The Offalo here, and I’m back with my top bites of Tacolandia 2016. Last year, I gave you my top five favorites, but this year, much like Tacolandia expanded their offerings to over 120(!) participating chefs and restaurants, I’m increasing my list to the top ten! I am copping out a bit by not ranking them. Instead, they’re listed alphabetically by establishment:
Breddos Tacos‘ Steak Tartare Tostada w/Black Pudding Mole: Hailing from England(!), Breddos came in with an amazing entry, taking some already delicious steak tartare and upping the ante with a mole made from black pudding, a.k.a. blood sausage. Who would have thought an English/Mexican mash-up would work so well?
B.S. Taqueria’s Calabasita Taco: One of my top 5 from last year, this was actually one of three tacos chef Ray Garcia prepared, along with a Guajillo Chicken Taco and a Chipotle Brisket Taco that he did in partnership with Tabasco, a major sponsor of Tacolandia 2016. While the other two were also delicious, something about the squash and corn and cheese just wins me over!
CaCao Mexicatessen’s Taco de Flor de Calabaza: While CaCao is known for its duck carnitas and tacos topped with sea urchin, this squash blossom taco shows they know how to handle vegetables too.
Corazon y Miel’s Taco de mi Abuela: Another meat-less taco? Don’t worry I’m not turning vegetarian–the frijoles in this taco are made with beef fat! Chef Eddie Ruiz turned out a simple, comforting, and delicious taco, inspired by Mexican grandmothers everywhere. (Breaking News: Per Eater LA, Corazon y Miel is closing on Saturday, June 19th. Go while you can!)
Galaxy Taco’s Shrimp Tostada: The gang from San Diego are back! Chef Trey Foshee of Georges at the Cove had some of my favorite tacos from the first two Tacolandia. They took last year “off” to open Galaxy Taco with chef Christine Rivera at the helm, and they’re back this year under that banner. The thing that gave this dish the extra zing was the mayo–Japanese Kewpie, perhaps?
Guerrilla Tacos’ Half Moon Scallop Tostada: Chef Wes Avila’s affinity with raw seafood is evident if you’ve ever visited his truck. On any given day, he’ll have a raw fish tostada, and if you’re lucky, there’ll be sea urchin on top. Here, he let the sweetness of the callo de hacha shine through by not overshadowing it with strong accompaniments.
La Embajada’s Taco de Lengua Ahumada: Lengua, or beef tongue, tacos are a staple of most taquerias in town, but I’ve never had it like this. All the way from Monterrey, Mexico, La Embajada’s dish blew me away. The tongue was smokey and meaty and right up my alley!
La Guerrerense’s Seafood Ceviche Tostada: Probably the most well known of the participants coming from Mexico, at least with the Tacolandia crowd, matriarch Sabina Bandera’s stand in Ensenada is like a Mecca for mariscos lovers. One of the two ceviches she was serving consisted of an almost potato salad-like base topped with slices of smoked jack fish. Of the many, many salsas she brought, my favorite has always been the one with the peanuts swimming in chile oil.
RBTA’s Kakuni Pork Belly Taco: While RBTA is a new participant at Tacolandia, the folks behind the upcoming Japanese robata bar in Highland Park are actually old pros, having participated in the first Tacolandia with another of their properties, Spirit House in Monterey Park–they’re also behind Sticky Rice in the Grand Central Market. Asian taco mashups are nothing new in LA, but this was definitely something unique! I particularly liked the sauce on it, which reminded me of Yakult, funny enough.
Taco Maria’s Smoked Sturgeon Taco: I have still yet to try the acclaimed restaurant in the OC (#2 on this year’s Jonathan Gold 101 Best list), but I’ve had enough of chef Carlos Salgado’s food to know to prioritize his booth for Tacolandia each year. With so many participants, you need a game plan. And I was not disappointed. Imagine a traditional Jewish deli’s smoked sturgeon crossed with a Sinaloan taqueria’s smoked marlin taco. The peanut salsa, similar to La Guerrerense’s, just puts this dish over the top.
So there they are, my top ten! Okay, I’ll reveal which one was my absolute favorite, but it’s actually a tie! My top two bites of the event were the steak tartare tostada with blood sausage mole and the smoked beef tongue taco. I hate to be predictable, but I’m not The Offalo for nothing. Breddos really brought something unique and distinctly English to their taco, while La Embajada gave me a new appreciation for the traditional lengua.
To see nearly all of the tacos I ate at Tacolandia, check out my hashtag #offalotacolandia2016 on Instagram.