Even as a young kid, at no more than eight or nine years old, I wasn’t particularly fond of Tito’s Tacos. Come to think of it, I didn’t really like Mexican food at all when I was younger, but the point is Tito’s did nothing to change my stance. As time went on and and I began to appreciate the realm of tacos and burritos, of relleños and molès and more, I never really returned to the iconic West LA restaurant. Part of that was due to moving further east during my high school years, but more so because I viewed Tito’s negatively, seeing it as overhyped and “Americanized” with it’s shredded yellow-orange cheese and lack of any real spice. Still, the lines remain long day and night, causing me to question whether my taco snobbery was preventing me from enjoying an LA institution with over 50 years of service.
As I drove by just before noon, the long lines I expected to see weren’t so long. I waited no more than ten minutes for the handful of people ahead of me to order, pay, and receive their food before it was my turn. One of the unique aspects of Tito’s is that the person taking your order is also the one making it, leaving little room for mix-ups or mistakes and delivering a personalized service that’s not really found elsewhere, except maybe a deli along the lines of Bay Cities. I ordered two of Tito’s signature tacos – one with cheese and one without – as well as a bean and cheese burrito to ensure that I left full, and a side of guacamole to go along with the chips served with every order. My food was prepared and handed to me in a box in what took all of a minute or two, leaving me to pay and scout out one of the few outdoor tables occupied by a nice mix of families, workers on their lunch break, and even a pair of older women who I imagine were around when Tito’s first opened.
Tito’s Taco with Cheese [$2.50] | Shredded Beef, grated Cheddar Cheese & sliced Iceberg Lettuce within a freshly cooked corn Taco Shell
At first glance, all you see in the namesake taco is a mound of grated Cheddar and shredded Iceberg, but rest assured that underneath lies the shredded beef that has filled the fried shells for over half a century. I actually like the beef’s shredded, juicy consistency, even though the seasoning seemed to be the equivalent of what my mom sprinkled out of seasoning’s packs for Taco Tuesday’s at home. The lettuce was crisp and refreshing, mediating the layer of cheese and greasy taco shell.
Taco without Cheese [$1.90] | Shredded Beef & sliced Iceberg Lettuce within a freshly cooked corn Taco shell
Here we had the same classic taco but minus the cheese. At $.60 cheaper, I really didn’t miss the cheese at all here. I’m usually of the opinion that cheese (like a fried egg) makes everything better, but if you’re on a budget it isn’t a necessity here. Unfortunately, the salsa was watery and rather dull, of little help in livening up the taco.
Bean and Cheese Burrito [$3.55] | Refried Beans and freshly grated Cheddar Cheese wrapped in a hot off the grill Flour Tortilla
A friend insisted that the Bean and Cheese burrito was the way to go here, even placing it ahead of the tacos in terms of what to order. As expected, the burrito was incredibly simple with the grated cheese melting into the runny refried beans to form an amalgam of gringo-esque Mexican flavors. The guacamole (runny like the type found at most taco trucks these days) was a nice addition to what was indeed a filling way to round out my meal.
I left Tito’s with a full stomach and with my wallet relatively unharmed, both positives when it comes to tacos. What seemed to be lacking though, was any discernible real flavor, the type that I associate with most of the Mexican food I’m accustomed to eating, as simple as raw onions and cilantro, a few limes, or even some jalapeños. In Tito’s defense, that’s not their lane, and it hasn’t been since they opened back in the ’50s. Instead, they’ve sought to deliver a sense of nostalgia through consistency; food that is simple in its preparation with minimal ingredients and even-keeled flavors, that likely reminds many of the repeat customers of the homemade tacos of their childhoods. Is the food at Tito’s Tacos overhyped? Perhaps. But does its history and lifelong patrons warrant its label as an iconic destination in Los Angeles? Absolutely.
11222 Washington Pl
Culver City, CA 90230
Dine date: Mon 11.11.13, 12:00p