Now that we've put the debate about Los Angeles vs. New York tacos to rest, it's time to address something a bit more geographically relevant: the Mexican food of both L.A. and San Diego. While L.A. is home to many San Diego natives, the lack of true San Diego–style Mexican food in our fair city is surprising. Since its Sept. 27 opening, Taco Love has been serving up carne asada fries and California burritos in, of course, a tiny West Hollywood strip mall.
Walk into Taco Love and you'll probably interact with at least one of its owners, and maybe all three if you're lucky. Paul Kot, Marko Velazquez and David Modelo are serious about their Mexican food, although maybe not much else. Brought together by their various roles with Umami Burger, the trio decided to open up their own place. Originally from Chula Vista, all of seven miles from the Mexican border, Modelo and Velazquez know their tacos. Together with Kot (who spent part of his childhood in Argentina before moving to the Inland Empire), their menu and recipes are a collaborative effort.
The menu is almost deceptively simple. From the first menu board you choose from taco ($1.95), burrito ($6.50), Cali Burrito ($7) or carne asada fries ($7/10) (or a salad, but come on). Then, you select your meat. Carne asada is usually the way to go, but the abodaba (marinated pork) is pretty great if you're looking to mix things up. And the carne asada fries, oozing with sour cream, guacamole and cheese, really can't be missed.
See also: 10 Best Carne Asada Fries in Los Angeles
A solid Cali Burrito, which really should be dubbed the San Diego Burrito, is a rarity in this town. Essentially an order of carne asada fries wrapped in a tortilla (yep, even the fries), this cult favorite is a standout at Taco Love. The fries are crispy enough to keep from getting soggy yet soft enough to make tackling this burrito a pleasurable experience. At first glance, the burrito itself seems almost on the small side, not quite exploding with filling like many of its competitors — but with plenty of carne asada, you may find devouring that last bite a struggle.
With abundant beverage options, you can keep your Friday night buzz going with a Pacifico on draft or a michelada, or you can sober up with a Mexican Coke, served in the tall glass bottle. The place is open late, until 2:30 a.m. on weekends, so you can say goodbye to those desperate midnight Taco
Hell Bell runs.
Set on a busy corner on Sunset in the former Gaucho Chicken Café, Taco Love doesn't look like the stands and roadside shacks San Diegans may be familiar with. While elements like the white tiles have been left from the Gaucho days, the new digs are simple yet stylized. It's a Hollywood upgrade — two TVs, comfortable seating, communal tables and a colorful mural across the wall.
Thus far, Taco Love has attracted a pretty diverse crowd, from solo diners working on their laptops to drunken partygoers looking for a late-night snack. You may not get a verbal endorsement from the hard-core San Diego loyalists, but the silence that comes from eating quickly will read as enthusiasm.
Follow the author on Twitter @SkylerRanger. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.