Taco Tuesday: Norma’s Barbacoa de Res

It’s been little over a year since Norma Medrano opened Norma’s Tacos on the site of an abandoned gas station in Pasadena. The little lot has seen many businesses come and go in recent years, but it’s clear to us that Norma’s is here to stay. A devoted following keeps the kitschy little stand hopping. The old gas pumps don’t work (cause the vandals took the handles); they are purely for decorative effect.

The reason for Norma’s success is quality ingredients and skillfully handmade dishes. The corn tortillas are all handmade, allowing them to be soft and delicate in a way never before found in tacos. The fiery red salsa and milder green are also made in house. The taco fillings, though,  are what keep me coming back. My favorite has to be the Barbacoa de Res. The shredded beef is juicy and rich, leaving a flavorful chili sauce running down your chin.

Cochinita Pibil is tender pork with pickled onions that wake up your palate with an intense sweet and sour kick. The Frijoles Puercos with Chorizo and Cheese are surprisingly flavorful. Vegetarians will be pleased at the four specialty tacos, including nopales, tofu, soyrizo, potatoes and mixed vegetables.

Crispy Tacos Dorados filled with beef and deep fried come in threes and are more like a taquito than even an old school crunchy taco. They are buried beneath a mountain of lettuce, sour cream, cheese and beef broth, making it practically a salad.

There is a cold refrigerator to serve your own drinks, including Mexican Coca-Cola. A server stands next to the window to take your order, and you pay Norma through the window. Then grab a drink, sit yourself down, and the tacos will be brought to you with a smile. The server provides full service, bringing napkins and salsas and clearing your plate. Tacos are $1.50 and $2 each. When’s the last time you could hand someone a $10 bill and say, “Fill ‘er up”?

Norma’s Tacos 1265 E Green Street Pasadena. Mon-Sat 11am-9pm. Closed Sundays.

La Estrella, Panchos,

Elise Thompson

About Elise Thompson

Born and raised in the great city of Los Angeles, this food, culture and music-loving punk rock angeleno wants to turn you on to all that is funky, delicious and weird in the city. While Elise holds down the fort, her adventurous alter ego Kiki Maraschino is known to roam the country in search of catfish.
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