It’s hard to imagine that there’s a place out there serving food that I’d want to eat all the time. Which is why it perplexed me to see Mexicali Taco pop up on several LA foodies’ foursquare accounts again and again. And again. I was curious, but not that curious back when the only way to sample the fare was to drive downtown after 8:30 pm Wednesday through Saturday.
Luckily for us (and for the rest of Los Angeles), proprietors Javier Fregoso and Esdras Ochoa have now relocated to a brick-and-mortar establishment with regular hours (11 am to 10 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am to 12 am, Friday and Saturday) in Chinatown. On a recent Saturday, we went to investigate why Mexicali has such a loyal following.
Mexicali may have gone stationary, but the new place still gives off a food truck vibe –- it’s a no-frills, order-at-the-counter kind of place, and long, bright red picnic tables and benches constitute the only seating. With an atmosphere this low-key, it’s almost as if they believe the food will speak for itself, huh?
Yup. That’s about right. The food doesn’t just speak, it screams, “I AM DELICIOUS AND YOU WILL DREAM ABOUT ME TONIGHT WHEN YOU GO TO BED!” At least, that’s what our cachetada (classic tostada) with carne asada and savory aioli chipotle sauce (below, right) expressed. This is by far the best carne asada we’ve tasted in the city, wonderfully chewy and flavorful without any of the dryness so typical of the cut. And that sauce...we'd happily shell out mucho dinero for jars of that sauce to slather on all manner of proteins at home. It washed down well with some cebada (below, left) an ice-cold, light and sweet barley horchata.
A miscommunication at the counter resulted in another cachetada, this time with chorizo. While not quite as good as the carne, it's still a crave-worthy dish. We also sampled the basic Mexicali pollo tacos.
Another trip to the counter resulted in our finally getting to try Mexicali’s signature item, the vampiro: a crispy "quesadilla"" filled with more of that phenomenal carne asada and topped off with an awesomely pungent creamy garlic sauce. As if it wasn’t enough to serve some of the best street food in Los Angeles, Mexicali really steps up its game by offering the option to add a fried egg on anything and everything (by ordering your food “Ranchero” style) for just $.75. Obviously, we took this option, and obviously, it was amazing, as the runny yolk combines with the garlic sauce in the most delightful of ways.
Consider us converts. While it’s a little far from us to rack up enough visits to compete for the foursquare mayorship, the food is good enough for us to be constantly thinking up excuses for heading in Mexicali’s direction. Again and again. And again.