Regardless of the busy rush of cars on Olympic Boulevard, she seems more interested in making sure her fresh tortillas are grilled to a char than her own safety from the traffic three feet behind her. The steady stream of cars is actually be a blessing, bringing her more customers for her handmade, right-off-the-sidewalk tacos.
Taco-hungry customers huddle around her little makeshift stall: a small, metal folding hand cart jammed with homemade salsas, chiles, masa for the tortillas, handmade fillings of fresh nopales, beef-potato and chicken-mushroom, all carefully assembled under Downtown L.A.'s sweltering summer heat.
She creates a grill contraption right atop the metal cart with a butane burner and a metal cookie sheet, all heated to sizzle up the fresh tortillas, chiles and fillings.
Order up! Two pollo tacos! She works swiftly, pressing the corn dough with firm intention in the tortilla press, then letting it char atop her cookie sheet grill top. The smoke subdues, the tortilla sizzles. Within minutes, she's composed a plate of warm tacos, adding a final touch of spicy tomatillo salsa.
With warm taco goods in hand, customers scramble to find a seat on the curb next to the adjoining gas station. Those who prefer to stand, or are lucky enough to get a leaning space against the cross-walk pole, will devour the tacos on the spot, as quickly as it took her to assemble them.
At $2.50 each, the tacos are filled to the edges with lettuce, cojita cheese and nopales. She has a house–or cart–hot sauce and fresh chilies for the adventurous. She changes the menu every other day or so, says her interpreter, cash handler, health-department-scouting son.
They work as a team, serving up hot tacos all along Olympic Blvd and its neighboring cross streets. There's no one place to find them, but if you keep your nose on the hunt, search for the smells of fresh tortillas and look for a wandering metal push cart with a cookie sheet on top, you'll know you've found taco heaven.
Location: Often off of Olympic Blvd/Union Street, Downtown Los Angeles, near the Chevron gas station.
Diane Cu also co-writes White On Rice Couple with her partner.