El Dollar Taqueria - Wasco, CA

At least once a week I drive down 7th Standard/Merle Haggard Highway on my way into town from visiting the oilfields, and I pass the same taco truck seemingly stranded on the side of the road. More often than not, by the time I pass by I am full of empanadas from El Sol De Guadalajara bakery, but it was time to find out how they were single-handedly holding down this stretch of highway.

I pull up among a group of white work trucks, so it seems one lady alone is providing a service to the field and factory workers operating close by. Birria, Lengua, Cabeza, Carnitas, and chicken were all available to be done up into tacos, burritos, or tortas, but I chose to play it safe and conservative with an Asada burrito.

Looking down into my bite mark I can see a veritable Mexican cornucopia spilling out. Deep red chiles and dark green cilantro accent blackened steak while a solid supporting cast of rice, beans, and onions fill out the lightly toasted tortilla. My only complaint lies in the cut and quality of steak I received. More than a couple bites were met with chewy gristle which can take even the most devout right out of the joy in great tasting food. 

Either way, I am undeterred. The promise written in the tastes contained within this burrito ensure I shall return to sample the other offerings. Especially after seeing the ever-elusive birria on menu. 

Be sure to ask for a side of hot sauce. The red adds a good heat with even more flavor. 

El Sitio - Ventura, CA

Nuzzled in snugly to Django’s Coffee House in Ventura, CA is a small, unassuming delight. My guide on this adventure raves about the al pastor, so we decide to split a burrito and load up on salsas. 

Being our third burrito of the day, one may question the voracity of our appetites, but rest-assured the allure of marinated pork swaddled in a thick chewy tortilla can coax a growl out of the fullest of stomachs. 

image

Succulent and tender bits of pork were buried deep in a fiery spectrum of rice, beans, and spices. A welcome counterpoint to the airy cuts of shark and substantial chunks of steak. Lesser spots may try to skirt by on the same pork used for the carnitas only to dress up the differences between al pastor and chile verde as the sauce one uses, but this pork had the char of slow braising after being massaged with spices to differentiate from such imposters.

The salsas were fresh and effective, but I fancied the orange habanero most for its complexity and heat.

By far the most out of the way spot located in a quiet neighborhood in the more suburban part of Ventura, but well worth a stop to round out the day. 

Three more remain as we prepare for the return of Chris the Sound Guy and his episode showcasing the burrito adventure in its full splendor. 

onekidneyjoe replied to your photo “I went to Santa Paula and Ventura to hit some of the spots you guys…”

The shark burrito sounds amazing. I haven’t eaten shark in a long time, but i really enjoy a good shark steak.

This was my first time eating shark. Shark steak sounds amazing!

I went to Santa Paula and Ventura to hit some of the spots you guys had recommended as well as record an episode for my friend’s local radio show: Chris the Sound Guy here in Bakersfield. It will be airing this Thursday @ 5pm, and the entire one hour episode documents our burrito adventure down in Ventucky. I will be posting a link to the podcast once it goes live. 

One of FIVE stops on our coastal excursion is Surf N’ Taco located on Baja Bay in the marina. Ocean air seasons the meal with lapping waves and sail boats visible from the parking lot. Halibut and shrimp options worried my underdeveloped sea palette, but when I read “Shark” the decision was made.

My shark burrito arrived in an with freshly fried chips in an ocean blue cardboard tray. The cross-section cut revealed a gorgeous shark filet surrounded by rice, beans, cheese, and cabbage with a verde salsa on the side in a cup. The bite was tender and flaky with a clean finish. No disturbing sea funk contaminating the flavors. 

This was a welcome respite from the heavier contenders of the day allowing my waistline to breathe a little bit before resuming the fray. 

The chips and salsa were forgettable leaving Chris no other option but Tapatio for spiciness. 

