumorosa (in 2001 NYT article), an area named for the sounds made when winds blow through the canyons. You’ll miss it if you blink, but Tacos Lalo is every reason to keep those eyes wide, even if you find yourself there in the blisteringly hot desert in June.
Steamed tacos? I had never heard of Tacos al Vapor. But there they were – surprisingly flavorful and lucious fillings cradled by two damp tortillas. Yes, the damp tortilla thing was new to me, too. But how often have I been non-plussed by a cold, tough (synonymous with store-bought) tortilla? Countless times. Tacos Lalo tortillas just blended in seamlessly with the braised meat. Wet, but also flavorful. There was also just enough potato to fill out my taco without being filler.
If you visit, you’ll definitely want to add your share of salsas (I was negligent with my own taco, above) to compliment the über tender meat. I’m all for a ton of raw onions, at the very least. Eat fast, as you do with delicious and greasy hot messes. But wet tacos make a ton of sense in the desert. It’s almost as if you’re simultaneously satisfying your hunger and quenching your thirst with each taco.
While you’re there, you might as well stay and play foosball at one of the 3 tables.
Could there be Tacos al Vapor in LA that even comes close to this execution?
Tacos Lalo La Rumorosa Northern Baja California Mexico
I can get behind a series that features a different street food every week. Thankfully, Evan Kleiman and Bill Esparza of StreetGourmetLA are bringing exactly that to Evan’s Angeli Caffe on Melrose every Monday. Next Monday kicks off with Ricky PiÃ±a of Ricky’s Fish Tacos. His tacos and his stand set-up have been notorious for being delicious and available only at Sunset Junction on the weekends.
The story of Ricky himself is remarkable in that he’s from a family of mechanics who have serviced the cars of Baja fishermen – with payment coming in the form of abalone, oysters, pismo clams and fish. True Baja flavors will be yours to the tune of $3 per shrimp or fish taco on Monday night at Angeli – and you’d be remiss to pass this opportunity up!
Monday, July 26, 2010
6 – 10 PM
$3 per taco
Ricky’s Fish Tacos at Angeli Caffe 7274 Melrose Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90046 323.936.9086