Taqueria Los Anaya: The Taco Next Door

Taco sampler at Taqueria Los Anaya
Taco sampler at Taqueria Los Anaya
G. Snyder

Man cannot live on taco trucks alone, try as he might. For that reason there are places like Taqueria Los Anaya in West Adams. The family-run restaurant, which opened in March, happens to dabble in the kind of home-cooked Mexican food that inspires weekend drives to La Super Rica in Santa Barbara or mournful laments about the passing of Pasadena's Las Ruinas some years back.

The standard order at Los Anaya is probably the three-taco combo plate, made with thick, handmade tortillas. You can mix and match between stewed chicken in a deep dark molé, or tender pink carnitas braised with citrus zest. There is carne asada marked with char on the grill, or oversized chunks of stewed lengua that fall apart like pot roast.

The fact that each taco is individually dressed with red or green salsa, a dash of cilantro or onion, and perhaps a sprinkle of crumbled queso fresco, shows a seriousness of intent. The refried beans, a throwaway item at most taquerias, are delicious here -- with hints of garlic and cooked to a velvety smooth consistency. My favorite so far might be the sope, a shallow dish of fried masa lined with beans and meat that crackles under a fork and knife -- if you choose to use them.

You won't find more obscure Mexican fillings here -- this isn't the place for cesos, tripas, or chicharrón -- and the al pastor, while very good, isn't carved off the spit. That fools some people into thinking less of it, especially since the small, brightly colored dining room looks like somewhere office coworkers would go for a birthday party.

The taco might have its roots in poverty cuisine -- think of those kerosene-seared tasty scraps heaped together on a tortilla for a dollar -- but at Las Anaya the taco is a thing of abundance, made with quality ingredients and a hulking amount of meat.

Go ahead, order a swordfish taco topped with Veracruz slaw, thick quesadillas paved with melted Oaxacan cheese, or a bowl of barbacoa if it happens to be on the specials board. The three cheerful brothers (Jose Manuel, Gerardo and Juan Carlos Anaya) who run the kitchen and the dining room -- 60-plus years of combined cooking experience they claim -- take pride in their craft, and it shows in almost every item on the menu. An icy melon agua fresca to drink and guava flan for dessert are recommended as well.

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