Not every day do I get to eat Jaws or consume the meal equivalent of shark week, so I definitely recommend Surf & Taco to lovers of seafood. 
Some behind the scenes information for those wondering. Yes, we ate 5 burritos, but 4 of those were cut in half for a couple of reasons. One, we didn’t want to get so stuffed as to not be able to give proper reviews, and two, cutting the burrito in half allows for pretty pictures. The day of reviews was spread out over about 8 hours. I suggest using some form of this technique if you wish to emulate a burrito adventure.

Tinga - Los Angeles, CA

Sometimes a place gets me on a personal level. The style and delivery at Tinga on La Brea in LA fits right into my aesthetic. From the taco and burrito inspired art of Brett Westfall plastered over the walls, including some great murals in the bathrooms, to the southeast Asian meets southwest American inspired cuisine. If I were to tell someone how I want a restaurant to look, this would probably be it.

imageI ordered the chicken tinga burrito and short rib tacos to split with D. Of course, I threw in a few cold lagers to wash everything down. The shredded chicken swims in a chipotle sauce which reminds me of a peanut curry with black beans, gaucamole, lettuce, chipotle salsa, montery jack, and crema creating a wonderfully rich bite all piled into what appears to be a scratch-made tortilla. Every bite made me wonder why there isn’t more Mexican/Indian fusion in the world. Channa samosa chimichangas for days.

The braised short rib tacos were less than stellar with the beef slightly under-seasoned although fall apart tender, and the fluffy rustic handmade tortilla ripping underneath the weight of all the fixings. I may not have minded so much if the taco tortilla added flavor or texture, but it was spongy in the wrong ways and overall bland. Kind of surprising due to the emphasis on tacos in the Tinga menu. The ingredients were a bit tryhard here with ginger and shitake marinade, pickled red cabbage, salsa verde, papas bravas (rough-cut roasted potatoes), queso fresco, and crema. Interesting flavor combinations to be sure, but they lack cohesiveness. It felt like culinary shock and awe leaving my pallet with PTSD.

Great service, a nice selection of seasonal light beers, and a window painting of a taco cowboy riding a unicorn elevated the entire experience to a whole new level. A lot can be said for the relaxed atmosphere and sense of humor at Tinga. I hope to explore more of their menu with the conchita pibil and lamb adobo at the top of my hit list. 

imageI know you wanted to see it. 

El Azteca - San Diego, CA

I have been doing a lot of traveling up and down California seeking the best of the best in burritos which leaves me with a ton of great content I will be supplying over the next few weeks.

Recently, my travels brought me to sunny San Diego in hopes the proximity to the border would lend itself to quality Mexican food aplenty. A bit of research and luck later brought me to El Azteca in La Mesa.

Unassuming hole in the strip mall that it is seemingly promises nothing new, but D and I pushed through and ordered THE breakfast burrito.

A trend in SD I began noticing was a lack of options. I have grown accustomed to ordering a burrito while specifying the meat, but on more than just a few occasions the burrito on offer was the only one of its kind. An approach I prefer because I know I am being served what they are confident in making, and it eliminates the extraneous costs of keeping a multitude of meats on the ready.

What arrived was simple enough: potatoes, scrambled eggs, melted cheese, and cubed ham accompanied by a red bottle of house hot sauce, but after one bite everything had changed. This simple arrangement of perfectly prepared breakfast staples lifts above the fray staring down with judgement on all lesser breakfast abominations. What magic is this? Why is this so tongue-numbingly good?

First, the ham takes you by surprise. Not many places opt for the ham as the go to breakfast burrito meat filler, and if they do, too often it is the stuff of bargain basement deli counters. This is different. Sweet and salty play against the full-bodied potatoes. The cheesy scramble spreads evenly throughout leaving nothing untouched by the mainline injection of hell yeah, so every bite left me proclaiming the possibility of a heaven and pondering the burrito I may find there.

I was halfway through before it occurred to me to touch the salsa bottle, but I’m glad I did. A comforting heat rose up through sweet tang of the red, and I began to squeeze it over every bite.

