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West SFV taco shops

Switched jobs a few months ago (EPA declared my previous employer a psychiatric superfund site), so instead of working in the chow-less wastelands of Newbury Park, I'm in the comparatively chow-worthy West SFV (all things are relative).

Here are a few notes on local taco shops for your perusal. For means of calibrating my tastes (so you'll know where I'm coming from), let me mention that I prefer burritos to tacos, amd am partial to carnitas and pastor; not a big fan of parts. I worship at Tacos Baja Ensenada, and love the carnitas at Antojitos Denise, Las Cinco Puntas and Roast-to-Go. I believe that La Super Rica, Loteria and Las Fuentes are fine for the doddering gentry, but us proles like flavor. I think El Parian, Uruapan, Ciros and El Tapayec are overrated, but love Tito's. So now that I've offended everyone and undermined any credibility I may have otherwise had, here are my thoughts on West SFV taco shops:

Taqueria El Tapatio
22806 Victory Blvd. (Fallbrook), Woodland Hills
7214 Jordan Ave. (Sherman Way), Canoga Park
Two locations; the Jordan Ave. spot is a simple lunch counter, while the Victory Blvd. spot has tables. Haven’t had anything other than the highly-recommended carnitas (with good reason). The carnitas are crisped on the griddle before serving so they’re hot, porky and chewy-crispy. Yum. I quite liked both the tacos and the regular burrito. The combo burrito (with cheese and extras) had big sections of un-melted cheese.

El Taco Llama
20423 Sherman Way (Oso), Canoga Park
7559 Topanga Canyon Blvd. (Saticoy), Canoga Park
Two things stand out: the spit-grilled pastor and the red salsa (okay, these are the only things I’ve tried there). The pastor can be very crispy-chewy and well-done at time, other times, it’s been sitting in the pan for a while. Burritos sometimes have a bit too much rice for my taste, but the salsa makes up for it: thick, brick-red, smoky and hot. It reminds me of the salsa at El Taurino. Question: one very busy night at the Taurino truck, I saw the staff cutting open a big, sealed plastic bag of the salsa. Is that salsa from a food service? If so, maybe the Taco Llama salsa is the same as Taurino’s. Fun note: the Topanga location has what looks like a bullet hole in one window.

El Taco Loco
7144 Owensmouth Ave. (Sherman Way), Canoga Park
No rice in the burritos here; I liked that. Just meat, beans, onions, cilantro, and salsa, as God intended. Solid, if unspectacular. I liked both the carnitas and the chili relleno burritos. The potato tacos were disappointing, however.

La Coronita
7011 Canoga Ave. (Vanowen), Canoga Park
Hat tip to tenom dude for his posts.
This is my current fave. Love the breakfasts; huevos rancheros, huevos con salchichas, etc. served with rich-tasting beans, surprisingly good rice and often handmade tortillas (the tortillas are always freshly made, but sometimes they use a tortilla press). The burritos are huge and quite good. I ordered a carnitas plate once, which wasn’t bad...some of the carnitas was a bit too fatty, but they included a rib bone with divinely crispy meat...which made my day. The tamales are pretty good and the shrimp taco isn’t bad at all.

Taqueria El Parian
8414 Topanga Canyon Blvd. (Roscoe), Canoga Park
Not “the” El Parian (which IMHO is overrated), but is quite nice. Tried the pastor burrito, which was the saucy pastor rather than the grilled type. Quite tasty sauce though. I would definitely go back.

Oso Meat Market-Taqueria
21915 Roscoe Blvd. (Topanga Canyon Blvd.), Canoga Park
Didn’t like this at all. Not much in the burrito other than rice.

Taqueria Mexico
20905 Roscoe Blvd. (De Soto), Canoga Park
Large tacos; the asada and pastor were quite decent. Tried the breakfast burrito once; huuuuge torpedo stuffed with eggs, meat and whole beans. Did a great deal of damage to my system, but knowing me, I’ll probably do it again.

Vallarta Supermarket Taqueria
21555 Roscoe Blvd. (Topanga Canyon Blvd.), Canoga Park
The breakfasts are decent, and cheap. Not as good as La Coronita, but can’t complain. The carnitas are solid, with a good porky flavor, and not too dry. No complaints.

Chevron Grill Restaurant
22756 Vanowen Blvd. (Fallbrook), West Hills
[Insert gas with your gas joke here]. Chevron station with in-store taqueria, open for breakfast, too. Tried the pastor burrito, which was surprisingly good. Saucy rather than grilled pastor, which was quite tender and had a nice sauce with a good mixture of sweet, spicy and tangy.

Taqueria El Jalisciense #1
21922 Schoenborn St., (Topanga Canyon Blvd.), Canoga Park
Didn’t care much for this place. Mediocre carnitas. Fish taco was all cheese and cabbage. Nothing special.

Las Fuentes
18415 Vanowen St. (Reseda), Reseda
Ummm...I don’t get the hype. I mean, they forgot to add the flavor. I like flavor.

