Leading up to this year's Best of L.A. issue (due out Oct. 4), we'll be counting down, in no particular order, 100 of our favorite dishes.
83: Chicken Vampiro at Mexicali Taco & Co.
It almost brings a tear to the eye thinking back to the days when the flame-grilled meats at Mexicali Taco & Co. were available only a few nights a week, scarfed streetside at a taco trailer on First and Beaudry that was best identified by the large plume of smoke drifting upward toward the downtown skyline. With its newish brick-and-mortar location, a hip-music-blasting space located on Figueroa just before it hits the Pasadena freeway, the surreal joy of having access to those tacos nightly has yet to fade (though we do miss the spectacular view of Disney Hall the parking lot afforded).
A trip to Mexicali isn't really complete with an vampiro, a northern Baja favorite that consists of a thick flour tortilla lined with white Mexican cheese and a generous dousing of roasted garlic sauce, mellowed out but still pungent enough to send wild animals scampering. You could add in chorizo, carne asada or pollo -- all are chopped with a huge meat cleaver whose dull thud-thud sounds fill the kitchen. The chicken, though, slightly blackened and smoky as brimstone, is usually the vampiro veteran's choice. The result is a quesadilla with impressive heft, draped with a grilled spring onion and accompanied by a little cup of chipotle-stewed beans to boot. There's that salsa bar, too -- pico de gallo, fiery habanero salsa, pickled red onions and thinned-out guacamole as far as the eye can see. Can you imagine a more uplifting success story that involves tacos? As Don King used to say, "Only in America!"
Check out the rest of our 100 of our favorite dishes. Suggestion? Write us a comment.
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