One burrito alone made the trip worth it, but, luckily for me, there were so many more magical experiences I can’t wait to share. Some of the best burritos I have ever had. Until then enjoy a sexy close up.

image

hiilarymuff:

burrito-life:

Burritos and Privilege
The amount of sheer joy I derive from living in California in such close proximity to some of the best food America has to offer is often hard to put into words. My town alone has a large population of Latinos, Sikhs, Vietnamese, and a host of various Asian transplants which elevate the local cuisine to delectable heights.


There are mosques and temples, fish markets and panaderias, flea markets, outdoor malls, and a host of experiences to initiate the curious, but I have found the easiest way to learn about a culture is through their food. 



Growing up in Bakersfield there has been no shortage of exposure to Latino culture from quinceaneras, school assemblies with folklorico dancing, weekend swap meets, pinadas, day of the dead celebrations, and the majority of my friends’ families who fed and helped raise me into who I am today. 



However, I think a lot of people take for granted this diversity, and some have even come to expect the world to kowtow to their whims. Due to their inherent privilege they assume a level of comfort and respect at all times, and when that is encroached upon they are willing to write off an entire experience.



People sometimes tell me the place I recommended to them had rude service, they were ignored, or they felt like they were being talked down to, and, more often than not, this is a white person entering a predominantly non-white establishment. It is not hard to imagine the same experience is often flipped with non-whites in a white establishment feeling patronized or disrespected by an assumed prejudice employee. Neither side’s intent has to be prejudice, but the perception of a new experience can be distorted by ignorance.



Once, I was ordering pizza in the Bronx, and I was confused as to why the guy at the counter would not take my money. He handed me my slices, gave me the drinks, and there was nothing left for me to do but take it to my table and eat. After repeated attempts to hand him money he looked at me with disgust. I paid after I ate and later asked a cab driver why this happened, and he explained that the guy was Italian and most places in New York have more of a “European” way of doing things: you don’t pay until you have eaten your food. Here I was righteously indignant when I had been the rude one inadvertently offending him.



This was reinforced at The Algonquin when I waited for a half hour on my check in a not that busy restaurant. I later discovered rushing me out of a table is a faux pas. On both these occasions I thought I was being messed with, but it is just the way things are handled in that culture. In California the server is flipping tables as fast as possible to get the next tip in, but by the end of my stay in New York I was having 1 to 2 hour meals. 



It is no secret America has a rich history of not being kind to others, and those in the privileged class grow used to privileges. When the kitchen tables have turned and said person of privilege finds themselves on the receiving end of discrimination one should chalk it up to an adventure in empathy rather than an excuse to demonize an establishment. Remember that the next time you perceive something off about your service. It is a privilege to get to partake in their culture and have them prepare their food for you. The price of the meal buys so much more than food, but it does not buy you respect. Like anywhere else, respect is earned, so be thankful for the opportunity to earn it. 


So, I’ve been brewing over this post for a minute and let me just tell you, I absolutely love what you have to say. Especially that last line “the price of the meal buys so much more than food but it does not buy you respect”. So many great points in your post, But there are a few things I see in this post that don’t really come off right and lemme explain to you my experiences. 
I also live in California, I actually live in LA which you well know is an extremely well cultured metropolis. 
I’ve been to many Ethiopian, Indian, Greek, Italian, Mexican, south/central/west African, Arabic, middle eastern, Persian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Mongolian, Cambodian, Thai, and other ethnic restaurant establishments. I am very mixed, I look white but half of my family is Mexican, black, and Italian, and the other half is many generations back American Norwegian/German. I also grew up in a home where my mother cooked foods from all the countries listed but we would go to these restaurants and try the foods first and then go home and try to replicate it, so I have a palette for many different types of foods. 
So back to the point, EVERY ethnic establishment has a complete different experience. When we went to most Indian towns to pick up spices and chai teas and jasmine rice we would get treated like we did not know anything. We would ask for something and they would look at us as if we were stupid… And trust me… They fluently spoke English. But we always gave them the benefit of the doubt and came in super nice and bubbly and call them by name if we could remember and try to make our presence comfortable. Really Just to trying to warm up to them. It wasn’t till we came back many times that they started treating us with respect, which would take months sometimes years. The same with many Ethiopian establishments, they would really treat us like shit honestly, we would go to their restaurants and they would serve people of their own ethnicity first and very quickly, but it would generally take maybe 45 minutes for us to just get tea or water and when when we would try to talk to them or ask them questions hey would be very fidgety and or would look down on us, this happened at a few different restaurants in LA. 
Most Greek, Mexican, and Mediterranean establishments were VERY sweet, always very nice. This place for instance called papa cristos, the owner is about 4’8 and he is famous around LA for always going around and speaking to new customers (and there are a lot!) and we always loved it and the food is absolutely amazing. The best Greek food in LA. We always come back their and buy the spices, wines, sangak, flour, and they have the best home made falafels. 

