This may be the only time you ever hear the city, I mean Census Designated Place, of Valinda mentioned, especially as a food destination—not like the more culinary rich CDP’s of East L.A., Hacienda Heights, or even Lennox. Census Designated Places are small population clusters that lack incorporation, and have no government or municipal services. Of the many CDPs in Los Angeles County, only East L.A. has emerged as having an identifiable culture, but to its credit, Valinda has one of the best barbacoa spots in town and a mind-blowing goat taco.
To make matters more confusing, Taquizas Gilberto is a Tulancingo, Hidalgo-style barbacoa pop-up stand that sets up inside Leyva’s Bakery on weekends and doesn’t have an official name (a taquiza is a style of self-serve taco set up for parties or gatherings) in a place that’s not a city. What is clear is that this is the best Hidalgo-style barbacoa around—it’s made with very good lamb that’s pit-roasted in the spines of a century plant. The pop-up also serves outstanding pancita, the offal-stuffed lamb stomach smeared with chile guajillo sauce that’s a delicacy for barbacoa lovers; and one of the best tacos I’ve ever had in L.A., the goat birria flautas.
You can order Hidalgo-style birria from Gilberto, but get the flautas—long flute-like tacos that are fried then scorched on the comal until they’re crispy sticks of chili-stained goat-stew dynamite. The first bite sent pain messages all over my mouth from the hot oil, but I was able to taste enough of this amazing taco to ignore these warnings, juggling the scalding piece of tortilla and goat around my mouth while performing Lamaze technique that would’ve impressed John Popper, of Blues Traveler fame. Street-style flautas like this are common in Mexico, especially in the territory around Mexico city, but for now, Valinda is the only place to go and your official Census Designated Place for Hidalgo cuisine.