The Rise of the Breakfast Taco in Southern California
Guadalupe breakfast taco at HomeState.
The things that get people riled up can be so mysterious. It usually involves some dark miasma of regionality, pride and mistaking opinions for facts, but the actual topics causing consternation can be a surprise. An example: breakfast tacos versus breakfast burritos.
Los Angeles has long had breakfast burritos — they’re ubiquitous, and not just as hangover cures. The fillings are a mix of eggs, potatoes (hash browns or homestyle), fake or real meat (usually bacon or chorizo), salsa, maybe, maybe cheese, maybe avocados. Some sit-down joints will add more vegetables, but the soul of the breakfast burrito is relatively simple and definitely straightforward.
The moment of invention for home-style foods can be hard to pin down. But there's a strong argument that breakfast burritos were first created on a commercial scale in a Santa Fe, New Mexico restaurant called Tia Sophia's in 1975. The filling was bacon and potatoes, and the burrito was served "wet," covered with chili and cheese. The latter isn't really a California thing; our breakfast burritos usually come served wrapped in foil, after all. We (Angelenos) added more ingredients and made it one of our most iconic breakfasts — interesting, because San Francisco and San Diego are more deeply into evening burritos, but L.A. can't get enough of the morning version.
The "best" breakfast burrito is a matter of opinion, but two worth mentioning are the legendary Lucky Boy, where the standard order contains bacon, and Hot off the Grill in Seal Beach, which makes its with pastrami, another integral element of SoCal's culinary-cultural mash-up
But there's a new contender for the crown. Breakfast tacos are on the rise in L.A. These aren’t the same thing as “morning tacos,” which are just tacos eaten in the morning. The filling is mostly egg, sometimes with potato element, and often entirely without meat, but sometimes with beans. And traditionally, these tacos are made with flour tortillas. Because they're Tex-Mex.
Los Angeles has passively resisted Tex-Mex for a long time, but we may have to surrender at least to its breakfast creation. There's talk of San Antonio becoming a world culinary capitol — let us be cultural sisters in arms, perhaps. Welcoming HomeState into the fold was easy enough, right?
HomeState is a Texas import, located in Los Feliz, that really kicked off breakfast tacos in L.A. They have a wide variety of options, including the Trinity (scrambled eggs, bacon, potato, and cheese), the Pecos (brisket and egg) and the Frio (refried beans and bacon).
Two other restaurants serving up these delightful three-biters are Bar Ama, L.A.'s most fully-realized Tex-Mex restaurant, and Guisados, the former cult favorite that is now a successful mini-chain. Bar Ama's weekend brunch taco options include bean and cheese, sausage and egg, and potato and egg; Guisado's entry into the field is more casual — it's got them till it runs out of eggs.
A recent Twitter poll (highly scientific) gave the win to breakfast burritos, but not without spirited opposition and trenchant commentary. Said @anavenueblog, "'breakfast burritos'? sounds like the kind of place that would pass off tri tip as barbecue."
Yes, California does make its own food rules. Who knows what we'll end up adding to breakfast tacos.
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