Now the point I’m trying to get at is that it is all from perspective, some places are LEGITIMATELY being rude because they may be prejudiced to white people and who knows what they’ve been through? Who knows what they’ve had to deal with when coming to America? It’s probably terrible and I can never know how it feels. But what I’m trying to say is that when you come to America why not mold your service so that the demographic and people of your culture may benefit from the diversity of foods, clothing, and music you have to offer? A painting is not made from one color and so not all of the same race are exactly the same. we should be try to be inviting to everyone! I’ve had terrible experiences going to other places and meeting other cultures but I’ve never ever been prejudiced to others nor do I have the desire to. Just cause an Ethiopian man or woman was mean to me doesn’t mean I will be mean to another Ethiopian person I meet on the streets. Be nice to EVERYONE. Learn the cultures of where you are planning to establish yourself and try to make your presence comfortable and not something as a burden.

First, thank you for taking time to construct a response to my article. I am glad you found it interesting enough to initiate a conversation, and I think you, as well, make some great points. 
I hope my post did not come off as defending prejudice, but more that tolerance in the face of perceived intolerance is a valuable skill. The phrase “more flies with honey” comes to mind…
Further to the point, like you said, a lot of ethnicities arrive in America escaping intolerance, war, oppression, and sometimes even the systematic dismemberment of their culture. Wanting to carve out a part of the land to create a safe haven for their people to practice and behave how they choose is what America was supposed to be all about. 
As a white person, I do not think it truly possible to fathom the importance of culture and history because there is no parallel. So much of being white in early America pushed people to assimilate by stripping away any defining characteristics for general acceptance and financial success. Any strong association my family could have had to the many histories we descended from are all but lost, so I have a lot of respect for people who seek to protect themselves from a similar fate.
America seems to deliberately want to forget its own culture while absorbing everyone else’s, and this can be extremely problematic. It is observable in fashion with the appropriation often of sacred garb and jewelry for cute looks. 
One day, perhaps we can all be nice to each other, but for every person like you who wishes the world to be as one there is an anti-you whose existence justifies inherent defensiveness. Yes, some places are just plain rude. If they are not providing a meaningful service to the community, especially to those of their own culture, they will most likely go out of business. Capitalism takes care of that. 
People with prejudice are ignorant, but that does not always make them malicious. Sometimes it is a defense mechanism developed through a series of failed experiments in trust with the other. Personally, the only way I see to overcome these defenses is to be the best ambassador I can be and try to initiate conversations like this one. 

hiilarymuff:

burrito-life:

Burritos and Privilege

The amount of sheer joy I derive from living in California in such close proximity to some of the best food America has to offer is often hard to put into words. My town alone has a large population of Latinos, Sikhs, Vietnamese, and a host of various Asian transplants which elevate the local cuisine to delectable heights.

There are mosques and temples, fish markets and panaderias, flea markets, outdoor malls, and a host of experiences to initiate the curious, but I have found the easiest way to learn about a culture is through their food. 

Growing up in Bakersfield there has been no shortage of exposure to Latino culture from quinceaneras, school assemblies with folklorico dancing, weekend swap meets, pinadas, day of the dead celebrations, and the majority of my friends’ families who fed and helped raise me into who I am today. 

However, I think a lot of people take for granted this diversity, and some have even come to expect the world to kowtow to their whims. Due to their inherent privilege they assume a level of comfort and respect at all times, and when that is encroached upon they are willing to write off an entire experience.

