Los Angeles has a long-standing relationship with taco carts and trucks. Starting in the 1930s on Olvera Street, gathering steam in the 1970s with King Taco, and reaching cult status when Roy Choi started selling Korean barbecue tacos outside downtown clubs. Once the mold for traditional tacos was busted open a new style of modern Mexican-American cooking began emerging in Los Angeles – a style dubbed Alta California Cuisine by local food writer Bill Esparza. After that, it didn’t take long for someone to come along and completely redefine what we in L.A. expect from a taco. That someone is Wes Avila. He and his impromptu food truck, Guerrilla Tacos, have ambushed our taco scene, all for the better.
Guerrilla Tacos: Recipes from the Streets of L.A.
The menu at Guerrilla Tacos always changes. Some days you may find classics like Chile Colorado, but you’ll also find wild boar tacos and shishito pepper tacos with fried egg and pepita salsa. There’s mussel and preserved lemon quesadillas, and tostadas piled high with sea urchin and tuna poke. There’s also a book, Guerrilla Tacos: Recipes from the Streets of L.A., featuring these same L.A. style tacos, quesadillas, and tostadas.
What the book and the truck have in common is their ingredient-driven aesthetic. “I like to use ingredients that keep us interested in what we’re doing,” says Avila, whose best-selling menu item is the now ubiquitous sweet potato taco. “I’m not blocked off or walled off by borders – if I want to use Russian or Armenian or Japanese ingredients, I’m going to use them.”
After all, this is Los Angeles. A city of remarkable diversity and opportunity.
Chile Colorado Tacos
However, despite his multi-cultural, new school approach to cooking Avila grew up just east of L.A. in Pico Rivera savoring the traditional Mexican-American fare his parents brought to the table. These influences are what help keep his recipes, if not quite traditional, then at least laced with a smack of hometown authenticity.
This blend of sensibilities can be seen in his version of the classic Mexican-American comfort food – Chile Colorado. Avila’s recipe is influenced by the simple guisado (stew) his father made and he calls it “proudly inauthentic”. Though I suspect this recipe, with its big burst of bright green tomatillo, is less inauthentic than it is proudly L.A. style. GREG