Steel Cactus in Shadyside is a place more typically known for drinks than food, yet, I found myself there hungry and waiting for drinks. The cactus thing in their name is somehow connected to the fact that they serve Mexican food and I was skeptical not only because it was primarily a drinking place, but also because Pittsburgh isn’t quite known as a bastion of Mexican food.
If you could have one final meal in LA that truly represents the city, what would you choose? Umami Burger? Korean BBQ? Some sort of Asian fusion? Anything with avocado in it? Seeing as I had eaten Umami the night before, for me it was a taco truck. You see, taco trucks just might represent LA better than any other food purveyor. Their mobility is all-important in a city that relies so much on cars. Their Mexican dishes feel perfectly at home in a place that was once Mexico and is chock-full of Mexican heritage. And their relatively low barrier to entry provides a great opportunity in a city that brings new opportunists in every day. For my last meal in LA, I chose Leo’s Taco Truck.
Down in San Diego for a drinking and baseball excursion, I somehow found myself at a place called Jalapenos in Carmel Mountain looking to fill my stomach with something non-alcoholic. My buddy had told me that the California Burrito was the way to go here and went on to explain that said burrito had fries…inside. Yeah, I know, pretty awesome and I was ready to commit as soon as I learned what else filled the thing.
Just when you think you’ve eaten every important burrito LA has to offer, a coworker comes along and tells you that you have to try La Cabana in Venice. I’m sure this has happened to everyone and just like me, everyone else probably thought taking a trip to La Cabana was a good idea. After all, while I had never read about it anywhere, I trust the word of real people more than anything.
Once upon a time there was a little taco stand in downtown LA called Mexicali. For unknown reasons, they had to shut down, which was very upsetting to me considering I hadn’t yet tried their supposedly amazing food. Yet, after some time they opened up a brick and mortar near Chinatown that I just had to get to. And now that I’ve been, I can safely say that anyone who hasn’t been needs to go. Like as soon as possible.
Ever since starting my job in Torrance, one of my coworkers has not stopped talking about the tacos at Los Paisas. Finally, we made our way there so I could see what he was always yammering about. I quickly found out that Los Paisas was more than just a restaurant, it was also a bakery and mini-market. As good as multiple identities are, though, all I cared about was tacos.
Before basketball on Tuesdays I usually need to grab a bite to eat. For some people, this is a cramp-inducing process. I, on the other hand, cramp up while playing if I don’t eat enough. With that in mind, I went to Taqueria Juanito’s No. 1 in Balboa Park with my fellow baller and rather than order a couple little tacos, I got pretty much the biggest thing on the menu. It was their nachos, and came loaded with cheese, refried beans, a couple of salsas, cilantro and a meat of my choosing. I chose carne asada and pretty soon went to town on those nachos.
Santa Monica doesn’t exactly have a reputation for good food. And what reputation it does have usually tends to lean on the upscale. But reputation alone does not simply make a city, and Santa Monica actually has a surprising number of little gems hidden in its nooks and crannies. One of these, I had heard, was Tacos Por Favor.
Yet, aside from actually hearing of Tacos Por Favor, I hadn’t really been told what was good on their menu, so when I arrived and found a vast menu full of nearly every Mexican dish I had ever heard of, I was in trouble.
Moving to a new place is never easy. Driving habits and living habits have to change, but more importantly, eating habits have to change. This can be easy for some, but when you have a meat blog it can be tough to say goodbye to the Taco Bell that once resided across the street. But it is also an opportunity to try new things, so as I woke up on my first real weekend in my new place, I realized it was time for a stroll around the area in search of food. Quickly, I found Taco Plus.
About a year ago, a coworker of mine walked up to my desk, slapped a golden matchbook on it and told me I had to go to this restaurant. The restaurant he spoke of was called Gardens of Taxco in West Hollywood and despite the strange-sounding name, he told me it was amazing. One year later he is no longer a coworker of mine, but a Living Social deal popped up for the place and I took it as a sign from the tax gods that it was time for me to pay the Gardens a visit.