People sometimes tell me the place I recommended to them had rude service, they were ignored, or they felt like they were being talked down to, and, more often than not, this is a white person entering a predominantly non-white establishment. It is not hard to imagine the same experience is often flipped with non-whites in a white establishment feeling patronized or disrespected by an assumed prejudice employee. Neither side’s intent has to be prejudice, but the perception of a new experience can be distorted by ignorance.

Once, I was ordering pizza in the Bronx, and I was confused as to why the guy at the counter would not take my money. He handed me my slices, gave me the drinks, and there was nothing left for me to do but take it to my table and eat. After repeated attempts to hand him money he looked at me with disgust. I paid after I ate and later asked a cab driver why this happened, and he explained that the guy was Italian and most places in New York have more of a “European” way of doing things: you don’t pay until you have eaten your food. Here I was righteously indignant when I had been the rude one inadvertently offending him.

This was reinforced at The Algonquin when I waited for a half hour on my check in a not that busy restaurant. I later discovered rushing me out of a table is a faux pas. On both these occasions I thought I was being messed with, but it is just the way things are handled in that culture. In California the server is flipping tables as fast as possible to get the next tip in, but by the end of my stay in New York I was having 1 to 2 hour meals. 

It is no secret America has a rich history of not being kind to others, and those in the privileged class grow used to privileges. When the kitchen tables have turned and said person of privilege finds themselves on the receiving end of discrimination one should chalk it up to an adventure in empathy rather than an excuse to demonize an establishment. Remember that the next time you perceive something off about your service. It is a privilege to get to partake in their culture and have them prepare their food for you. The price of the meal buys so much more than food, but it does not buy you respect. Like anywhere else, respect is earned, so be thankful for the opportunity to earn it. 

So, I’ve been brewing over this post for a minute and let me just tell you, I absolutely love what you have to say. Especially that last line “the price of the meal buys so much more than food but it does not buy you respect”. So many great points in your post, But there are a few things I see in this post that don’t really come off right and lemme explain to you my experiences. 

I also live in California, I actually live in LA which you well know is an extremely well cultured metropolis. 

I’ve been to many Ethiopian, Indian, Greek, Italian, Mexican, south/central/west African, Arabic, middle eastern, Persian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Mongolian, Cambodian, Thai, and other ethnic restaurant establishments. I am very mixed, I look white but half of my family is Mexican, black, and Italian, and the other half is many generations back American Norwegian/German. I also grew up in a home where my mother cooked foods from all the countries listed but we would go to these restaurants and try the foods first and then go home and try to replicate it, so I have a palette for many different types of foods. 

So back to the point, EVERY ethnic establishment has a complete different experience. When we went to most Indian towns to pick up spices and chai teas and jasmine rice we would get treated like we did not know anything. We would ask for something and they would look at us as if we were stupid… And trust me… They fluently spoke English. But we always gave them the benefit of the doubt and came in super nice and bubbly and call them by name if we could remember and try to make our presence comfortable. Really Just to trying to warm up to them. It wasn’t till we came back many times that they started treating us with respect, which would take months sometimes years. The same with many Ethiopian establishments, they would really treat us like shit honestly, we would go to their restaurants and they would serve people of their own ethnicity first and very quickly, but it would generally take maybe 45 minutes for us to just get tea or water and when when we would try to talk to them or ask them questions hey would be very fidgety and or would look down on us, this happened at a few different restaurants in LA. 

Most Greek, Mexican, and Mediterranean establishments were VERY sweet, always very nice. This place for instance called papa cristos, the owner is about 4’8 and he is famous around LA for always going around and speaking to new customers (and there are a lot!) and we always loved it and the food is absolutely amazing. The best Greek food in LA. We always come back their and buy the spices, wines, sangak, flour, and they have the best home made falafels. 

