Friday, July 19, 2024

Famed pastor slinger Leo’s Taco Truck adds Long Beach to its list of permanent homes


Leo’s Taco Truck, the massively popular and idolized taqueria that is known for its pastor, has officially added Long Beach to its growing list of permanent homes as its parked for the first time this past week at the southwest corner of Wardlow Road and Palo Verde Avenue off of Los Coyotes Diagonal.

And yes, it is the same Leo’s Taco Truck that Bad Bunny featured in his video “Ojitos Lindos.”

So why is Leo’s Taco Truck such a big thing—some might even say hyped?

Leo’s Taco Truck first parked up at the northwest corner of La Brea Avenue and Venice Boulevard a decade ago, kitty corner to a Taco Bell to throw some extra shade and introduce the neighborhood to what it had long been bereft of: tacos al pastor.

Soon, the gas station lot was filled with late-night taco seekers—many of them coming out of a double-feature over at the Cinefamily on Fairfax—mesmerized by the massive trompo stacked with layers of pork, glistening red with achiote and topped with pineapple. And at one dollar a piece, it quickly became what could largely be considered the pastor staple of the Los Angeles region.

It has since grown to 11 trucks (if we include their Long Beach one), with each having a lore of its own with loyalists arguing as to which is the superior Leo’s.

The battle of street vendors and food trucks continues with restaurateurs

While food trucks have become practically normalized throughout Los Angeles—largely thanks to a permitting process that certifies the truck as graded-by-health-inspectors food operations—they share a frustrating history with food vendors, who are still trying to find their way as legitimate food businesses like food trucks did in years past.

Restaurateurs argue that the seemingly excessive red tape they face to open their spaces is immediately dismissed by street vendors, who set up shop freely with outdoor griddles, no running water, and little oversight. This argument was provided when food trucks began skyrocketing in popularity—and the restaurant industry understood and therefore largely supported a pathway to permitting for trucks.

Street vendors have now become the new food truck, with both restaurateurs and food trucks often battling with street vendors; it is what leads the City Council in Long Beach to vote this week on whether it will require permitting and insurance for street vendors.

The cultural ideological struggle is real: On one hand, the fact that most of the many street vendors are simply trying to make a living and introducing an essential part of their own heritage is only compounded by many of their undocumented statuses; this is the work they feel safest doing. Because let’s be honest: street food rules the world outside largely Westernized spaces, where our food ways are largely dictated by going to restaurants—so street vendors, as humans trying to succeed, wins hearts.

On the other hand, the lack of oversight frustrated restaurant owners, who feel like the (often tens of thousands of) dollars they spend on maintaining certain standards and garnering permits becomes moot: They can simply move their grill outside and ditch the heavy costs.

It has resulted in some fairly gnarly interactions—Long Beach not exempt: Most recently, vendor Tacos La Juquilita posted a video on their Instagram account showing Ricardo M. Villalobos, the owner of the La Taquería Brand chain, assaulting one of their stand’s taqueros in Long Beach.

Leo’s Taco Truck is located at the southwest corner of Wardlow Road and Palo Verde Avenue off of Los Coyotes Diagonal.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.


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