Photos by Thomas L. Young
One dollar street tacos at a busy intersection in downtown Los Angeles is about as old school as you can get. On the corner of Mateo and 7th street, in front of the Mexican restaurant La Reyna (Est. 1974), is a taco stand run by one guy on the grill and a lady who handles the cash.
Simple meat tacos get complicated quickly once you start to add the buffet style accouterments.
Grilled onions, whole grilled Serrano peppers, radishes, white onions and cilantro, avocado lime sauce and your pick of hot and/or mild salsas are a few of the available options to dress up the otherwise naked tacos.
We ordered carne asada, carnitas, chorizo and al pastor tacos. Each meat carried a unique, requisite flavor, while remaining completely different from each other. There was no way to mistake the al pastor for the carne asada or the carnitas from the chorizo.
I wish I could curate each taco to maintain a balance of flavors, but I can't. Each taco got theirs--"theirs" being onions, peppers, avocado sauce, lime and hot sauce. And despite my efforts to drown out the natural flavors, the meat surprisingly stood up to the bold tastes of peppers, onions and hot sauce.
The chorizo satiated both my breakfast and salty urges and the radishes and hot sauce compliment the meaty, season-y amalgam of flavors.
The carne asada was not gristly or over cooked and tasted like fresh marinated beef, which is often not the case.
Robust and hearty are typically words associated with a carne asada, a "go-to" meat of substance, however, I would describe the al pastor as both.
The centerpiece of the operation is the al pastor, which could easily be mistaken for Gyro meat, and by my account is the most popular item on the non-existent menu. While each taco was delicious and satisfying, nothing rivaled the awesomeness of the al pastor. The meat had clearly been marinating for a couple of days so it was tender, rich and the flavors complex--probably due to the slow cooking next to its own fat over the course of a few hours.
After demolishing two al pastor tacos, I wanted more. Many more. Had I not ran out of crisp dollar bills, I would have ordered another dozen.
I'm not positive about whether the taco shop is a part of La Reyna or whether they've worked out some deal with the establishment, but either way, it's worth the trip downtown. And for those not in the area, for what you waste in gas money you'll save in food costs.