Now the point I’m trying to get at is that it is all from perspective, some places are LEGITIMATELY being rude because they may be prejudiced to white people and who knows what they’ve been through? Who knows what they’ve had to deal with when coming to America? It’s probably terrible and I can never know how it feels. But what I’m trying to say is that when you come to America why not mold your service so that the demographic and people of your culture may benefit from the diversity of foods, clothing, and music you have to offer? A painting is not made from one color and so not all of the same race are exactly the same. we should be try to be inviting to everyone! I’ve had terrible experiences going to other places and meeting other cultures but I’ve never ever been prejudiced to others nor do I have the desire to. Just cause an Ethiopian man or woman was mean to me doesn’t mean I will be mean to another Ethiopian person I meet on the streets. Be nice to EVERYONE. Learn the cultures of where you are planning to establish yourself and try to make your presence comfortable and not something as a burden.

First, thank you for taking time to construct a response to my article. I am glad you found it interesting enough to initiate a conversation, and I think you, as well, make some great points. 

I hope my post did not come off as defending prejudice, but more that tolerance in the face of perceived intolerance is a valuable skill. The phrase “more flies with honey” comes to mind…

Further to the point, like you said, a lot of ethnicities arrive in America escaping intolerance, war, oppression, and sometimes even the systematic dismemberment of their culture. Wanting to carve out a part of the land to create a safe haven for their people to practice and behave how they choose is what America was supposed to be all about. 

As a white person, I do not think it truly possible to fathom the importance of culture and history because there is no parallel. So much of being white in early America pushed people to assimilate by stripping away any defining characteristics for general acceptance and financial success. Any strong association my family could have had to the many histories we descended from are all but lost, so I have a lot of respect for people who seek to protect themselves from a similar fate.

America seems to deliberately want to forget its own culture while absorbing everyone else’s, and this can be extremely problematic. It is observable in fashion with the appropriation often of sacred garb and jewelry for cute looks. 

One day, perhaps we can all be nice to each other, but for every person like you who wishes the world to be as one there is an anti-you whose existence justifies inherent defensiveness. Yes, some places are just plain rude. If they are not providing a meaningful service to the community, especially to those of their own culture, they will most likely go out of business. Capitalism takes care of that. 

People with prejudice are ignorant, but that does not always make them malicious. Sometimes it is a defense mechanism developed through a series of failed experiments in trust with the other. Personally, the only way I see to overcome these defenses is to be the best ambassador I can be and try to initiate conversations like this one. 

Huckleberry - Santa Monica, CA

Huckleberry is an upscale bakery and cafe located back in my old partying grounds of Santa Monica, but being the struggling musician with a taste for dangerous consumables that I was I would have never had the funds to finance such an excursion. 

But here I am, a fairly-compensated member of the working class and the threat of a $13 breakfast burrito only pisses me off as I produce the twenty from my wallet. All told I spent $18 when I added the bottle of coke to the mix, and I can’t imagine what a burrito would have to do for me to justify this expenditure on the regular. 

imageA grill-pressed burrito, handful of freshly fried chips, cup of salsa, and a cup of sour cream (for dipping?) are arranged nicely for dramatic photo opportunities. Rich golden browns and vibrant greens are the first hints towards the caliber of burrito I am bearing witness to, but my first bite is betrayed by a lack of texture diversity. 

imageThe flavor is here. Fresh avocados with well-seasoned potatoes and fluffy organic omelette-style eggs contribute to terrific breakfast goodness, but the almost complete lack of Niman Ranch nitrate-free bacon, which I paid $1 extra for, creates an overall mushy mouth feel. By the end of the burrito the flavors had all blended together. I ended up holding the burrito like a dip container and used the remaining chips’ saltiness to help break up the monotony of rich flavors. 

I’m not entirely sure if I was just unlucky, but the bacon present was akin to bacon bits and not the roughly chopped strips I am used to. What price point allows for 2 strips of bacon? Do I want to know?

I left Huckleberry a little richer with knowledge and a little poorer with money. $6 at Lucy’s or Lucky Boy can buy the Robin Hood of burritos to steal Huckleberry’s lunch money and redistribute it to the more efficient, so unless you hate money don’t waste your time on this one.