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7 California Taco Spots Showcased in Netflix Series

7 California Taco Spots Showcased in Netflix Series

‘Taco Chronicles: Cross the Border’ celebrates culinary delights in San Diego and Los Angeles

Posted 2 months agoby Kelly O’Mara

Part documentary, part food travelogue, the Netflix show Taco Chronicles premiered in 2019 as a beautifully shot ode to the history of the taco and its role in Mexican life. Episodes have traced the origins of carnitas, barbados, al pastor—all while visiting and telling the stories of standout taqueros.

Now, season three has crossed the border and follows the taco on its journey into the U.S.— including, of course, Southern California. In a mix of Spanish and English, episodes 5 and 8 visit chefs devoted to their craft in seven authentic outlets in Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

The taco, the show argues, is a love letter home for immigrants in the U.S. as well as a source of pride. And these California taco styles and taqueros are unique to the mix of foods, people, cultures, and ingredients you can find only in SoCal.

Villa’s Tacos

Highland Park, Los Angeles

When the episode was shot, Villa’s Tacos was still slinging its distinctly L.A.-style tacos from the backyard of Victor Villa’s grandmother’s house in Highland Park. But today, you can find the seven-layered queso taco at pop-up locations around the city, most frequently at Block Party Highland Park. (Check Instagram for details.) It combines blue corn tortillas, a pile of cheese fried on the grill, refried beans, and a special mix from his grandma that includes cotija, chorizo, coriander, crema, and guacamole. In other words, this is not your traditional street taco. The motto here is: guac is never extra.

Birria El Jaliciense

Boyle Heights, Los Angeles

Authentic birria from Jalisco isn’t beef; it’s goat meat. This regional favorite is spiced, steamed for hours, and finished in the oven for a crispy outside—then served up in a plate of broth with a pile of tortillas to soak it all up. It’s a style that is seldom available in L.A. and Hector Ramirez’s stand outside an industrial laundromat on Olympic Boulevard, between Spence and Velasco Streets, has been quietly making his under-the-radar birria for years. Thanks to the show Ramirez now has an Instagram presence, but it’s still a simple family affair run only on Saturdays to work around regular day jobs. The stand operates from 8 a.m. until they run out.

El Ruso

Echo Park, Los Angeles

Named for its red-headed owner, Walter Soto, El Ruso might be the most famous of the L.A. taqueros featured on Taco Chronicles: Cross the Border. The no-frills eatery has been named one of Food & Wine’s best new restaurants and received a shout-out in The New York Times. These famous tacos are really all about the tortillas—oversized flour made by the other half of the duo, Julia Silva. The two met in Sonora, Mexico, and though they’re no longer romantically involved, they continue their business partnership. Started as a small taco truck, El Ruso has expanded and now has a trailer set up on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park.

Tamales Elena y Antojitos

Bell Gardens, Los Angeles

For 20 years, Maria Elena Lorenzo had been making and selling tamales inspired by her hometown of Guerrero, Mexico. Then, at the start of the pandemic, her daughters helped her open a brick-and-mortar Afro-Mexican restaurant to finally serve up a full array of family dishes. These days all five daughters work in the kitchen alongside their mother. Many of the original recipes, including tongue stew with sweet plantains, were transformed into tacos to help bring Lorenzo’s food to more people.

La Perla Cocina Mexicana

Pacific Beach, San Diego

OK, yes, La Perla’s makes great tacos, but the show rightly focuses on its bestseller: the California burrito. This local delicacy features marinated meat, a 14-inch fresh tortilla, cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo, and—here’s the kicker—a heaping handful of French fries. Other local favorites, including fish tacos and rolled tacos, may or may not have originated in San Diego County, but the California burrito is a true native.

Kiko’s Place

Mission Valley, San Diego

If you’re confused by which Kiko’s Place food truck to visit, just know they’re all connected and owned by members of the same family. The story goes that “Kiko,” the seafood king, originally developed the recipe for the fish taco from traditional seafood in San Felipe, Mexico, back in 1983. Then he shared the secret with a few equally enterprising family members and brought it north of the border. Now, that original fish taco is everywhere: a little mustard, black pepper, a few other spices, and some flour all go into the breaded mixture that gives the fish its crunchy texture on the outside, but keeps it juicy on the inside. While Kiko’s Place truck, named for the original San Felipe beachside stand, serves up all kinds of seafood, you want the OG fish taco.

Las Cuatro Milpas

Barrio Logan, San Diego

Not exactly a secret in San Diego, Las Cuatro Milpas has been serving up homestyle family Mexican food since 1933. These days it’s run by the Margarita Hernandez, the eldest of the siblings whose grandparents started the store. The 10-woman operation in back churns out hundreds of handmade tortillas, then fills them with chicken—simmered in a giant pot—or chorizo. Expect to see a line outside her cash-only shop, but know that your cafeteria-style plate of food will be worth it.

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