A paradise of the best tacos in L.A. and environs, Tacolandia, like Camelot, existed only briefly. For five hours on Sunday it came to life on the grounds of the Hollywood Palladium, drawing hundreds to eat as many tacos as they could.
This first ever tacofest was sponsored by LA Weekly and curated by L.A.'s top taco expert, Bill Esparza.
Here are my 10 top choices, or at least the ones I could get to. The lines were so long I gave up on some.
Sol Cocina's crunchy white corn tostada (above) had a little of everything--goat cheeese, sea salt-roasted peanuts, a piloncillo and chipotle adobo syrup, cilantro and a sprinkling of ground guajillo and ancho chiles.
Maybe it wasn't strictly a taco, but the sweet, hot, cheesy and nutty combination was irresistible. Executive chef Deborah Schneider came from the Newport Beach restaurant to put the tostadas together herself.
Sabina Banderas of Mariscos La Guerrerense in Ensenada charmed everyone at the recent World Street Food Congress in Singapore. At Tacolandia, she offered four tastes of the seafood that has made her street stand famous. On the left is smoked black mackerel topped with a scallop. On the right, a clam sits on a bed of sea urchin.
The birriería Flor del Río in East Los Angeles made tacos with birria prepared in the style of Nochistlán, Zacatecas (above). Like most of the stands, it offered salsas and lime wedges to dress up the tacos.
Jimmy Shaw of Lotería Grill was on hand to serve his novel taco bilingüe (bilingual taco), which pairs pork and beef tongue. But I opted for his "Three Little Piggies," which presents pork in three forms--carnitas, bacon and chicharrón. What makes it so appealing is the random crunch as you bite into the taco.
Tijuana's Tacos Kokopelli offered three taco fillings--grilled octopus, or grilled portobello mushrooms with either cilantro or spinach. The hand holding the mushroom and spinach taco above belongs to John Rivera Sedlar, chef/owner of Rivera restaurant. Nice shirt, John. Nice taco too.
You may never have tasted albóndigas like those from Mexikosher (above). They contain a special ingredient--matzo meal. At Tacolandia, the albóndigas were in a spicy dark sauce, not soup. They were spooned onto corn tortillas lined with yellow rice and topped with serrano aioli and chopped egg--no liver.
Puebla is famous for tacos árabes--grilled meat wrapped in pita style bread. At Tacolandia, they were presented by what else but a food truck called Tacos Árabes de Los Angeles, which parks at the corner of Olympic Blvd. and Esperanza in Boyle Heights.
The meat is pork, wrapped in a flour tortilla. The stand offered a bouquet of the herbs papalo (the green leaves at left in the photo above) and pipicha to pluck and add to the tacos. Notice the beautiful woven cloth from Puebla behind the plate.
Tacolandia was divided into two parts--the taco section and, for VIPs only, a bar section with tequila cocktails, beer and even rum-infused horchata. But the taco eaters had plenty to drink too, including juices from Goya, Jarritos Mexican sodas and Guayakí's flavored yerba mate drinks.
This was billed as the first annual Tacolandia, which means there should be another next year. Don't miss it.