Echo Park Taco Trucks: Your Neighborhood Taco Guide
|Tacos on a different trunk at El Flamin' Taco|
The third Echo Park truck, El Flamin' Taco, is the newest and the most garish. It has a twitter handle (though it is little used), a (similarly barren) facebook page, a 4/20 menu, and a snazzy paint job complete with flamin' decals. It is also on perhaps the most prominent local intersection, on the southeast corner of Sunset and Alvarado, just steps from Mohawk Bend, American Apparel, and the new PETA headquarters, among others. The truck parks in a brightly lit but awkwardly shaped car wash parking lot that is easily accessible but often forces the hungry, occasionally less than sober diners into an unfortunate game of automobile tetris.
The menu options are more varied than at other trucks (mostly thanks to that 4/20 menu), but the meat options are largely similar. Suadero, cabeza, lengua, and the usual unusual cuts are all available, and the salsa bar is mostly straightforward, with the notable addition of a truly flamin' mixture of pickled onions and habanero. Aside from the wild cosmetics, two things stand out at El Flamin' Taco. The first, and likely the more subtle of the two, is that all of the tortillas are made right there in the truck. There is a woman grabbing, balling, and then flattening masa right in the window, just next to the flat top. Handmade isn't always better (some high school pottery classes come to mind), but in this case the tortillas are a noticeable upgrade over the bagged versions at the neighboring trucks. True, these tortillas may not quite reach the heights of Guisados and its ilk, but both the effort and the result are worth appreciating.
The second feature of El Flamin' that stands out literally stands out: Just behind the truck, near where clean cars leave the wash, there is a spinning cone of meat cooking on an open flame, topped with a healthy heap of pineapple. Yes, El Flamin' has their own massive stand-alone trompo, and yes there is a dedicated pastor specialist manning it, and he is as skilled as any we've come across, right up there with the legendary Tacos Leo.
The meat is skillfully cut directly onto your tortilla, and it somehow ends up both perfectly crisped on the outside and supremely tender, almost literally bursting with bright citrus and spice flavor. It is a revelation, the first meat we've ever met that makes both salsa and lime superfluous. Sure, if you want some variety the lengua is excellent, tender and fragile in that long-stewed way, and the other meats are better than adequate, but really, why stray from something so stellar as the al pastor? The salsas are passable, though the most mild of the three trucks, and the spicy pickled onions are a nice addition, but if you're coming to El Flamin' Taco, you're coming for spinning pork.
Our Conclusion+ a Recommendation
These three trucks are well known and popular for a reason, and each truck has its own merits. In the end, we would be comfortable recommending any of them to the casual late night eater, though we do have some simple suggestions to make sure you end up at the right one for your taste. If you're in it for the people watching, the location, and the salsa, Tacozone is your spot. If you want carnitas and the best combination of meat and salsa quality, and if you don't mind the dark, then Tacos Arizas is for you. And if you are in search of the single best thing you can get from a truck around here, El Flamin' Taco and their al pastor is your jam. Between the three of them, you're sure to find something to suit your fancy, and if you can't, then we have one final suggestion for you: get a carnitas taco at Arizas, an al pastor at El Flamin', and then go to Tacozone to dress and eat them.
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