Tropicália, happening Saturday, Nov. 11, in Long Beach, is a music festival for the next generation of Southern Californians, folks who don’t much care for genre distinctions and can’t imagine music from this part of the world existing without a Latin tinge.
But almost better than the music lineup — which includes such disparate acts as Jhene Aiko, Brenton Wood and Los Tigres del Norte — is the taco lineup. Because what would a music fest of the future be without four hours of all-you-can-eat tacos from some of the best-known names in the game?
With an impressive spread that promises to be as diverse as the music, Tropicália’s food options celebrate the taco in all its forms (even if it’s a burrito), much like our own event Tacolandia does every year. From pescado to carnitas to vegan birria, here are five vendors not to miss between sets.
There’s a reason that Mariscos Jalisco is consistently hyped as one of the best food trucks in the city — namely its taco dorado de camaron, a fried-to-order taco stuffed plump with a creamy mixture of shrimp and other seafood and topped with enough avocado and salsa to make it forkable. The recipe is a deeply held secret, developed by the family of a friend of owner Raul Ortega back in his hometown in Jalisco. But you don’t have to know everything that’s in it to make the trek all the way to Boyle Heights for a bite. And this weekend, you don’t even have to go to Boyle Heights. 3040 E. Olympic Blvd., Boyle Heights; (323) 528-6701, twitter.com/mariscosjalisco.
Taqueria la Venganza
Raul Medina is a SoCal-bred, Oakland-living, Mexican-American madman who opened the first all-vegan taqueria as a sidewalk pop-up in front of his studio apartment a few years ago. And with taco classics like “carnitas,” “al pastor,” “tripa” and “lengua,” it’s hard to believe there’s no actual meat between his hand-pressed tortillas. A soy-based protein serves as the base for all his mock meats, and each preparation remains steeped in the traditions of his family’s native Durango, Mexico. Medina was a standout at Coachella last year and has been popping up in Orange County the last few weeks. He’ll be bringing a vegan “birria” to Tropicália this weekend. instagram.com/TheVeganTaqueria/.
Not every successful taco joint in L.A. strives for authenticity. Just ask Jermelle Henderson, owner and head chef of Taco Mell, an underground catering company turned Leimert Park storefront that’s become a flagbearer of a still-strong movement once dubbed “the black taco.” The scene started with a crop of young entrepreneurial South L.A. chefs, who started selling the kinds of tacos they grew up eating at home — essentially a gringo taco of ground beef, lettuce, tomato and cheese. Instead of topping it with a watery tomato juice like you’ll find at Tito’s Tacos, though, Red Rooster sauce serves as the far more genius replacement for salsa roja. Rappers like Nipsey Hustle and YG have been known to go out of their way to hit up Taco Mell. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t, too. 4326 Crenshaw Blvd., Leimert Park; (323) 250-3074, tacomell.net.
Dia de los Puercos
Once a hidden food truck that roved around chef Rick Garcia’s native East L.A., Dia de los Puercos now has a West Covina storefront that's an ode to the owner’s heavy Chicano roots. Serving self-described “comida xicana,” the expanded restaurant — which features indoor telephone poles replete with sneakers flung over the wires — nails classics like tortas (“el sangweesh”), burritos (“the homie”) and L.A.-style street dogs (“el borracho”). But Garcia’s real passion is felt in the tacos, house-made tortillas filled with pastor from a constantly spinning trompo, stewed spicy pork tinga, crispy dried mochomos pork and more. 222 S. Citrus St., West Covina; (626) 331-3357, ddlpla.com.
Burritos La Palma
The pint-sized Zacatecas-style burritos at Burritos La Palma are so legendary that both food critics and fans consistently consider them among the best “tacos” in the region. Never mind that a burrito isn’t technically a taco. When you try just one of these tiny flour-tortilla burros (they’re about the size of a taco, at least), all filled with the rich, satisfying traditional meat stews of Jerez, it’s hard to argue that you wouldn’t also choose one of La Palma’s creations over the more typical Mexican street meal. Once a truck that parked across L.A. and O.C., Burritos La Palma now has storefronts: an original in El Monte and a newer location in Santa Ana.
5120 Peck Road, El Monte; (626) 350-8286, burritoslapalma.net.