I’ve been eating at Sky’s Gourmet Tacos on and off since I was a high school student at nearby L.A.C.E.S. in the mid-00’s. I had just begun to venture out into the taco expanse of Los Angeles, and Sky’s was one of the first places I came across. Their shrimp taco instantly had me hooked, especially when the only other competition at the time was my mom’s ground beef and Lawry’s seasoning variety. As my taco experiences grew and I ate tacos in other city’s, states, and even countries, I would still come back home craving the seasoned, semi-crispy corn tortilla loaded with plump shrimp and doused in “Sassy Sauce”.
I was surprised to learn that Sky’s, under the vision of founder Barbara Burrell, has been in operation since 1992. When Roy Choi rolled out his Kogi taco truck in 2008, he was generally credited with sparking the fusion craze that has since spread across the country, but Burrell’s “Southwest meets Louisiana” cooking may have actually had him beat by a good sixteen years. As it stands now, Sky’s menu features the typical tacos, burritos, nachos, and quesadillas. Seemingly ordinary enough, until you see options like turkey, crawfish, and mahi mahi, as well as plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, that add a “splash of soul,” as their website puts it, to the otherwise standard Mexican fare.
I returned to Sky’s to see how it’s held up over the years and where it ranks among all the other tacos I’ve eaten in the years since I first discovered it.
Tilapia Taco [$3.89] | a corn tortilla with our freshly made cole slaw, cilantro, and a slice of lime
First out of the kitchen was what appeared to be just a heap of cole slaw atop a steamy tortilla, but hidden underneath was a tilapia filet hot off the grill. I was doubtful about having cole slaw on a taco, but it was light enough and not too mayonnaise-heavy as to take away from the very mild flavors of the fish. I would’ve actually liked the fish to have had a bigger presence on the palate, but it was still an enjoyable alternative to my preferred Baja-style fish tacos.
Authentic taco [$1.59] | Carne Asada grilled with onions, cilantro, in citrus juice, served on two mini corn tortillas
The authentic taco was exactly as its name implies with seared chunks of citrus-marinated asada topped with onions and cilantro presented in typical street fashion, with two small corn tortillas providing the base. I generally prefer my asada on the dry side, but the juice of the marinade along with the garlicky-green salsa were delicious here. Of course, you can easily find similar asada tacos for an even dollar on corners all around town, but for a restaurant with a slightly different vision, this was on point.
Shrimp Taco [$3.99] | two corn tortillas, lettuce, tomato, cilantro, Sky’s Sassy Sauce
Interestingly enough, the shrimp taco that I had such fond memories of was the least impressive of the trio. The shrimp themselves were tasty, but the Sassy Sauce slathered on was too saucy. This caused the semi-crispy corn tortilla (only one despite the menu saying two) to rupture as the insides spilled out in every direction. The shredded lettuce and rough-cut tomatoes didn’t add much either.
You don’t survive over two decades in the restaurant business for no reason, and Sky’s Gourmet is certainly doing a lot right in order to maintain their loyal customers as well as attract new ones. Their commitment to providing vegan and vegetarian selections shows their willingness to answer the needs of their customers. I ended up more impressed with the tilapia and asada tacos than I was disappointed with the shrimp, perhaps for no other reason than my taste in tacos has veered toward the more authentic side rather than Bayou-inspired.
So is Sky’s Gourmet Tacos one of the city’s premier must-try taco spots? Probably not. But if you’re in the area and craving the familiarity of Mexican with the southern comfort of Louisiana influences, than Sky’s has you covered. Don’t forget a glass of their addictive sorrel lemonade to wash it all down.
Sky’s Gourmet Tacos
5408 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
Dine date: Mon 11.4.13, 8:00p