The taco is to Angelenos what the slice of pizza is to Manhattanites; they inspire fanatical loyalty and everyone has a favorite joint.
I was recently initiated to one by Raymond and Lisa, a quintessential LA couple (he works for a digital film lab in Hollywood; she is a sculptress with a studio in Santa Monica) who like good food, frequently eat out and every weekend go to Paco's Tacos.
We had chosen the spot as a meeting point to take a mutual out-of-town friend to the airport and had to rush through a blur of deep fried chips and salty vinegared carrots, a basket of pillowy flour tortillas handmade on the premises. My hastily ordered taco de carnitas arrived as a thick, soft, white corn tortilla holding juicy shreds of roasted pork, but we were running out of time and I wistfully had to wrap it up. (It was still very tasty several hours later in the car.) We will surely be back at Paco's Tacos but in the meantime here is how to make your own:
Prepare the filling:
-skirt steak (often sold as carne asada in West coast supermarkets)
-2 teaspoons of ground cumin
-1 teaspoon of dried oregano
-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
Dry rub the steak with spices and grill, about 3-4 minutes per side.
Warm the corn tortillas, fold in half and fill in the following order:
1) carne asada, cut into strips
2) a handful of something crunchy (shredded iceburg lettuce or cabbage)
3) a spoonful of something creamy (sour cream or guacamole)
4) finally, salsa fresca and maybe crumbled Mexican cheese
For the salsa fresca
2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/2 white onion, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon of lime juice
salt to taste
(method adapted from Mark Bittman)
Paco's Tacos Cantina
4141 S. Centinela Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90066