Yes. Tacos…in Chinatown.
It should come as a shock to absolutely no one that on a recent visit to Los Angeles, one my Dad’s favorite meals was a Two Taco plate that we got for $3.98 over at La Estrella’s.
He’s a poor boy from Texas (his words). The idea of a simple plate of rice, beans and two tacos had him jumping over the moon. It hooked me too. Gave me that little Food Writer thrill. That little kick of, “Oh I want that again.”
So I went looking for it at Mexicali Taco & Co. over in Chinatown.
Did I find it? Ehhhh…
My first attempt at a visit to Mexicali Taco & Co. was on a Monday. Unfortunately, that Monday was Memorial Day, and the joint was closed. No indication hat they’d be closed on Memorial Day, but there we are.
The second visit almost got aborted by the lack of available parking. Like always, I was finishing up my second orbit about the place, already picking out a backup lunch spot, when a spot mysteriously presented itself.
I go in, and…
I don’t know, is it just me or does Mexicali Taco & Co. feel a bit out of place for the neighborhood. Then again, where is a Taco place every really out of place? The only thing nearby is a school and a Theater Company.
Oh, wait. There was that Korean Sports…something-something store. Can’t remember it’s name.
Other than that, it’s all residential.
You walk in, and…I don’t know, it just radiates College Town. Bare bones interior. Wall graphics provided by IKEA. There wasn’t a lot of activity by the time I got in there. The seating is all communal. It’s a little dark in there, but comfortable enough to get your Taco on. If you want more light (Lord knows I did), you can always eat outside, but wait to get your food first.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: I step up to the Counter and place my order. “Al Pastor” Tacos, I said.
And they’re out.
Wait? You can run out of Al Pastor Tacos? Is that even legal in this city?
Sad but true. I missed the sign and everything. Looking at the website, apparently their Al Pastor Tacos have limited availability, so the Chorizo Mexicali Tacos it was…
When my plate arrived, I got to admit I was a bit surprised. I thought I heard something from the Cashier that fixings were over to my right, but I didn’t pay it much mind. The overriding thought I remember was I’ll be fine. I’m sure whatever the Cook did with these Tacos will be…
There’s just the meat and the Corn Tortilla. (Did I mention you should lean toward Corn Tortillas? Just my opinion, they taste better to me.) The meat was fine, and adjusted accordingly by the author. It was a good Taco, just not the mind-blowing experience I was told it would be.
Seem to remember some sauce, some onions and some cilantro on my Tacos, and that was about it. Everything else had to be added at the fixin’s bar inside.
This will actually a boon to some of you. This what you can adjust the heat, the texture and the crunch to your liking. I’m not holding anything against Mexicali Taco & Co. for doing it this way. It just came as a surprise, and I’ll know better going in the next time. My only thing is trying them not dressed (see, I’m still using the Louisiana term you use with Po’ Boys) is that it made things a little hard to compare with La Estrella or Tacos Villa Corona. Still a good time was had by all. They’re a touch more expensive than I’ve had at other places, but I gotta believe part of that is the rent.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, POEPLE: Most important thing is that the Tacos come Undressed, and you will have to apply sauce and fixings yourself. Also, they tend to run out of Al Pastor Taco Meat, which is just a damn shame.
Also, despite what Yelp says, they do take cards, but only for charges of $8 or more.
PARKING: Difficult. There ain’t exactly a parking lot at Mexicali Taco & Co. You’re going to be hitting the street parking, if you can find it.
There are a number of meters along Figueroa, even a few in front of the restaurant, but expect those to be filled. Check away. After that, you can try parking along Alpine or Bartlett street on either side of the restaurant. Be aware, these are residential streets. Not too much to worry about in terms of enforcement, but they will be crowded. I got lucky and found something on Alpine.
Mexicali Taco & Co.
702 N. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel: (213) 613-0416
Monday-Thursday: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
Friday-Saturday: 11:00 am – 12:00 am