La Tortilla Loca
18134 Sherman Way (Reseda), Reseda
Hat tip to Just Larry for his review.
Had the fish taco lunch plate. As Just Larry wrote, the fish tacos were enjoyable and cheap. Certainly not TBE or Taco Nazo, but it’s not a 50 mile drive either. The tortillas were freshly made and thick (IIRC hand made). Good value. Can’t complain.

Burrito Factory
21032 Devonshire St. #103 (Variel), Chatsworth
Boasts of 59 Burritos or something. More Cal-Mex than Mex. The pastor burrito was actually pretty good. Huge, saucy and messy to be sure, but it had a good flavor.

Tacos El Cosas
21915 Devonshire St. (Topanga Canyon Blvd.), Chatsworth
Tried it once years ago and liked it. Tried again and didn’t. The carnitas was dry and didn’t have much flavor.

Tonys Pupuseria
7152 Remmet Ave. (Sherman Way), Canoga Park
Ok, not mainly a taqueria, but a little shop that specializes in pupusa and tamale. I liked the pupusa, though admittedly I’m no expert. I also quite liked the richly-flavored chicken tamale, which was very moist (I’ve had some Central American tamale that were made with rice and masa mixed...these seemed like that) and had chunks of chicken, potatoes and tomatoes. Don’t know that I’d drive across town for ‘em, but quite good and different from most tamale.

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  1. Wow, thanks. I need to do the definitive research because I'm just starting to make my own tortillas, black beans and less doctored carnitas.

    Have you done extensive research on other cuisines on my turf in the west SFV? I haven't found any decent thai, though I've found the definitive vietnamese banh mi -- La Baguette on Reseda just north of Sherman Way.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pezworld

      I hesitate to call anything I do extensive research rather than sporadically obsessive grubbing. Still, banh mi is one of my occasional obsessions. As for West SFV, none of 'em compare to any of the places along Valley Blvd. or in Westminster, but there close by, so... In any case, here are my thoughts:

      Van Sandwiches
      18625 Sherman Way (Reseda), Reseda
      Recently remodeled. Tried three or four banh mi from this place, but can’t recall details, other than I quite liked them. Bread is toasted, grilled meats are good and the dac biet filling is also good.

      Papillon Bakery
      18521 Sherman Way (Reseda), Reseda
      Small lunch counter inside the Cali-Mex grocery store. Eight or so different banh mi, though they’re usually out of the fillings for many of them. Pretty decent banh mi dac biet, but the banh mi w/ grilled/roast pork is a little gristly. Bread is toasted rather than freshly baked. Very slow service, and it’s disconcerting to see the sandwich artist wipe her runny nose and keep on going, but...

      Saigon Sandwich
      7219 De Soto (Sherman Way), Canoga Park
      Recently remodeled to look like more of a hip boba place (prices went up, too). The menu was streamlined and reduced to four sandwiches from about ten. I’ve tried only the “combo” (dac biet), which seems a bit bigger than most other banh mi, and comes with cucumbers and IIRC lettuce in addition to the usual carrot-daikon, cilantro, and jalapeno. Not bad. Bread is toasted (don’t think that any Valley place has rapid enough turnover to serve freshly baked bread).

      La Baguette Saigon
      72451⁄2 Reseda (Sherman Way), Reseda
      Wasn’t too crazy about this place. Don’t recall whether I tried the chicken or grilled pork, but I remember thinking it was a bit dry and dull. However, I may have ordered poorly; I’ve found that some places may have poor grilled meat banh mi, but have excellent cold banh mi. I’ll try it again.

      Give these a try and let me know what you think...

      1. re: yclops

        Wow. Thanks!

        Though I've said before here, Saigon Sandwich has gone downhill so much since the remodel that it's inedible (BBQ pork, awful dry pressed meat and what's up with the iceberg lettuce?), while I love La Baguette (grilled pork, incredible sauce, not dry at all). Maybe you had the chicken.

        That banh mi place inside the grocery store has a name? I'm in awe of your research. Feel free to discuss another cuisine for the West SFV as extensively ... I'm a fan!

    2. Well, as thorough as the list is, I still feel that Carrillo's Deli on Sherman Way in Winnetka is more than a worthy addition. They do so many things right. Just west of Smart & Final store.

      1. There is also Sabroso located @ 19714 Vanowen St
        Canoga Park, CA 91306-3928
        Here is the link to a map for it:
        http://maps.citysearch.com/location/2...

        1. This may be too much to hope for, but is the Taqueria El Tapatio related to the taqueria that used to be on Ventura Blvd. in Tarzana? I loved the pastor (definitely the saucy type) and the pico de gallo.

          You mentioned the El Taco Llamas in the very west valley. There are several in the east valley as well, and also one on Reseda Blvd. (around Sherman Way, iirc). I know there are some ownership differences between the branches, so I'm not sure how they all compare. Some are definitely worse than others, e.g., avoid the El Taco Llama at Haskell and Vanowen at all costs.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Jwsel

            I live close to the one on Reseda/Vanowen, but I far prefer the one at Corbin/Parthenia.

