Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the L.A. Taco Festival at Grand Park. The event promised a diverse array of tacos paired with music. Sponsored by the Jovenes organization, it was a great way to spend a Saturday evening while helping students in need.
The mini fiesta took over the lowest part of the park between Broadway and Spring streets. The taco trucks were parked along Spring, which had been closed to traffic. We arrived at the top of the multi-level park around 6:30 pm. The trek from the fountain at the top down to City Hall served to build up the experience. Arriving at the bottom was almost as euphoric as taking that first bite at a brand new taco place.
The light at the crosswalk seemed to last for ever. When it finally turned, we crossed Broadway to be greeted by the aroma of authentic tacos. My biggest fear to this point had been the possibility that an event calling itself a taco festival, would shun the traditional in favor of the new and exciting options of food trucks for the younger crowd.
Thankfully, that was not the case. There were of course, your normal options like asada, pastor, and lengua tacos but also other interesting offerings like barbacoa and mole in the same delivery method of fresh corn tortillas.
We walked over to the closest traditional kiosk and ordered three asada tacos for five bucks—can’t beat that price. The tacos came out smelling great and with a reddish tint. I did a double take and asked to confirm they had not served al pastor tacos by mistake. This was no mistake. The tacos were delectable. Their meat had clearly been marinated in spices and juices, creating a unique take on a tried and true taco.
We polished off the tacos quickly and washed them down with a watermelon agua. For those uninitiated in the Latino food community, agua is a refreshing drink made of real fruit, sugar, and water. For the record, yes, it literally translates to water.
Having enjoyed some traditional tacos, we moved on to the food trucks. As beach lovers, our next logical taste was California fish tacos. The truck we chose also had ceviche tostadas on the menu and that’s what my daughter gravitated towards. The wife and I went for the tacos.
If I could do it all over again, I would have stood in the longer line for the truck next to it. The ceviche and tacos were adequate. The fried fish was a hearty piece but the issue was not quantity. Each taco was topped with an excessive amount of cabbage. It was impossible to fully wrap the tortilla around its contents. Removing it was also not an option as the special sauce was drizzled directly over Mt. Cabbage. Inevitably, most of it did fall off and we were left with a bland piece of fish.
Kiddo was now full and my wife said she could do one more round. Of course I could continue alone but this was a family affair and the event was ending in about 20 minutes. I knew there was only time for one more stop.
We scurried to the other end of Spring for some Korean tacos. I ordered a spicy pork taco and got my wife the chicken. Each of the two was topped with Kimchi that had a nice kick but wasn’t so spicy that it put off my wife and daughter.
Sadly, my wife took one bite of the chicken taco to feel the caress of a human hair on her lips. Despite the hair, which we obviously plucked from within the chicken-kimchi medley, these tacos were the highlight of the night. The meat was tender and both tasted exquisite. Hopefully the hair was just a freak occurrence but then again, maybe it was part of the marinade. Either way, they were fantastic.
It was now time for dessert and we were all called by one particular item on the menu of the LA Doughnuts food truck: the doughnut sundae. We stood directly behind a young couple already at the window. They began to order and we heard the dreaded reply, “Sorry, we’re out of ice cream. We only have doughnuts left.”
We walked away from the truck dejected and thinking of a plan B. As we walked through the traditional-taco area, we spotted a fruit stand with a variety of aguas, fresh squeezed juices, and fruit cups. I picked out the cup of sliced mango dipped in chamoy. The combination of sweet, salty, and back to sweet in an instant was the perfect way to conclude a night of taco indulgence.