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.

100: Lukshon's Dan Dan Noodles

99: Cemita de Milanesa at Cemitas Poblanos Elviritas #1

98: Chichen Itza's Cochinita Pibil

97: Tsukemen at Tsujita L.A.

96: La Cevicheria's Bloody Clam Ceviche

95: Duck Shawarma at Momed

94: Peruvian Chicken at Pollo a la Brasa

93: Squash Blossom Quesadilla at Antojitos Carmen

92: Thai Boat Noodles at Pa-Ord

91: Baco Mercat's Bazole

90: Furikake Kettle Corn at A-Frame

89: Live Santa Barbara Spot Prawns at Providence

88: Fried Pig Tails at Night + Market

87: Egg Salad Sandwich at Euro Pane

86: Galbi Jjim at Soban

85: Truffle Honey-Laced Fried Chicken at Manhattan Beach Post

84: Mool Naeng Myun at Yu Chic Naeng Myun

Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Reach the author at gsnyder@laweekly.com or follow him on Twitter at @searchanddevour.

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