          2. Thanks for the other recs, I'll try Sabroso and Carillo's (I think I've avoided it so far due to poor experiences at the Carillo's in Simi).

            As for El Tapatio, I dunno if it's related to the old Tarzana one, but if you like saucy pastor, try El Parian On Topanga.

            1. Just had amazing al pastor tacos from Taqueria El Tapatio (the one on Fallbrook and Victory.) The al pastor was juicy, with crispy edges, and spicy, with little flecks of red pepper. Came with onions and cilantro. Also came with crispy tortilla chips to scoop up the excess al pastor. I was looking for a place that had tacos similar to King Taco and I found them! 4 al pastor tacos set me back $6. The place was busy and I was the only non-Latino. Wish they had shrimp tacos. I only saw shrimp tostadas.

              6 Replies
              1. re: sibaik

                Yclops-Where are these places you say you worship at? What a comprehensive list you have provided. wow!

                BTW I often see two taco trucks in front of the park on Topanga Cyn at about Devonshire 2 blocks south of Ralphs Market. Have you tried them?

                1. re: SIMIHOUND

                  Hey, Simihound...unfortunately the places I listed as worship-worthy are downtown/East LA. Plenty of info on them in the archives.

                  Tacos Baja Inc. 5385 E WHITTIER BLVD LOS ANGELES, CA 90022
                  Antojitos Denisses 4060 E OLYMPIC BLVD LOS ANGELES, CA 90023
                  Los Cinco Puntos 3300 E CESAR CHAVEZ AVE LOS ANGELES, CA 90063
                  Roast-to-Go in the Grand Central Market

                  In the past year, La Coronita and El Tapatio have become my clear favorites in the West SFV, almost to the exclusion of any of the others. La Coronita has a chile rojo burrito with nopale strips that is wonderful. El Tapatio's carnitas are as good as ever, and the pastor, as sibaik described perfectly, is excellent.

                  As for the taco trucks, I've seen them but never tried them. Don't think I ever will at this point as I just moved from Simi Valley to rural Colorado last week. I'll travel back on business from time to time, but I fear my exploring days are over.

                  BTW, just before I left Simi, I tried a new pupuseria in Simi. I quite liked the pupusa (though admittedly, I'm no expert), and also liked the chicken and potato tamale. Like the ones at Tony's Pupuseria, the masa was very moist likely due to added rice. Enjoy!

                  RESTAURANTE Y PUPUSERIA CLAVEL
                  3010 LOS ANGELES AVE
                  805-526-3421

                  1. re: yclops

                    Yclops,
                    Thanks for the rec's. East LA is not too far to go for good food. I had not heard about the pupuseria and I am surprised I haven't noticed it-Simi aint that big ya know. Well now I have a new place to explore. Enjoy rural Colorado. If you dont mind...e-mail me the city you have moved to. I am looking for the right place to move to in about two years if things go my way.

                2. re: sibaik

                  I worked in Woodland Hills back in 1999... and at that time El Tapatio was one of the few options for decent Mexican in the area. If I remember correctly, the owners & cooks hail from Chapala... and as such their best dishes are actually the Mariscos. Camarones a la Diabla & Cocktails were particularly good. Also, the cooks usually have something on the stove for themselves... they would always save some Nopales or Calabacitas for me...if you make friends with them...you can get the real stuff there. Also, I remember a good, soul satifying Caldo de Pollo... but beware you may find a whole drumstick or thigh in the soup... for some reason this puts off some gringos.

                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    I just stopped in El Tapatio today, after running a bunch of errands, and did a to-go order of the 2-taco combo (al pastor and chorizo) and at the last minute I also ordered the camarones cocktel & tostada -

                    i drove home smelling the delicious tacos, and when I got in the house,I was ravenous. The chorizo and the pork were great, and the beans with a little cheese was damned good, too! But I wanted to taste the camarones, so I eased off a bit on the comb.

                    The cocktail had been packed to go in a tall styro cup, like you'd get a large soft drink. When I opened it, first all I saw was red tomato juice and some floating slices of avocado. when I spooned into it, I found the shrimp.

                    They were plump and crisp and perfect, and the tomato juice and lime sauce was sweet and delicious, with crunchy diced onions and tomatoe, and cilantro. I could only eat a bit, so I saved the rest for dinner - It was fantastic then, too.

                    The seviche was also good - fish and bay shrimp, I think, but it was all overshadowed by the delicious shrimp cocktail. Man, it was good!!!! And what a great price - the shrimp cocktail + seviche tostada combo was only $10; and the taco combo was only $6 or so. I had way more food than I needed - it fed me for three meals!

                    when I was waiting for my take out I read the menu and realized that it was Saturday and I COULD have ordered posole or birria - so next time I go there I will try one of them.

                    1. re: gsw

                      Glad its still I good and recommendable.