What’s better than a street taco that makes you feel like you made the long trip down to TJ? Easy answer: not much.
If you stumble across the stand on 26th and Humboldt in Lincoln Heights, sandwiched between a Muay Thai gym and a parking lot, deliciously transportive tacos are exactly what you’ll find. There’s no signage, but the long line, steam rising from the grill, and a portable speaker blaring cumbias (a type of Latin American music) will show you the way.
Pulling up, the first thing you notice are the layers and layers of al pastor being spit-roasted on an open flame. There’s a man behind the flat top grill cooking carne asada, and next to him a fellow taquero furiously flips tortillas and passes them down the assembly line. The full range of smells doesn’t officially hit you until you reach the cashier—the sweetness of the grilled onions, the char of the steak, and the porcine funk of the carnitas and buche (that’s pig esophagus, for the taco rookies).
The tacos are served on a paper plate where the oily tortillas leave a Rorschach grease blot. By default, they come with cilantro, onions, and radish but you can customize them with a range of salsas at the nearby bar. My personal go-to is the salsa roja because it gives the right amount of kick and, if you use enough, you can get a pleasant case of the taco sweats going. Taco sweats are a crucial part of the equation.
The owner’s name is Erasmo Reyes and he’s been in the taco business for 18 years, ten of which were spent in this alley. He tells me that the business got good via word of mouth, and being tucked away in a spot that doesn’t get much foot traffic is actually a plus for him.
“There is always a problem with taco trucks having lots of foot traffic on sidewalks,” he said to me in Spanish. “This spot is good because it is out of the way for the people who don’t want tacos.”
Out of the six meats—carne asada, al pastor, carnitas, buche, cabeza, and suadero—the suadero was the surprising one. I had no idea what it was, but, as one does with things they don’t understand, I ate it anyways. It had the same kind of pleasant chewiness as pork skin with the savory beefiness of carne asada.
Reyes told me that suadero was a newer meat to the taco scene in the US. “Suadero is very common in Mexico,” he said. “Only in the last ten years has it begun to get more popular here.” He told me that it comes from the lower body of the cow towards the leg. He described it to me as the beef version of carnitas, and he wasn’t lying.
Paying for your tacos is based off the honor system—when you’re done with your meal, tell the cook on the far right how many tacos you ate. Screw taco Tuesday, this is your new spot for taco Anyday.