First Look: Loqui's Smoky Carne Asada Elevates the Westside Taco Game

Mushroom molcajete and carne asada primo at Loqui
Mushroom molcajete and carne asada primo at Loqui
Garrett Snyder

Let's get this out of the way first: There are people out there who will be offended by the very existence of a taco that costs $5.50.

It doesn't matter if said taco is larger than a standard-issue, palm-sized street taco, or that it comes swaddled in a handmade flour tortilla, or that it's filled with guacamole, melted cheese and mesquite-grilled carne asada. "That's too much for a taco!" a misguided Yelp commenter will surely protest. 

Those people, as you might have already guessed, are terribly and woefully mistaken human beings.

In a roundabout way, this brings us to the newly opened Loqui, a Baja-influenced taqueria located inside Culver City's sleek new Platform complex, home to numerous pricey fashion boutiques, Soulcycle, Blue Bottle Coffee, as well as soon-to-open outlets of Sweetgreen, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream and NYC's the Cannibal restaurant and butcher shop. The hipness is palpable.

Loqui probably won't sound familiar to Angelenos but it might ring a bell to those who follow San Francisco's food scene. Back in 2013, founders Cameron Wallace and Ari Ampudia launched their concept as a pop-up inside San Francisco's Tartine Bakery, serving Mexico City–inspired tacos and tortas on house-baked bread. Since then their concept has evolved and migrated southward — their first brick-and-mortar shop in Culver City is serving tacos inspired by Baja California, which means hunks of smoky tri-tip, chile-marinated chicken, and roasted mushroom for the vegetarians.

Though it's been open for a little over a week, Loqui seems to already be doing brisk business with the local lunch crowd. Seating is somewhat limited, although there is a small, sunny patio to linger on with your glass of agua fresca or Mexican Coke. The menu is limited too: you can opt to order a taco (Loqui calls them primos) or what Loqui lists as a molcajete, essentially a burrito bowl with your choice of protein, Rancho Gordo pinto beans, herb-tinted rice, pickled onions, guacamole, a sprinkling of cotija and a side of thick flour tortillas. If you spy a small jar of what looks like bird seed next to the counter, fill up your plastic cup: that's salsa seca, a dry salsa made from crushed peanuts, sesame seeds, toasted chiles and garlic. It might resemble seasoning mix more than salsa, but its earthy punch is utterly addictive when sprinkled over your molcajete.

All these details are well and good, but if you visit Loqui, the thing to order without hesitation is indeed the $5.50 carne asada primo, a thicker-than-average taco paved with a layer of melted white cheese, a spoonful of beans, guacamole, onion, cilantro and a light drizzle of salsa roja. The beef is charred and salty, the fresh tortilla is soft and supple. Are there better carne asada tacos in Los Angeles? Maybe, but you won't find them anywhere near Culver City, and they won't quite resemble this one. On closer inspection, $5 and change seems like a reasonable charge for one of the most exciting tacos to hit the Westside since, well, forever.

Loqui, 8850 Washington Blvd., Culver City, eatloqui.com.


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