Welcome to L.A. Week 2016. To celebrate the rich culinary life of Los Angeles, we’ll be running special features all week that explore the city’s ever-evolving food scene—from its classic tacos, to its offbeat icons. Follow along on Twitter @firstwefeast.
The big issue generating headlines in Tacolandia right now is San Antonio and Austin’s Breakfast Taco Wars, a campaign in which I was more than happy to deliver a howitzer against Austin in defense of the Alamo City. Breakfast tacos are delicious and deserve more coverage outside of the Lone Star State, so kudos to the two cities for bringing national attention to their taco culture.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles laughs and laughs at these shenanigans. Because while Austin and San Antonio fight with each other over quien es más macho, the City of Angels stands alone and unquestioned in taco culture—not just as the American Bethlehem and Nazareth of the quintessential Mexican meal, but its pinche Garden of Eden. It’s where the taco first made its appearance in an American newspaper; where it received its first scholarly closeup; where tacos became commodified for mass consumption; where they became meals on-the-go for a new, multicultural America; and where continued migration of Mexicans will bring in more taco traditions sure to hit other parts of el Norte soon enough.
To write about the 10 most influential tacos in Los Angeles is really to write about the tacos that created America—the dishes that taught gabachos how to love Mexican food, and whetted the appetite for more “authentic” versions to come. A quick note to my L.A. compadres—this is not my idea of the best tacos in your city, nor even the most popular, but rather the pioneers. Don’t like my choices? Don’t get mad at me—after all, I wrote the book on the subject, cabrones.