Tacolandia was at the top of its game Saturday, keeping the day festive while providing more tacos than anyone could ever eat. In only four years, this collaboration between the LA Weekly and “the World’s First Tacorazzo,” Bill Esparza, has grown into one of the best food festivals in Los Angeles. The massive space held tent after tent of delicious food. There were enough people to mingle and make it feel like a party, but not so many that it got uncomfortable. Even the popular booths with long lines would have slow patches where there was barely a line at all. I think the decision not to provide free-flowing cocktails contributed to the friendly, family atmosphere. Beers were just a few bucks and waters were a dollar. Not having pricey liquor also kept the tickets affordable.
My favorite taco is always Mariscos Jalisco. It’s almost not fair to the other tacos. These taco masters fill a tortilla with shrimp, seal it and deep fry it into a crunchy shell with super-sweet and tender shrimp nestled inside. Salsa and avocado top off this LA standard, perhaps even gilding the lily. Another standout was the mixed taco of pork shoulder, belly and skin from Carnitas el Momo, whose truck just happened to be right next to Marisco Jalisco’s. I also loved the shrimp and fish ceviche from Mariscos el Guero. Con’i Seafood created a shrimp taco ingeniously encased in paper-thin jicama instead of a tortilla.
Dia de los Puercos served an outstanding pork taco with chicharrón. In fact, a number of tacos included chicharrón. The Zamora Bros’ mole taco came with a generous handful of chicharrón while Amor y Tacos dished up a comforting Hatch Chili Stew with pickled habanero, onions, and, you guessed it – chicharrón.
There were also some things I have never seen before, from the traditional hoja santa leaf from Barrio Cafe to the experimental curry taco from Don Chente’s, a questionable hot dog taco covered with cabbage, ketchup and mayonnaise from El Shuko, and an ice cream taco from Coolhaus. Puesto, which won the People’s Choice award, added chopped filet mignon to melted cheese, wrapped it all up like an omelette, and served it on corn tortillas with avocado. There were also plenty of vegan and vegetarian options this year. Deb’s Delicious Tacos offered tofu tacos. Rocio’s served a spring mix of greens and a green soyrizo taco, and Guerdian offered samples of their meat substitute.
Although the taco reigned supreme, guests also enjoyed huitlacoche quesadillas from the Huitlacoche Truck, tortas ahogadas, pupusas, and signature taquitos from Cielito Lindo. Los Ruizenores charmed the crowd with cups of mini fries with carne asada and taco toppings called “Señor Fries.”
With over 100 taquerias represented, I only made it about halfway around the huge event. I was too happily sated to worry about any tacos I may have missed. The Offalo provided a list of his top ten tacos, but I didn’t eat a single one of them. It’s as if we went to two entirely different events.
Although the sky had threatened rain, it was a perfect Los Angeles day, there at El Pueblo de Los Angeles where the city first began. The food, the people and the music of LA all came together. As the first pinks of sunset lit the sky, happy guests made their way out as other guests danced on.