Under $10: The Surfer Taco
Tacos de camaron! That’s deep-fried, right?
OK, add one of those as well.
Here I am rolling the dice at an incredibly goofy-looking truck just off Sixth street. Let’s do this and get it over with…
The Surfer Taco
Sixth @ Witmer (a few electrifying blocks west of the 110) (Pacific Dining Car-adjacent)
DID THEY TWEET YOU THE LOCATION? LIKE THE KOGI?
1 de chorizo
1 de asada
1 de camaron
1 Jarritos Refresco de Mandarina
QUANDARIES AND HUNGER-WROUGHT POSTULATIONS WHILE MARVELLING AT TRUCK
- Item: Why does the truck have an “under the 10 freeway” Washington Blvd address written on its side?
- Item: Did these clowns really fork over the cash and “reg up” (®) the name for this operation? (Somebody with free time, please do verify or debunk)
- Item: If they did ® the name and we’re so protective of our brands all of the suddenly, let’s have ConocoPhillip76’s take on being the official sponsor of The Surfer Taco.
ABOVE: Pre-masticated dry-as-shit tacos. Clockwise from left: Asada, Chorizo.
HOW WERE THE $1.25 TACOS?
Well, the meats managed to dodge many typical taco pratfalls with surprising deftness. Chorizo was not rubbery; asada had no chunks of gristle waiting in ambush. Problem is, both tacos were bone-dry pre-sauce. I make it a point to begin each taco sans additives for at least one bite, in the event the chef knows what s/he’s doing (call it a prelude to a kiss). These things were flavorful, but the overall effect of those first unforgiving, astonishingly dry bites had me puckering like Sylvester the Cat after Tweety slipped him “alum”, and I rushed back to the cubbyhole for a bebida refresca…and any salsa I could manage (keep reading). Tacos should never be bone-dry pre-sauce; hell, the chorizo grease alone was supposed to be running over my hand and staining my shoes upon impact. Worse, the tortillas were either not grilled, or not grilled enough, as they were clammy and cold. On to the counter. No radishes on counter. No escabeche on counter. (Surf’s up! Where the fuck did all the escabeche and radishes surf off to? Waimea Bay?) No limes on counter. Limes went to Huntington did they? Fuck off. No grilled jalapenos; jalapenos all went up to County Line for the massive swells. Couple napkins provided; otherwise, no napkins on counter. No silverware on counter. Silverware went down to El Porto with the quad fin short boards early this morning. Condiment rundown: One enormous bottle of Tapatio, two crusty bottles of obligatory red-and-green in-house salsas and the mysterious remains of a chunky, worse-for-wear, incandescent green tomatillo. All of the aforementioned containers and elements within have without doubt seen better days than the day they were having at the time of visit.
HOW WAS THE $1.50 SHRIMP TACO?
Note well: Frozen battered cafeteria shrimp dropped in ancient “please drain and replace now” oil, removed, blanketed with copious cubed tomatoes and a depressing bed of shredded iceberg folded into two cold tortillas with a vat of mystery orange, taco-bell-baja-aping sauce on the side maketh not a shrimp taco. Believe me when I say that I very nearly threw it at the cows straddling the venerable Pacific Dining Car’s sign just across Sixth. This was not the worst taco I have ever had, but it came dangerously close, so “epic failure” appears to apply.
Then again, maybe I’m spoiled. This is what a good shrimp taco looks like, and what I more or less expected when I ordered the same dish @ The Surfer Taco. You can find this taco in Boyle Heights, on Olympic:
This is what the afternoon line for a good shrimp taco looks like:
This is the shrimp taco at The Surfer Taco:
And for good measure, this is what the afternoon line at The Surfer Taco looks like:
In its defense, the line alone will have me coming back to The Surfer Taco before you ever catch me waiting in an hour-plus line for the Kogi BBQ phenom, but Kogi is a separate post entirely celebrating the ever-fascinating Los Angeles phenomenon mentality. Next year I am going to launch a line of full-service catering, twittering, dj-inclusive $7 cupcake trucks, go hog wild for six months and retire and/or buy The Surfer Taco truck for something truly subversive.
Back to that surf report, then. How exactly does one eat The Surfer Taco’s version of the shrimp taco? Bad news bears all ’round. Look at that pile of tomato and whatnot. You can’t roll it. You can’t even bend it. The tortillas are out-of-the-package cold, but the shrimp have come straight out of the fryer and are still sizzling hot, scalding your hand through the cold tortillas every time you attempt any maneuver. For better or worse, depending on how much you like this taco, you get a lot of shrimp. I had to start by pulling a few out and dipping them in the sauce, and I don’t know which was less pleasing to me, the taste of the oil which smacked of the remains of one billion shrimp fried back in the mid-’90s (WAY pre-twitter), or the taste of the sauce. (Just retched again writing it down.) I’m over it though, so let’s continue.
This is the corner where The Surfer Taco can typically be found. Once you spot this corner, you are close:
If for some reason you are unsure whether or not you have arrived at the correct corner when you spy this corner, turn to your left, walk over and look at the side of The Surfer Taco for verification. The truck has helpfully plastered a gigantic photograph of this verysame corner on its side (Dig the price of gas in the photo; “ST” is already a museum piece for this reminder alone):
This is a surfing taco wearing funky sunglasses, from what I can tell:
And this is a taco-inquisitive dog who arrived with a lady that ordered an energy drink para llevar. Hell no little one, get your own. All mine. I don’t care how bad they are:
After the lunch I did some digging to see if Bandini ever hit up this joint back in the day when he actually wrote. Of course he did. Problem is, he gave it a four-out-of-five rating a couple years back and no way in hell would I agree with that. (In all fairness, he graded the al pastor.) At my visit the condiments he talked up were absent, the tacos were dry, the salsa was questionable but most importantly, the taco de camaron, hastily scribbled on cardboard right by the ordering cubbyhole thusly inspiring you to order it, was in my mind an unholy abomination that should never have seen the light of day, to say nothing of the 10 minutes the staff and I cumulatively wasted waiting for the shrimp to fry in that vat of sludge. The truck, however, really is a funny sight to behold as consolation, and the staff (two girls periodically distracted by some sort of local would-be Casanova during my visit) was very cordial.
The Surfer Taco
Sixth @ Witmer
Note: If you go, please try different dishes and add to the discussion. I want them to succeed; my gut tells me they have to be doing something right at some level.