L.A. Now Has a Drug Lord-Themed Taqueria

This week’s Essential T checks out cabeza tacos with a side of narco culture at Tacos Los Desvelados

My own experience with narco culture in Mexico comes from being a professional musician. When you work with major artists—this goes for anywhere, really—you will inevitably be put into a position where you’re around the kind of rich, flashy individuals involved in organized crime.

I’ve played a private soirée in Sinaloa that I assume was for the daughter—or mistress—of a member of the Sinaloa Cartel; in Navojoa, an owner of a palenque (multi-purpose arena where cock fighting also takes place) invited me to a party with his fellow cartel members; and I was once held prisoner by a lower cartel member in Guadalajara because another artist didn’t show up. That’s it—blame it on the sax player! The culture of wealth, drug trafficking, and machismo glamorized in narcocorridos (drug trafficker ballads) now comes on a tortilla at this mafia-themed taqueria in Maywood.

Tacos Los Desvelados, which is perhaps named after the sleepless nights experienced by one of the restaurants icons, Joaquín Archivaldo “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera. Images on the walls of the strip mall taqueria include Al Capone, Pablo Escobar, El Chapo and the fictional gangster from Brian DePalma’s Scarface, Tony Montana. While the tacos aren’t remarkable, the one-star reviews on Yelp written by individuals disgusted by the glamorization of Narcoculture are forgetting our own love of the Godfather series, The Sopranos, Goodfellas (City of God is my favorite movie of all-time) and so many more. So, let’s have a little fun and get some tacos.

You can get a regular taco with al pastor, carne asada, chicken, or beef head on a diminutive, taquero-sized tortilla called El Chapito Guzman, chapo means shorty, or as a full sized taco, the Alcapone. I went with the beef cheeks because I’d rather be held at gunpoint by a drug lord than mess around with flat top carne asada or al pastor. The cabeza, or steamed beef head, was good but slightly under seasoned—no problem, in the taco life, adding salt when necessary is standard. Some chopped onions, cilantro, salsa and a couple of shakes from the saltshaker and the result was a solid taco de cabeza.

There are quesadillas named after female drug lords—La Reina del Pacifico and La Reina del Sur—and burritos are the dominion of Pablo Escobar. Tortas pay homage to Sinaloa cartel lieutenant, El Chavo Felix, and a plate of nachos prepared with any of the taqueria’s proteins, dubbed “Nachos Coronel,” is a tribute to a deceased leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, Ignacio Coronel Villareal.

It’s all in good fun, so lighten up Yelpers—street food is not a crime.