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The Original King Taco- review w/ photos

Photos: http://tokyoastrogirl.blogspot.com/

J's all-time favorite: KING TACO

Ahhhh, King Taco. I'd heard the stories of the carne asada, pollo and red hot salsa for years from J, who, ironically was a veggie when I met him. No, he wasn't a carrot - he was a 10-year vegetarian until I lead him away from his misguided ways. Oh now now- before you animal activists start blasting me, that was just an affectionate joke. Of course I respect the vegans and vegetarians of the world- heck, I tried the vegan thing in college (read: lots of bean and rice burritos with guacamole) and actually do cook vegetarian meals often. It's just that, being a true lover of all things food, I couldn't possibly resist the urge to try anything once I get the chance to.

J's love of King Taco started way before he even thought about vegetables. He was living with friends in East LA and would often visit the original King Taco on Cypress for his burrito fix. He'd told me about the burrito over and over again, and did take me once right after I met him but I remember the chile being way too hot for me....and not really much else. I think, at the time he took me, he still hadn't converted back to meat eating and settled for a non-meat item. Anyway, he did always profess his love for King Taco (and pepperoni pizzas with beer- a combo that he claims is better than life itself) even when he was a veggie.

Now that he's a few years back in the Land of Meat, we made the long-awaited return visit to the Original King Taco the other day. We were starving.......we got 2 asada burritos (mine sans salsa), 1 quesadilla and an order of chips. There's a nice, efficient system at King Taco, and only a few menu items, so it goes quickly. Line up at Window #1 and place your order, wait to hear your number and pick up at Window #2. Find a seat, then grub away.

When I saw the quesadilla, I immediately thought, "Want a little tortilla with your queso?" The plate was a lake of melted cheese and somewhere in there, I see the flour tortilla gasping for air as it drowned in the off-white goo. Oh wait- this will be a good place for my disclaimer: although J is Mexican, I am not, nor will I ever claim to be, an authority on Mexican cuisine. Ok, phew. Anyway, I'm looking at it thinking "????" but we parked ourselves on a bench inside and dug in.

J started in on his asada burrito with vigor, but after two Godzilla-sized bites he says "Wait- this is YOUR burrito!" since I'd gotten mine sans beans and salsa. We swapped out and enjoyed our own burritos- mine was good, but it just didn't blow my socks off. The meat was slightly gristle-y but the rice was well seasoned but again, nothing spectacular. I know King Taco is famous....maybe I'm missing something? J, meanwhile, was as happy as Paula Deen in a butter store, exclaiming, "This is the %$#!!" The both agreed that the quesadilla was ridiculous as we tried to peel the now-hardened cheese off of the tortilla. The chips were no different than store-bought, bagged chips. Overall, King Taco just isn't my cup of salsa verde, ya know?

Anyway, we'll keep returning to King Taco as long as J has the craving for it. Next time I'd like to try their roasted pollo and see if I fare any better.

The Original King Taco
1118 Cypress Ave.
Los Angeles,Ca 90065

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  1. maybe instead of getting one asada burrito...get few different tacos. i really like their soft taco....el pastor, carnitas and asada. favorite being el pastor

    1. the salsa is what makes the various meats sing! just had lunch in the pasadena location. tres tacos de asada, lengua, cabeza con cebollas y cilantro, salsa verde. if you're really into pain, you can order it with salsa roja. the green sauce has enough kick for me. never had roasted chicken as it's not available in every branch, and definitely skip the chips. i love the asada burrito with rice/beans too but i believe tacos are better. it's called king taco for a reason! pork tamale with red sauce makes my mouth water just thinking about it...

      1 Reply
      1. re: zack

        I really like King Taco in Old Pas, but I need to refrain from going there so often. I was finding myself going there 1-2 times a week. Now that I'm reading zach's post, I'm craving it again. :)

      2. It's all about the tacos. Stay simple, order the asada, al pastor, carnitas.

        1 Reply
        1. re: WBGuy

          I like the carne asada burrito and the taquitos.

        2. Chicken Mojado Burrito (wet) is the bomb! Very Spicy Green Sauce.
          Everything else is is average at best.

          3 Replies
          1. re: russkar

            I haven't had everything on the menu, but everything that I have had so far has been better than average-- really good. :)

            1. re: katkoupai

              The King Taco on Atlantic in Maywood is what I'm referring to.
              We've tried almost everything on the Menu and there is much better food at several of the local places, like Las Trancas.

              Las Trancas
              5351 Atlantic Blvd, Maywood, CA
              Tel: (323) 560-2494

              1. re: russkar

                Got it. Looks like you have a variety of better options near you. I'm talking about the King Taco in Pas, which people have said is not that good, but which I like. Context does make a difference, and I definitely believe that there are better options in Maywood. People say there are better options in Pasadena, but I'm still trying places out. :) Thanks.

