Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Javier Cabral: When you come to — come have tacos, you come just for tacos. You don't come for comfort. You don't come for, like, any kind of restaurant amenities. You're here for the tacos, and you eat tacos any way you can. Joe Avella: We're at Avenue 26 Tacos in Lincoln Heights. Over the past few years, this taco spot has amassed a large following, sometimes having lines around the block. Look how crazy it is over here. Customer: I come here about two to three times a month, I'll say. I'll make the drive out here, from the Valley all the way here, just to get some tacos. I got al pastor, and I also got buche. So, this one's the buche right here. But the al pastor I already ate. Joe: Javier from LA Tacos is gonna be joining me, and we're gonna find out why Avenue 26 Tacos are so great. Javier: We are at Avenue 26 Tacos. It is arguably one of LA's most famous taquerias in the street. We are in the neighborhood of Lincoln Heights. They've been doing this for a long time. They've been doing this for over 15 years, and they've been consistent about it. Their taco is suadero, which is braised beef brisket, almost like carnitas, but it's beef. I feel this spot fulfills the need of, you know, when you have friends who don't know about this spot, you bring them here, and you tell them, "Hey I know this, like, secret spot." And it's hidden, it's not on the main street. And it's just — it's a thrill. It's a certified taco thrill. Now, because of the tacos, there is, I think, seven vendors. Everything from, like, churros to esquites to pizza now, like, brick-oven pizza, so it's street-food city. So, usually when you see a flat-side grill like that, they're usually gonna have the standard, which is suadero, al pastor, and they're gonna have tripa, buche. Tripa is intestine. Buche is, like, the lining around pork belly. And they'll have some version of carne asada that will be grilled. So that's kind of, like, the general LA style of, like, street tacos that started in, like, the '80s to late '90s, and that style is really iconic LA taco. Joe: All right, you wanna get some tacos? Javier: Let's go eat some tacos, man. Joe: Let's do it. Javier: Taco life. [Joe laughs] So, what I look for in a taco is the swoon factor, is what I call it. Right? Like, that taco euphoria that you feel when you get a bite. So you get, like, a nice, tender, fatty meat. People forget that a tortilla amounts to 50% of a taco experience. Don't forget that, like, a taco cannot be a good taco without a good tortilla. But I also look for, like, uniform textures in, like, onion, cilantro, to see that it's limes and not lemons. There's a lot of little factors that account into, like, the overall taco experience. Joe: So, just off the bat, while we're waiting in line, like, what tacos are you thinking about getting? Javier: So, I'm for sure gonna get the suadero, 'cause that's what they're known for here, and it's actually a taco that's relatively hard to find in LA. You're not gonna see it everywhere. Again, it's a braised beef brisket in fat, and it's just slow and tender, and it's delicious. I'm also gonna get al pastor, 'cause you have to. I like to call that a category F5 meat tornado. [dramatic music] Javier: Give me one of suadero Joe: Can I do the one that was your favorite? Can I do the intestines one? And let me do al pastor. And what was some other — what did I miss? Javier: Suadero. Suadero. Joe: Suadero, yeah. Javier: And you know what? I'm feeling crazy. One more of cabeza please. Joe: How many did you get? Javier: I got four. Joe: And I got four. Javier: Yeah, I got four. Joe: OK, so we both have four. Let's do it. Javier: Gracias. It's just a dollar. It's, like, the best deal in LA. Javier: Yeah, you can't get any cheaper. So, if you're in the know, you go and ask for a potato. Joe: Yeah. This thing over here, it's, like, cooking oil, right? Or butter or lard? What is that? Javier: Some people use lard; some people use oil. That's their secret. But they're dropping a potato in there, and it just, like, cooks until it's buttery and, like, beautiful. Joe: I want one. I want a potato. Javier: Let's get a potato. This is why this place is special. There aren't many other places in LA that will give you a freaking potato. If you're here, and you're happy to spend, like, a dollar per taco, and you get a potato while you're at it. So, before we eat, I know we're starving, but there's one final touch that, if you see it in a taqueria, get it. It's, like, the caramelized onions that are actually fried or grilled in the own beef fat of the actual tacos. Or the pork fat. Not all taquerias have it, but if they do, just go and get it. It's right here. Yeah, so. Yeah, it's literally, like, caramelized onions or grilled onions. I mean, raw