The Day The Rolled Taco Died

Benito’s La Cienega Reincarnated

It’s Thursday night. Time for a quick stop at Benito’s Taco Shop, “L.A’s original taco shop.” My preferred locale sits menacingly across the street from a prostitute motel right there on La Cienega Blvd.

MMMM, I can taste the hand rolled tacos. It’s always been a question in the back of my mind why they insist on referring to these fried cylinders, filled with shredded beef and smothered in cheese and guacamole as tacos when they clearly should be called taquitos. Perhaps it’s the brown man trying to make the white man feel better for his serious denunciation of Spanish (Yeah, Im calling you out Steve Lyons).

It matters not.

I continue to peruse the menu I have so diligently committed to memory. While others were busy with all sorts of tables, be they multiplication or periodic, I was gettin down with my man Benito and his crazy Californian concoctions.

Maybe the carne asada tacos will grace my taste buds with an exuberance unmatched this side of calle Olvera.

I look next to me and the guy in the Maserati is staring at thine hungry eyes right through my cracked window. Listen, just ’cause I drive an ‘86 Honda prelude with no passenger side view mirror, and a roof that caves in ever so slightly, doesn’t mean you can…Oh, I’m drooling. I can’t help it, whenever my mind’s taste buds start acting up they need to be quenched in a way only Benito’s knows. Speaking of quenched, I’ll also take one large Horchata, for here, por favor.

I park, and glance at the new paint job. It’s that peculiar day-glow orange. They must share the same painter as Oki-Dog. Now all they need are some arcade games and plastic trees.

There is a faint sense of doom that clutches my taco dreams, but I’ve experienced such things before. I was in Mexico once, and I had some red beans and rice. Upon ingestion, I felt a Mexican anvil plunge deep and, well, I still have nightmares.

This being the land of Letters (I was so proud when Benito’s got their B), though, I know that I have nothing to worry about.

I look up and…great mother of Quetzalcoatl, it’s gone! Benito’s Taco Shop is no more. As I stand here on this boulevard of broken dreams, I look up and shed a tear. It rolls down my cheek and I swear to the god of tacos that it’s a tear al pastor.

Was it the health department? Nay, there are a host of health violators, none of which includes Benito’s. Denny’s? Yes. Victor Benes? Yes. Benitos. No!

Was it the cleaners next door? Those bastards don’t have the balls.

Was it George Bush? Maybe. Whatever the reason, this is truly the day the taco died.

Compose yourself. Benito would not have wanted you to act in such a way. I feel like, in some small sense, that it’s my fault. If only I fulfilled my Rosh Hashanah new years resolution and patronized this glory hole of Mexican/American food more often.

Perhaps I should take to heart the words of the great Montezuma when he said, “It’s fucking over and there’s not a god damned thing I can do about it now.”

I look around, not sure what action I should take next. I have an empty stomach and three dollars to burn. I sit down on the curb and out of the corner of my eye a red glint of 450 Italian horses come rolling past my curb.

It is Maserati Man and he looks me directly in the eye with a hint of pity and yells something unintelligible, but, at first listen, sounds like jusgotabev. I replay the message in my head, trying to glean some intelligible order of words.

Jusgotobev. Jus go to bev. Just go to bev. Of course…Just go to Beverly! Benitos #2 on Beverly Blvd (“next to Gas Station,” writes

Thank you, Maserati Man, for illuminating my barren, burrito-less landscape. Though the loss of the OG Benito’s forced all manner of tears on this taco-hardy soul, I am comforted by the Benito’s siblings.

Well all must move on.

Benito would have wanted it that way.