Last week's taco report -- el parian (los angeles), el super burrito (pasadena), and a random taco truck (pasadena - fair oaks/california)
On my quest to replicate my transcendent taco experience in TJ a couple months ago, I've been on a so cal taco quest. Thanks to 'hounds research, I have a long list to work with. My first stop, was the highly rated El Parian.
Visited on a Wednesday night, about 8pm. Only 2 tables filled -- didn't think that was the optimal time to go. Ordered 1 asada and 1 birria taco (how big can they be, I thought?) The answer: BIG. The asada was very good. Thick chunks of meat - cubes really, very tasty -- a bit too juicy for me -- i like juicy, but a ton of juice dripped out as I took bites). The birria taco I was very much looking forward too - but was disappointed. It was WAY too oily and not very flavorful. The tortillas were disappointing and a bit dry. The chips served were atrocious - very stale -- as if they'd been sitting out for a week. (Tacos are $2.25/each). When in the neighborhood, I'll go back and give the asada taco another try.
The find of the week was El Super Burrito. Trying to figure out what to do for lunch, and still on my quest to find a good taco, I drove by the shack. A few people eating at the outside tables. I know I've driven by this place many times, I think it's been there for years. Ordered 1 asada and 1 chicken taco to go. $2.60 was my total. As I waited for my order, I looked over the menu.... lots of tempting items (they seem to have just about everything -- burritos, quesadillas, taquitos, tostadas, enchiladas, pozole, menudo, and a lot more). When I got back to work, I discovered my gems. Both tacos were wrapped in one foil package - keeping them nice and hot. The chicken was very tasty -- perfectly juicy and delicious. The asada was also good -- not completely mind blowing, but definitely on the upper scale of asada tacos and satisfied the craving. Served with chips, a bag of pickled carrots and something else I can't remember... I thought it was a fantastic find!
Random Taco Truck -- I think it said 'mexicano' on the side. It's the one that's on the east side of Fair Oaks, about 1/4th of the block up from California Blvd. A friend touted these as the best tacos he's ever had in his life... so, we went. About 10:30pm on a Friday night, and the place was packed. I'm getting excited. 1 asada and 1 al pastor. I looked at my plate suspiciously. The asada was reduced to meat crumbles. One bite of really dry meat. SUCH a disappointment. The al pastor was ok -- no real flavor to speak of. I think they were $1.25/each. The only positive comment I have was that the tortillas were decent. Oh well, at least I crossed one more taco place off the list and can rest easy with the El Super Burrito find!
El Super Burrito
3631 E Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91107
Since you seem to know the Pasadena area, would be curious to get your thoughts on La Estrella, slightly north of the 210 fwy on Fair Oaks. I've been to El Super Burrito and I didn't think it was anything special, ie, would not return. However, La Estrella is on my short list of back-ups on the nights when I don't feel like cooking.
i had a shrimp taco at La Estrella last week and it was really really great. The shrimp was very lightly fried and cooked perfectly (rather than the rubber I usually get at other places). At the same time I had an al pastor taco and a carnitas taco, both of which were nothing to write home about.
If I still lived in Pasadena, I think La Estrella would be on my short list of back-ups too.
You know what's sad -- in my many years of living in Pasadena, I have YET to try La Estrella. I'm assuming it will be my local taco heaven and have been saving it for a day when I need a sure-fire bet. I'm only a recent taco convert, so I have a lot of make-up work to do! I'm going to try to hit La Estrella and Tonny's this week and will report back. kotatsu - any other local favorites?
La Estrella is not bad, but they don't really deliver. The meat is often dry and the carne asada is sometimes almost like ground beef. It isn't terrible, but I've been there 3 times and would rather hit King Taco or El Gallito truck. Also, check out El Metate during regular hours (mostly a lunch stop as they close at about 8pm). They are on Mentor just above Colorado. Really nice people and very good Asada and Pastor. They specialize in seafood, which I haven't tried yet though I've got my eyes on a Langustino plata.
Hjb - agreed that fish (?) taco is THE thing to get at La Estrella.
Oracle - if picking up dinner for 2, I recommend 2 fish taco's, and sharing 1 burrito. I'm slightly concerned that the tacos may disappoint, but the above-mentioned dinner always makes me a happy guy. (I usually get a carne asada burrito, but that's just me.)
I've tried a few of the other Mexican places in the area on Lake (north of 210 fwy), and simply not found any of them to be as tasty as La Estrella.
Slightly OT, but you asked about other faves in the area. If this question includes non-mexican, then my votes go to: Mediterrean Cafe (on south Lake, near Shoe Pavillion)
Himeko, or Teri & Yaki (many on this board don't seem to care for it. Personally, I love this place)
The Hat - when I need an onion ring fix. Then I don't eat onion rings for the next 6 months.
Pasadena Sandwich Company is always a good choice for lunch.
At WildSwede's recommendation, I have been to La Fiesta Grande (near Colorado & El Molino) a few times. I have tried a few things on the menu, but the taco bar is always what calls my name the loudest.
Hope you enjoy and report back.
Thanks, kotatsu -- I had lunch once at the Med Cafe and it didn't do anything for me - that was some time ago... will give it another go. Thanks for the Himeko tip! I completely agree with the onion rings at The Hat... yum! Love PSC - esp. their pastrami... and need to make a trip to La Fiesta Grande again soon! Happy Eating!
Great to see a lot of my Pasadena neighbors posting. Thanks for reviews of La Estrella. I think the "Random Taco Truck"s tacos are very good, variety of taco meats, excellent salsa verde, good hot sauce and only $1.10 each. You're right the meat can be dry, but even when it is they're very tasty. I think the fact it's had lines (mostly hispanic/latino) for years attest to it being good. Thanks for mentioning it & I hope others will try it.
I've driven by El Super Burrito a ton of times and have never tried it up until a month ago. A friend was raving about it so I stopped by and picked-up an asada burrito. I was pleasantly surprised at how flavorful the meat tasted and how big the burrito was. I'm actually looking forward to going back and trying more stuff off their menu.
I haven't tried the taco truck on Fair Oaks yet and after reading your comments, I don't know if I'll go out of my way for it. If I happen to be in the general area, I might drop in for a taste.
Regarding La Estrella; I love their asada tacos and ceviche tostadas. I thought their food was better when they served out of the taco truck on the corner but I wonder that's more due to nostalgic factors more then anything else.
The no name market up the road (Summit and Hammond) is pretty damn good and worth a try. Their pastor was especially good and so were their prices (a buck a taco).
Thanks for the update!
I really think the no-name market Joe mentions here is better than everything else. I still eat at Estrella at least once every two weeks because it's so close to where I work and I don't always have the time for a mini-trek, but it's not nearly as flavorful.
It's ridiculous to say this because I eat there so often, but I only think Estrella is OK (which is much better than the other Pasadena mexican around - say no to puebla and no to green street tacos, etc.) and I highly recommend paying extra for avocado in their burritos. In fact, if you order anything extra (queso, etc.), they tend to take greater care with everythiung else as well.