Taco Truck Extortionists Busted ~ Los Angeles

Taco Truck 1987

The Los Angeles Times reports today that members of one LA’s most notorious gangs were indicted today in protection-racket scheme targeting taco truck vendors in Los Angeles:

A grand jury indictment was scheduled to be unsealed Monday for about two dozen reputed members of the notorious MS-13 gang in connection with a violent extortion racket that targeted food-truck operators.

The victims of the alleged organized shakedown were not four-wheeled foodie cuisine servers, such as the Kogi BBQ truck, but those who serve blue collar workers at construction sites, according to several law enforcement sources familiar with the case.

Those arrested were reputed Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, gang members but the sources, who did not want to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the case before details were revealed in court, said the arrests were the culmination of a year-long investigation centered in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollywood Division.

Just another example of how hard it is out there slangin street food– our local taqueros work long hours and are squeezed on all sides by fuel prices, local regulators, drunk customers, and criminal elements. Salute your local lonchera the best way you can- stop in for a taco tonight.

Tacos 101 with Bill Esparza ~ Part 3 “The LA Taco Scene”

As a public service to the taco lifestyle, we have asked famed street gourmet Bill Esparza to drop some taco knowledge in this ground-breaking series we call TACOS 101Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

The Crowd

The universally accepted rule of stands and trucks is that where there’s a crowd, you shall find good tacos. This is more applicable in Mexico where there are full on taco wars, a gaggle of stands all serving carne asada for example. Customers will have established the supremacy of a stand over time. It’s always true that a crowd keeps the tacos fresh, with a higher turnover than a slow stand.

In Los Angeles, a place can sometimes be popular for various reasons, look for the crowd, but look for other indicators of excellence too.
(Continued)

Food Trucks ABC: Letter Grades Coming ~ Los Angeles

One of our favorite publications, Food Safety News, has the scoop on last night’s decision to add letter grades for LA’s flotilla of food trucks:

Los Angeles’ fleet of over 9,000 food trucks, a niche culinary fad gone mainstream in cities across the U.S., will soon be subject to the same food safety rules as restaurants in Los Angeles County.

That means rogue food trucks will have to submit to posting their food safety letter grades. Yesterday, the New York Times called the move perhaps the “ultimate sign that this faddiest of food fads is going mainstream.”

According to the Times, food trucks in LA may soon also have to file route maps with the county health department, ensuring that health inspectors won’t have to check Twitter or Facebook to find the street vendors, who typically retain a level of mystery by sharing their whereabouts via social media.

“As with restaurants, health inspectors will be empowered to shut down a truck that scores less than a C for not enough attention to basic safety and food hygiene practices — for example, dirty counters, food left out, unwashed hands,” according to the Times’ Adam Nagourney.

It sounds like a new level of bureaucracy that may stifle some of the fly-by-night attitude of some of the city’s upstart mobile food vendors, but also that consumers may welcome the added scrutiny. It’s amazing how thousands of taco trucks can operate for decades in the city with little or no mainstream interest, but when a few dozen “new age” trucks come on the scene, the city gets moving.

Another Victory in the Taco Truck Wars ~ Unincorporated Los Angeles

TACO TRUCK SAVE THE TACO TRUCKS

While all of this may not be an issue if and when East Los Angeles becomes a city, another victory in the Taco Truck Wars against the forces of the Board of Supervisors and their leader Gloria Molina, has been achieved. The AP Reports:

The great Taco Truck Wars of 2008 appear to have come to a close.

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said Friday that it won’t appeal a judge’s ruling in August that threw out a law requiring taco truck operators to move every hour or face $1,000 fines and possible jail time.

Phil Greenwald, an attorney for the vendors, praised the prosecutor’s decision.

“After all, they’re not selling porn, they’re not selling drugs, all they’re selling is food,” he told The Associated Press. “Carne asada is not a crime.”

Taco Battle Continues ~ East LA

SAVE THE TACO TRUCKS

Gloria Molina, Deputy DA Steven Gates and their anti-taco supporters plan to make the taco truck ban a central component of the County Board of Supervisors fall term. The AP reports:

“All there is to say right now is that we have filed a motion for reconsideration, requesting that the court reconsider its previous ruling,” said Deputy District Attorney Steven Gates. He declined to discuss the basis of Monday’s appeal but said the county requested a hearing Sept. 19.
“We will definitely oppose,” said attorney Philip C. Greenwald, who represents the taco truck drivers.

As we told you last month, the battle has been won but the war is on and getting hotter then ever. Taco lifestylers must be ready to defend the Taqueros of East LA and other unincorporated areas of the city at a moment’s notice. We know we can count on the readers of LA TACO to do the right thing and oppose Molina and her minions. Fight on!

