For those that follow the lifestyle—that of the taco life—there’s a romanticized notion of street-food culture that governs all things: Eating tacos is not just to satisfy your hunger, it’s also a state of mind. Adherents to this way of life like chefs Wes Avila of Guerrilla Tacos, Ricardo Diaz of Bizarra Capital, and Andrew Lujan and his family of Cacao Mexicatessen, have erected shrines to the taco in Los Angeles with their individual expressions of the taco life and fine pocho dining. But there’s another more primal side to taco culture, where stumbling bands of Mexican-Americans can collectively be heard screaming as they walk out of nightclubs, “Vamos a los tacos, güey!” (Let’s get some tacos, fool!)—for those in the lifestyle, tacos are the nightcap.
For Gabriel Barajas, aka Mr. Tacos Way, it’s been a long journey to open Tacos Way, his dream restaurant—as his music-video anthem states, Barajas is in love with the taco. To learn about the food business, he operated a hot-dog cart outside of the Winnetka branch of the DMV for five months before opening Mariscos La Serenata seven years ago.
Barajas is now working to open a fourth branch of Tacos Way, and each night he holds court at the former La Serenata, offering Vegas-style micheladas, tacos, and lunch trays stacked with cold beers adorned with shrimp, oysters and cucumbers. Barajas can be seen working the room, taking selfies with guests for his 35,000-plus Instagram following (wearing a fake gold chain and shades, the uniform of his alter ego, Mr. Tacos Way) all while making it rain chamoy sauce.
Chamoy is everywhere—on your tray of beers—on the rim of your michelada, and on the sides of the upturned bottle of beer submerged into a Clamato cocktail, but that’s part of the show. Truth is, when no one is paying attention, Barajas slips out of caricature and carefully assembles his various beer cocktails with serious intent.
His Tacos Way speciality is a mulita with lightly fried tortillas in place of the usual soft tortillas, and it comes with your choice of steak, tongue, beef head, and other cuts, plus melted cheese, guacamole, salsa, cilantro, and onions. There are plenty of pocho hits prepared Barajas’ way like carne asada fries, nachos and fully loaded burritos, but be sure your visit also includes a MicheWay with shrimp—you are here for the Tacos Way!