onions in a taco is amazing, but grilled onions just adds another layer of richness to it. Joe: Do you normally put, like, salsas — Javier: Of course. A taco without salsa is just — Joe: Was that a stupid question that I just asked? Javier: I think that was a very stupid question, but don't worry, man. It's good. It's good. Before we add any salsa, definitely get some limes to make sure that the lime juice actually hits the meat and the tortilla before the salsas, 'cause, you know, you get more flavor that way. It adds a nice little layer of, like, refreshing acid, which you need when you're eating these fatty meats. Last but not least, because vegetable and fiber, maybe, you know, get some radishes. I like to get a couple just to say that I've had some vegetables today. Joe: Oh, OK. Javier: You know, get, like, a nice little handful. And you also put some lime and salt on those, so you kind of create a quick pickle. You know? You gotta get some fiber in your body somehow. My rule of thumb is: When all else fails, green. Joe: OK. Javier: Because green is acid, tartness. If you can't hang any heat, usually the watery red ones are always gonna be the best for you. Joe: I'll try a little bit of heat. Javier: Yeah, normally a taqueria will always have green, red, and a taqueria guacamole, which is like a thinner, watered-down guacamole, so it's more saucy instead of gloppy. Sometimes the guacamole replaces the green salsa, or sometimes the green salsa replaces the guacamole. Yeah, that's it. And then we're ready to eat, man. Joe: All right, let's go eat. I'm starving, dude. Javier: Some people eat it inside of their car, sitting down in front of the steering wheel. Others prop the food down on the — either in the hood of their car, and just eat, like, you know, you have to have, like, that 90-degree angle down so you don't get any salsa all over you. Joe: Mm! The potato. You know it's been simmering in that oil for a while. Javier: California used to be part of Mexico, and some people say that it never stopped being Mexico because some tacos, like the tacos that you get here, are so delicious and so close to what you would actually find in Mexico. Rule No. 1 of finding good tacos is actually stopping and trying them. Joe: [laughs] That's a good point. Javier: Because there are so many here in LA, your first reaction to when you drive by or walk by a taqueria is you look it up online to see reviews or something, but I'm telling you, screw all that, just stop and have a taco and see if you like it personally. And, like, you'll be surprised. Sometimes you'll find some great spots that haven't really been, you know, written about or celebrated as much. Street food in LA is there to serve its immediate neighborhood. And if you're lucky enough to drive by or walk by and you find — and it smells good, and it looks good, and you see a crowd of people around it, stop by and try it. That's the best way you're gonna find out if it's good. The first taco that I always get at a spot that offers it is cabeza, because you can really learn a lot on how they treat their cabeza. Joe: How is that? Javier: Cabeza is steamed cow head. If you don't know what to — if you're indecisive, I usually always go for cabeza because it's hard to mess up, and it's like, who doesn't love, like, just tender stewed braised meat with salsa? Suadero is, like, the hardest one to find in LA. It's like carnitas but with beef, so it's, like, slowly braised in lard until it gets crisped up and it gets tender, and that's really hard to find, so that's actually really good here too. Just two months ago, in 2020, they finally legalized street food in LA. Through lots of outreach, people in LA who love street food got together, and they fought for the rights of street vendors here. It took, like, around a decade of work to work through the bureaucracy of the city to finally legalize street vending in LA. If you come to LA, some of your most happiest moments, or most memorable moments, that you'll have when visiting the city is, like, probably will be tacos after a show. Or, like, a bacon-wrapped hot dog after, you know, when you come out of a concert and you smell the smell of bacon. Street food is so essential to the city, and it took this long for the politicians to finally realize that and try to make change and make it legalized. People love to come to a taqueria and, like, fulfill their need of, like, a nice, greasy in a good way, just rib-sticking taco, and these tacos fulfill that because it's a lot of meat, you know, the salsa bar is, like, there for you so you can put as much as you want and suffer as much as you want. And I think the No. 1 thing about it is, like, people love the concept of a dollar taco, and this is one of the last-standing taquerias in LA that still charges a dollar per taco.