I mostly avoid food festivals these days (long lines, hungry people, ugh) but a festival called Taqueando? Of course I was there. The all-you-can-eat taco festival featuring chefs and taqueros mostly from Southern California and Mexico is Bill Esparza’s reincarnation of Tacolandia, the former LA Weekly-sponsored festival (now independently funded because LA Weekly is owned by conservative a-holes). Despite my food festival kvetching, this festival illustrated perfectly why these types of events can be so important to cities. Especially in LA, where it’s a challenge to get from one end of town to the other, Taqueando was an opportunity to taste food from all over the city. Eaters got to try tacos they may have been lusting after in their IG feeds, and they got to try tacos from places they probably haven’t heard of. And while I think folks were excited to sample from places just over the border like La Guerrerense, Corazon de Tierra, and Tras Horizonte, I’d bet it was also an educational experience for people who haven’t traveled south yet. The vendors seemed genuinely happy to be there too.
Also, the festival was nicely managed, with the lines not too long and lots of aguas and mineral water to wash down the masa and meat. Not to be like “I’m an event producer so I know things,” but I am an event producer and I noticed that clearly the tickets were capped out of consideration for the guests and the vendors— they could have sold way more tickets. Don’t miss it next year if you like tacos (and if not, why are the heck are you here?)
A few of my favorite bites from stands in the area that you might not know about:
A classic Oaxacan snack, tlayudas are thin and crispy tortillas that typically host asiento (lard) beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato and meat on top like a pizza, or folded and crisped up on a grill or comal. Not all tlayudas are created equally though, sometimes they are too dry, or overly loaded with one ingredient (like so cheesy you can’t untangle your mouth from the quesillo). I’ve been meaning to get to Poncho’s stand on Friday nights where they offer homemade moronga (blood sausage) and heirloom corn tlayudas from Oaxaca. It did not disappoint, with a healthy amount of juicy cabbage and salsa to balance the smokey masa and richness of the moronga served on the side. Next to the stand, Odilia, Poncho’s partner hosted a booth for Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales, a community-based org and coalition of indigenous organizations, communities, and individuals settled in Oaxaca and California. She gave me a cookbook by indigenous Oaxacan women living in LA, so I walked away extra juiced from these two stands.
I was delighted to see this crew from San Diego, who I had the pleasure of collaborating with for my event Mexico in a Bottle in Barrio Logan. There’s a lot that’s cool about them. Their dope logo is a start, but also they serve vegan, vegetarian and meat tacos. Often I find with vegan food that the positioning is anti-meat versus pro-veggie— and you can taste it in the boring soyrizo tacos. I’d always rather have an original like their enoki adovation: enoki mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli marinated in pineapple vinegar and guajillo chiles. BBQ flavors mingled with a layer of beans, topped with tangy curtido and a pleasant habanero beat salsa, plus cotija and fried onions for a little crunch. Their slightly thicker handmade tortillas are great too. Check them out at pop-ups in southern california.
Slow braised pork ribs in grilled guajillo and BBQ sauce with chile de arbol pepper aioli and pineapple won me over here. Apparently I’m diggin interesting takes on BBQ flavors these days. Check them out as they pop-up around town.
Some of my other favorites from places that have more fama:
I know cauliflower has long been the new kale, but it was struttin yesterday with a number from Guerrilla Tacos and a fish taco riff from this restaurant in Monterrey, Mx. The battered and golden cauliflower was crispy and airy, cut by a burnt salsa macha with pickled onions.
Chef Diego Hernández represented his beautiful restaurant in Valle de Guadalupe with a striped bass taco from Todos Santos.
I didn’t spot too many insects at the festival, but this London-based restaurant made up for it with a fat and crunchy chicatana on top of a cured rockfish and nectarine tostada.
Pork prensado with hibiscus pickled onions— as vibrant as it looked.
I had about 15 tacos by this point, but who can turn down a freshly made flour tortilla, the smell of mesquite, or a luscious guacamole splat? Not I.
Yucatan represented by none other than the poc chuc taco with two types of habanero salsa to sample. I have been missing Yucatan but a trip here might help with that.