Taco Al Pastor aka “shepherd style tacos” are my favorite of all street tacos. Fundamental to a taco al pastor is achiote-marinated pork shoulder seasoned with chiles and Arab-inspired spices fire-grilled on a vertical spit called a trompo. The shaved meat is then combined with onions, cilantro, and pineapple with one or more salsas and deposited into corn tortillas. These tacos represent a tasty evolution of the tacos árabes advanced by the Lebanese immigrants to Mexico in the early 20th century.
Bill Esparza, the de facto king of taco writing in L.A., once declared Tacos Tamix’s Taco Al Pastor ($1.50) to be one of the “Top 3” tacos al pastor in Los Angeles. On my first trip to Tamix, during the day, I was incredibly disappointed. The grilled pork was seemingly shredded into small pieces, and I saw no trompo spit around. There was a heavy amount of cinnamon involved to the point where it was challenging to taste the other elements of the adobada marinade that coated the meat. The inoffensively bland tortilla was pulled from a bag. The taste and texture of the meat itself was fine, but this was a far cry from one of L.A.’s best. In Bugtussle, Kentucky this would fly as a good taco, but in L.A. it was a tick below average.
A year later, I tried Tacos Tamix again — this time at night — and the Taco Al Pastor was a different experience. In the evening, a free-standing trompo with glistening pork spins, from which a skilled taquero calmly and swiftly carves thinly-sliced meat into the tortilla. The cinnamon flavor was still strong, but the marinade was both sweeter and more piquant. The tender strips of pork were not chopped small, but rather slashed into wobbly chunks that are unlike the tightly-shaven, crispier, stickier, and more caramelized pork adobada from other al pastor specialists in the city. Regardless, unlike my previous experience at Tacos Tamix, this tasted like one of L.A.’s better tacos al pastor, and I could see why Esparza once evangelized it.
The tripa (aka small intestines from a cow) in the Tripa Taco ($1.50) had more of a musky and “mineral” taste than I would prefer in my tripa. Not sure if this was due to the meat or the prep, but I would urge caution unless you a true tripa fanatic: most people like eating entrails that do not actually taste like entrails. These kinda do.
Lastly, the Taco de Asada ($1.50) is a decent beef taco. Here, the “steak” is chopped into tiny bits, and well-seasoned with salt and ground chilies to the point where the meat is piquant without a salsa. There is no mesquite fire-grilling going on here, and the steak is chopped so small it is impossible to know what cut they use. I wouldn’t call this a carne asada taco, but it is nonetheless interesting.
This truck on South Hoover in Pico-Union is co-located with a gas station and has a few tables and chairs for guests to consume their tacos at. The salsa provided is alright, a bit soapy, but usable. These tacos do not need it.
In short, don’t bother coming here for the Taco Al Pastor any time before 5:30pm, which is reportedly when the trompo is stood up. This is an evening taco spot and your experience can be considerably different depending on when you show up — truly night and day.
Taco Scores: Tacos Al Pastor (94), Taco de Asada (80), Taco de Tripa (75)
Jay Recommends: Taco Al Pastor, but only after 5:30pm
Tacos Tamix; 1900 South Hoover St, Los Angeles, CA 90007; Monday through Saturday from 10:00am-2:00am, Sunday from 4:45pm-2:00am; (323) 743-5206; https://www.instagram.com/tacostamix