Frances Bula header image 2

Bring on the taco trucks

March 29th, 2010 · 11 Comments

I have seen culinary street-food heaven and it is this: travelling street-food trucks. 

Los Angeles has become a home for this new form of gastronomy, which has also become the site of a new form of fusion cuisine, the Asian taco. 

I’d been hearing about this new thing for a while now — trucks roaming around the city, notifying customers by blog and Twitter where they’d be parking at what hours — and decided I just had to try it out. It fit with the other theme of my visit anyway, which was going to as many restaurants on Jonathan Gold’s list of 99 essential LA restaurants as I could.

(For those not in the know, Gold, the reviewer at the alternative LA Weekly, has developed a cult following and won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on his adventures into ethnic cuisine in the far suburban reaches of LA, where he has discovered the best fish tacos, pho, and Oaxacan cuisine to be had in this sprawling city.)

So of course, I did some of the regular — well, what qualifies as regular in Gold’s world — rounds, like the wonderful Peruvian-Japanese restaurant Mo-Chica in a weird little mall buried in the industrial district south of downtown and the southern Thai mecca Jitlanga, in one of the many mini-malls that proliferate in west Thaitown/east Hollywood.

But I just had to try out the trucks. My first was Kogi Barbecue, the most famous, which Twittered on the day I was hunting that it would be at corner of South Hope and Ninth near the Market condos. After only a few circles through what is LA’s emerging downtown condo district, around the Fashion Institute, we found it. Yes, tacos with kimchi and barbecued beef, which we ate on a bench at the Institute’s park, in the sunshine.

But it was kind of tedious trying to track the trucks and get there at the precise time, so then I opted just for going to the areas where it seemed like they most often hung out. As it turned out, Abbott Kinney, the hipster street near Venice Beach was a prime spot, which we hit up the next two days. That’s where I fell in love with the Komodo truck’s spicy shrimp burrito, which all by itself provided dinner for two. 

But by my third Asian taco truck, I was starting to get tired of flour tortillas and Korean barbecue. Unfortunately, we had to leave town the next day, so I didn’t get to track down some of the other trucks I’d read about in the city: bakery trucks, the Nom Nom banh mi truck, and others. 

Once again, it brought to mind one of my perennial complaints about the city: bad street food. And here’s a potential solution. The trucks I saw were very high tech, almost like a recreation vehicle, silver and shiny and clean-looking. That should solve the health-department problems.

The main issue remaining — parking and other angry merchants. I noticed that LA has started to clamp down on these trucks parking for longer than an hour, partly because of complaints from nearby rooted businesses that they’re competing unfairly.

That’s something a wise city bureaucrat should think about in advance of approving this new form. Maybe they’re best suited to areas that get lots of people and not enough food for them: parks, beaches, festivals, industrial areas filled with workers needing lunch.

Or perhaps the street in front of my house, permanently.

Categories: Uncategorized