Thursday, May 30, 2024

Long Beach Taco and Tequila Festival moves to DTLB this weekend—here are your must-visits


It marks year three of the Long Beach Taco Festival—and with a new location in DTLB (and free entrance to those who registered early), the folks behind organizing it—LB Living—wanted to continue the tradition that lifts up the humble-but-mighty taco to new heights in Long Beach.

And while this year’s festival brings in the great state of Jalisco—celebrating its 200th birthday in Mexico—to the northern stretch of the Promenade at Mosaic, the main thing will be not just tacos but uplifting Mexican culture.

“As a person who was born in Mexico, it’s always been important for me to find ways to highlight my culture,” said Sal Flores-Trimble, a Jalisco native and longtime Long Beach resident, said about organizing this year’s festival. “To have the state of Jalisco join in our celebration makes it nearly impossible to describe how heartwarming and comforting it all is. It feels like a true melding of Jalisciense culture and Long Beach culture.”

So are the spots you gotta visit?

Los Reyes
Los Reyes del Taco Sabroso shows off their cochinita pibil after cooking, one of their offerings for this year’s taco festival. Photo by Brian Addison.

Cochinita pibil, barbacoa de borrego, and tacos dorados from Los Reyes del Taco Sabroso

For those that might not know, tucked into an unassuming building at the northwest corner of Junipero and Anaheim is what could easily be Long Beach’s most dedicated and beautiful ode to the vast, region stretching food of Mexico, with its heart at Mexico City—and it will be participating in this year’s festival for the first time.

Learning from their family members in Tabasco, the crew’s cochinita pibil is a wonder to behold, cooked slowly across hours under the delicate wrap of banana leaves, this pork-centric beauty is the perfect pairing to the space’s most bold offering: barbacoa de borrego—or lamb barbacoa.

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A taco with barbacoa de borrego—lamb barbacoa—sits in front of a taco de cochinita pibil from Los Reyes, two of their offerings for this year’s taco festival. Photo by Brian Addison.

What was once a regular offering on the menu—but only becomes a special since it strangely didn’t sell well—it is a stellar example of how to perfect a meat that can come off as gamey to some: Delicate, fall-off-the-bone strips of lamb stuffed into a hearty tortilla before being doused in the space’s habanero salsa, this is a taco to behold.

Not that exploratory? Get their tacos dorados, where chicken-stuffed, rolled tortillas are deep fried and slathered in crema, salsa verde, cotija, and lettuce. The result? A savory, citric bomb.

EvilCooks ThePoseidon ERecinos 8 of 9.jpg
The ‘Poseidon,’ pulpo al pastor, from Evil Cooks. Photo by Erwin Recinos/LA TACO.

Lengua trompo (oh yes), black pastor, “Poseidon,” and the McSatan taco from Evil Cooks

Ever since El Barrio Cantina first invited them to the shores of Long Beach, L.A.’s “gothtromp” masters Evil Cooks have been long- and warmly welcomed guests—and they are back in the with husband-and-wife, king-and-queen Elvia Huerta and Alex Garcia. They’ve created a pastor heaven that not only earned them a spot on the Los Angeles Times’s Best 101 Restaurants in 2021 (despite not having a brick-and-mortar) but has rightfully garnered them a cult-like following.

Their famed black pastor—a beautiful sight to behold: a trompo stacked thick with lines of pork and pineapple that are drenched in Huerta’s famed black pastor sauce—is making its way to the shores of Long Beach along with their equally stellar (if not slightly better) octo-trompo creation that is their pulpo al pastor.

And, for the first time in Long Beach, the happily deranged McSatan taco, a cheeseburger taco that comes with bacon and avocado—and is a true reflection of the pair’s ability to happily mess with senses about the boundaries of Mexican and Mexican-American food.

But perhaps most hyped? A trompo stacked with slivers of lengua, happily fulfilling the lovers of tongue in a world oversaturated in birria de res and carne asada.

And don’t forget Evil Cooks’s Long Beach origins: In Los Angeles, they are known as the Gothtrompo pioneers, using their own take on the Yucateco adobo-like paste called recado negro to create pitch black versions of pastor that are as visually luring as they are tasty.

In Long Beach, they were known as the humble Torta Wednesday masters at the now-closed Los Primos restaurant near 6th and Atlantic, the very gig that brought Evil Cooks to life.

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Signage on 4th Street for El Barrio Cantina. Photo by Brian Addison.

TacosTadas from El Barrio

Speaking of El Barrio, the cantina which replaced Ashley’s (in what seems like eons ago) has quickly become a neighborhood staple: Through seemingly constant and consistent collabs that push the boundaries of Mexican cuisine here in the region, Chef Ulises Pineda-Alfaro of El Barrio has created community.

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And their menu for this year’s taco festival reflect the beauty of their summer offerings: There’s an ahi tuna tostadita doused in salsa macha—where heat and umami combine seamlessly. The smokey wonder that is the ceviche marinero makes an appearance. Salmon slathered in garlic and ginger—a play to Pineda-Alfaro’s love affair with pan-Pacific flavors—is on the menu.

And for the vegans, there’s an artichoke and jicama taco that I am as intrigued as I am excited to try.

In other words: Go—because this event supports and is about community. And that deserves our love and money consistently.

Long Beach Taco and Tequila Festival will be held on the northern stretch of the Promenade above 3rd Street at Mosaic in DTLBFor tickets, click here.

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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