Drive past the corner of La Brea and Olympic on a Tuesday night around ten o’clock and there will invariably be a hungry crowd of likely intoxicated Angelenos lined up for a plate full of tacos from El Chato. Holding down the empty lot at Harry’s Collision Center every Tuesday-Saturday night, El Chato is one of the city’s most popular taco destinations, and for good reason. The menu is simple: tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, with a standard selection of meats. The burritos can be hit-or-miss, sometimes too spicy and other times overrun with beans (on this particular visit I overheard three different people request easy on the beans), and while the quesadillas are definitely solid, it’s the tacos that are the highlight here. Smaller than your typical taco and priced at a beyond reasonable dollar per, they come laced with onions, cilantro, and either a salsa roja or verde. You can ask for any of the accoutrements on the side, but “con todo” is the only way to go for me.
Unlike other trucks, Chato seems to do execute all of their meats really well, as there isn’t really a bad item on the menu. Their lengua is some of the best around, tender and a bit fatty, almost corned beef-esque, while the cabeza is slow-cooked to the consistency of pulled pork with a rich, beefy flavor. Standards like carne asada and al pastor are also on point, the carne asada receiving just enough smoky char from the grill to balance the heat from the accompanying salsa. Though the al pastor isn’t quite on the same level as Leo’s Tacos, it’s still good enough to warrant ordering. My only real gripe with El Chato is that some of their meats, namely the carne asada and al pastor, are chopped too finely. The asada borders on ground beef territory, a shame because the flavor is spot on. The same goes for the al pastor, which is shaved from the trompo in bulk and then chopped into tiny pieces and placed on the grill. Despite my one gripe, El Chato continually proves itself to be one of Los Angeles’ premier taco trucks that rarely, if ever, disappoints, and is always a likely stop for me on any given night.
*This post was originally written for, and can also be viewed at, Qualmes.com
La Brea & Olympic (Southwest corner)
Los Angeles, CA
Dine date: Tues 06/11/13, 10:00pm