Taco News Round Up ~ Monday, June 9th, 2008

oakland_taco_truck.jpg

Hola taqueros around the world and welcome to this week’s taco news update, with hot taco news action from all over. Did you know that the taco lifestyle has moved up to the #4 most popular alternative lifestyle in the USA! We’re now just behind “Fetish” and ahead of “Motorcycle”, which is a huge step forward for our movement. So get out there and eat some tacos, spread the word, and keep the taco lifestyle going strong.

MODESTO: When is a Taco Truck Not a Taco Truck?
FREY: Author Says Angelenos Consume 250 Tacos Per Year
WINE: Food Pairing– Coastal Chardonnay and Fish Tacos
THE OC: Best Al Pastor in San Juan Capistrano?
SAN DIEGO: Great Fish Tacos at Petco Park
NEBRASKA: Cristinas– Tasty Mexican in Lincoln
BOARDS: Best Tacos in San Diego? Have Your Say

PHOTO CREDIT: “Taco Truck All Stars, East Oakland” by Anarchosyn

Readers Respond to Taco Truck War

Tacos El Cabron by Al Guerrero

The cartoon above is by Al Guerrero, one of our city’s up-and-coming cartoonists and a blogger at our new favorite site laeastsise.com. We also heard from our pals at York Blvd. who send along a “Save the Taco Trucks” online petition: www.saveourtacotrucks.org.

Meanwhile, our poll results are overwhelming– 88% of our readers, who represent a cross section of the taco lifestyle, are against Gloria Molina’s anti-taco truck law. So, vote in the poll, sign the petition, visit the pro-taco truck sites above.

East L.A. Taco War on the Horizon?

save the taco trucks

After passing anti-taco truck legislation last night, the Board of Supervisors must now contend with mobile Taqueros who say they’ll resist the new ordinance. The Los Angeles Times has the following quotes in today’s edition:

They can try to move us, but we’re not going to go,” said Aleida De La Cruz, whose taco truck has been a family business for 20 years. “What are they going to do, take us all to jail?”

“I don’t think it’s a crime to sell tacos for a cheaper price than the established business,” truck owner Eugenio Sanchez told supervisors. “And the people are happy to see us because they say, ‘Finally, we have someone selling tacos.’ ”

There must be a reasonable balance between restaurants and taco trucks. We, the taco consumers are caught in the crossfire of this pointless war, and we call on the parties at hand to save the taco trucks! Sure, it’s no good when a mobile Taquero shows up right outside a taco shop, but there must be a better way to regulate things than this draconian measure, causing popular trucks to move every hour, wasting gasoline, hurting the environment and contributing to traffic problems. We call on the county leaders to think about the war they’ve started and to immediately seek a better solution.

Restaurants Vs. Taco Trucks ~ East LA

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The Los Angeles Times weighs in on the simmering debate over mobile taco wagons, commonly known as taco trucks, in East Los Angeles. The story frames the debate as one of vendors (taco trucks) versus merchants (restaurants). Featuring quotes from both vendors and merchants stating their cases, the story is light on the opinions of the people who matter most– the customers. Followers of the taco lifestyle, please let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Are taco trucks an illegitimate threat to traditional taco shops? Should taco trucks be forced to scurry around the city, changing position every hour? Vote below, then comment on this post.


Taqueros Push Back ~ Los Angeles

SAVE THE TACO TRUCKS

The battle for Los Angeles’ Taco Truck providers heated up on Tuesday night as several taco truck operators stormed the council floor in order to bring a real debate to the staid chamber. According to the Pasadena Star News‘ intrepid city reporter Alison Hewitt:

A county ordinance targeting food vending trucks took some heat Tuesday when a couple dozen truck owners and their lawyer came to the Board of Supervisors meeting to oppose it.

The supervisors had given the ordinance tentative approval last week. But after the vendors’ protested Tuesday, the supervisors put off a final vote, which now could take place next week.

One vender vowed to sue the county unless changes are made to the proposed ordinance.

Specifically, the vendors oppose a 60-minute time limit on parking at one location, even though current county law prohibits such trucks from staying for more than 30 minutes in one spot. The vendors said 60 minutes is still not long enough.

Even worse, they said, was a provision that makes it a misdemeanor to park beyond the time limit. Now, county law calls only for citations for lagging lunch trucks.

The group’s attorney charged that the ordinance, as written, would not hold up in court.

County supervisors arranged an impromptu information session for the apprehensive truck owners, but their lawyer was barred from the session.