The Busiest Taco Truck in Town

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Last weekend I paid a visit to Chinito in Boyle Heights. After a brief, cerveza-fueled respite from the heat in his kitchen, we embarked upon a culinary and cultural mini-tour of sorts in the neighborhood with but one destination in mind: THE BUSIEST TACO TRUCK IN TOWN™. Read all about it after the jump…

Across Olympic and just down the way from the mural-laden Estrada Court housing projects sits mariscos proprietor “4 Vientos No. 2″. Keep an eye out for multi-colored umbrellas, the glint of sunlight on silver, and surging crowds. When you spot all three in the same block, you’ve arrived.

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4 Vientos No. 2 serves seafood. Lots of it. Shrimp tacos, tostadas, cocteles, the works. It’s a popular joint. Busy. Ask yourself the following: How many taco trucks in town offer…

  • An adjacent indoor dining room replete with napkins & salsa on every table (believe it! hasta luego, milk crates)
  • Oysters on the half shell. Buy one! Buy a dozen!
  • A crowd so dense that rapacious vendors have set up shop on its fringes, hawking everything from toilet paper to soccer balls…and/or both at the same time
  • A crowd so dense that a rapacious competing marisco truck has set up shop just down the block, itself also prone to side vendor action

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Shrimp Taco
The primary reason we sought the busiest truck in town rests on the plate above. The taco is nothing short of a culinary masterpiece: a sizeable corn shell is stuffed with sauteed shrimp and spices, deep-fried until crisp and drowned in a concoction of house salsa, cheese and avocado. Requisite onions and cilantro round out the equation. Recommended.

Flashback. 4pm PST. Undisclosed location, 1st street. Curbside.

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Pineapple Taco
Prior to ingesting shrimp tacos at 4 Vientos No. 2, our first stop of the day was at an undisclosed location on 1st street. No truck; just a minivan operating out of an automotive lot in broad daylight. One cook, one cashier. Al Pastor was carved from the spit and accented by a massive slab of pineapple, offering a sensation that can only be described as heavenly. Probably it has no equal, though I have yet to sample the acclaimed wares of a certain Highland Park front yard. Grilled peppers were not to be toyed with, however: it has been some time since I felt the wrath of an ordinary jalapeno as strongly as I did here.

Flash Forward. 6pm PST. Cesar Chavez.

With pastor and shrimp tacos in our bellies, it was time to digest and visit the local muffler shop/ice cream parlor/museum. I first demanded a brief detour past the Latin Playboy to verify two things: (1) the establishment is no longer up for lease, and (2) yet another letter has fallen from the signage. Following visual confirmation on both counts, we headed to Whittier Blvd.

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El Pedorrero Mufflers
I must be honest: Setting my eyes on El Pedorrero Mufflers (4101 Whittier), I was certain the establishment was created by a state fair carnie who’d finally left the circus and opted to open a muffler shop. Apparently, however, such is not the case. Each color holds a deeper significance (read about the color scheme here; more background – in spanish – here). One kind soul has already flickr’d this place, so dig the close-ups my shitty camera phone could not afford here. Really, though, you should see this place in person as soon as possible if you haven’t had the chance.

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El Mercado/ito
El Mercado has been exhaustively covered in recent days by the ever-reliable and entertaining El Chavo. As such I will postpone the commentary, but advise the reader that the dueling Mariachi restaurants on the top floor must truly be experienced firsthand. Grab a table, grab a margarita and prepare yourself for the blast of the trumpet. Don’t like the band on your stage? Turn your chair around. New band. New stage! I ended up in the middle, on the fringe: best of both worlds, trumpets blasting in both ears, playing a riveting game of Marvel Super Heroes with a five-year-old kid and, I might add, taking him to task with my prowess, juggling 32 oz. of Agua de limón all the while. Take that, kid.

Day’s End: Tamale Road
The last meal of the day took place at Liliana’s Tamales (3448 E. 1st Street), an orange façade situated just across the street from El Mercado. Our party had grown and it was a real toss-up between Liliana’s and 5 Puntos as to where we would spend the tamal portion of the day, but the popular vote eventually swung to Liliana’s. My camera’s battery was dead at this point, so this is where the story ends.