Sunday, February 25, 2007

Yuca's Tacos (Los Feliz)

The LA taco experience should start with Yuca's in Los Feliz on Hillhurst, which has been run by the Herrera family for years and years (since, I believe, the Bicential of 1976!).

Any one turned off by the line at Yuca's is not a real Taco hunter. For one, the best taco in town is ALWAYS worth a wait. And secondly, the wait at Yuca's is misleading. They turn around orders very quickly. You'll end up waiting in line to order longer than you'll wait for your food. No joke.

What I love about Yuca's starts with the food. Yuca's is the only taco slinger I know -- in the universe -- that has won a JAMES BEARD AWARD! Read the paragraph below and you'll get some history about Yuca's. And yes the food is that good. the other thing I love about Yuca's is they always represent on behalf of the Democrats. That is neither here nor there I suppose but I like the combo of good food, hard working owners (who are themselves a feature of the dining experience), and good politics!

So I swung by Yuca's one afternoon and picked up three tacos and a Yucatan tamale (available only on Saturdays!). As you can see from the picture, my meal was capped off with a Negra Modello. The most common way to eat Yuca's tacos is on the truck of your car in the parking light. Admittedly, they are best right away. And the tradition usually includes getting a drink from the liquor store that shares a parking lot with Yuca's. But sometimes family duty calls and you need to get home. Have no fear, Yuca's tastes great after the drive too!

First off is one of my favorites at Yuca's: the carne asada. The meat is flavorful and of very good quality. Taco comes somewhat dry with no salsa, but Yuca's encourages liberal use of the Yucatan hot sauce which sits on all the tables outside the taco shack. Otherwise the tomatos, cilantro and onions can get a bit dry. But there is no shortage of flavor at all.

Next is the cochina pibil taco. The meat is a stewed pork like carnitas but much more flavorful and saucy. This is the only taco that comes with a sauce per se and it is somewhat novel in Los Angeles. Somewhat similar to al pastor but it is not exactly the same. For me, nearly a unique experience. (I forgot to take a picture of the pibil taco because I got too hungry! So this comes from the blog Taco Hunt 's Bandini. Thanks Bandini!)

The carnitas at Yuca's is totally fine. It's good and I wish I had more to say about it but it's just not as stunning as the care asada or the pibil. Plus I like my carnitas a bit more fried and this is boiled. It's good just not in the top 3 at Yuca's.

The real find for me this latest trip is the tamale. I like a good tamale but find that most are 75% or more corn and 25% or less filling. This tamale is about half as thick as most and is more densly packed and hard. The casing to filling ratio is closer to 55%/ 45% which is great. There is a little bit of mild and light tomato sauce on top. It's tasty for sure. Worth the occasional trip to Yuca's on a saturday. Not enough on it's own really for me. But if I lived right around the corner, I'd pick one up once a month or so for sure.

I hope Yuca's stays open forever. It's an institution. Experience Yucas and you experience Los Angeles history.

2056 Hillhurst Ave, Los Feliz 90027

Cost: very affordable but about twice what tacos froma roach coach cost. a bargain at under $10 a person (and that is a ton of food). Asada taco is $2 cochinita pibil is $1.75. Carnitas is $1.50 I think...
Taste: among the best in town.
Experience: very very worth it!


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