As you speed along Valley Boulevard between Alhambra and downtown, you may notice the signs for what seems like a supremely confident establishment, El Super Numero Uno, a meat specialist with a high regard for its product. And as you screech off the road into the parking lot – Lo Mejor Carne Asada says the sign; also Yes! We Make Keys! – it may occur to you that you have landed at not the four-wall taqueria you may have been expecting, but at a grocery store that happens to serve food to go.
In the midst of the fever around food trucks, it is sometimes hard to remember that a lot of the best tacos in Los Angeles have traditionally come from butcher shops and supermarkets, where they often serve as steaming, chile-soaked advertisements for the quality of the meat for sale in the store. And El Super Numero Uno is clearly one of the better carnicerías in town. Big signs above the meat counter list prices not per pound but per 10-pound bag, and a notice for party catering brags about barbecued lambs' heads and cows' heads and whole goats, upon notice. The butcher counter itself is sparkling, with glistening, clearly fresh sections of prepared, uncooked meat for carne asada, pork al pastor and chicken fajitas, flap meat and diezmilla, chorizo, head and tripe.
When you order your tacos, the taquero reaches into the glass case and plucks your portion from the same meat he sells to the carnicería customers. And while the tacos, whose meat is cooked on a flat top rather than over an open flame, may not be quite among the very top tier, they are satisfying, tortillas griddle-fried to a pleasant, crisp-edged chewiness, chopped meat both luscious and carbonized, green salsa both fresh and hot. Grab a cold Mexican Squirt from the soft drink aisle, and pull up a chair to one of the tiny tables set up net to the potato bins in the produce section.
El Super Numero Uno: 5088 Valley Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 223-3040.