          2. I've posted this many times over the years but I think King Taco's carne asada is very average. The best thing to get there is an al pastor sope. They are always fresh and the cotija cheese goes nicely with the cabbage and salsa verde on top

            5 Replies
            1. re: Ernie

              Ernie, do you rec any place in Pasadena (not Alhambra) for carne asada? I miss your posts here.

              1. re: katkoupai

                I am very picky about carne asada and cannot think of a place to recommend in Pasadena, although Tonny's has gotten some good reviews on this board (however I have not been there yet to confirm)

                1. re: Ernie

                  Thanks, Ernie. I hit up Los Tacos with a friend. It was pretty good, although less than sensational. If you ever think of something good here, please let me know, because you have really good taste. :)

                  1. re: katkoupai

                    You're welcome, Katkoupai. My favorite carne asada is always homemade, so if you are in the mood to grill some up, check out Alhambra Market for premarinated pollo and carne asada.

                    It is not too far from Pasadena on Main St east of Fremont in north Alhambra. So easy to cook, cheap, and comes out great. Good for summer BBQs/parties too.

                    I'm sure there are some good carnicerias north of the 210 as well, but hopefully someone more familiar with the area can chime in

                    1. re: Ernie

                      Thanks, Ernie. :) That's a really good idea. I've only grilled my own Mexican-style carne once, and it was quite good. It was one of those things where I just wanted to keep eating more. This is a great bbq idea for this year. :)

            2. Love King Taco! I used to go to the one on Third St. in East LA quite often back in J.H. More recently, we'd sometimes go to the Pico location before a Kings hockey game at the Staples Center. I always get my favorite combo: a burrito al pastor and two tacos sesos. That green salsa makes my salivary glands all tingly just thinking about it.

              Over the years, however, they seem to be getting smaller and smaller. Or maybe my hands just got bigger.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Tkn

                I LOVE KING TACO. The best thing to get is definately the sopes and tacos. The queso cotija with the cabbage and the red salsa make my tummy sing. The carnitas with lots of onion and cilantro are so good and so addictive I feel I have sinned each time I eat there because I enjoy it so much that it just seems wrong to covet something so much.

                I am salivating as I write. As much as I love this place---can't say that I like the burritos and forget about those awful chips. It's just a matter of knowing what to order.

                1. re: yummi

                  I've never had their chips. I have had a burrito or two from King Taco (from the Old Pasadena location), and I would say that they were quite tasty. I drove by the East LA branch today. It was full of people, standing in line, and dining on the outside tables. I bet that place is great!

              2. Having grown up in East L.A., I actually remember the Third Street location when it was but a taco truck parked in a gas station. Eventually, the restaurant took over the gas station and added tables and seats. After another remodel, the restaurant added more tables and an indoor area that serves rotisserie chicken on weekends. This location -- the only one open 24 hours, I think -- still is a great place to get gas.

                The chicken is definitely worth the wait. Served only from Friday to Sunday at select locations, the chicken is tortillas, pinto beans, chips, and the world famous green salsa. Get the chicken when its fresh and slide over to the taco/burritos windows if it looks like the chicken's been sitting a bit. They make several batches a day so the chances are good, especially around mealtimes, that you'll get fresh-tasting chicken even if it's not just out of the rotisserie. Incidentally, the chicken is prepared differently than the one you could pick up at El Pollo Loco (which is grilled) and tastes better than Zankou chicken (which is sometimes too pungent for my tastes). I like King Taco's chicken method of preparation and taste the best.

                As far as the tacos and burritos, try the al pastor (it's al pastor, Spanish for shepard-style, not el pastor), which is prepared while stacked on a vertical spit (similar to shawerma). The al pastor tacos and burritos taste best with the red sauce, though it's much hotter than the green hot sauce so use it sparingly. You can, of course, get it with the green sauce or with no sauce at all. As for the carne asada, well, it's not my favorite -- mainly because the meat is too gristley and over-tenderized. Also, the meat is grilled but not charbroiled, making the meat seem more like a McDonald's burger and less like it was made at Carl's Jr. The burrito is still good (especially with the red hot sauce). My favorite is the cabeza burrito (beef head) which is tender and fatty (mmmmmm), without rice (which is just filler that hides the flavor of the meat), pinto beans, and green hot sauce.

                Definitely try the al pastor or carnitas sopes and tacos. In fact, try one each of the al pastor, carne asada, al pastor, and cabeza tacos (don't worry, they're small). The two salsas (the red and green) are the best salsas served at any taqueria. In the case of King Taco, the food tastes great but the salsas make the meal. Especially after a long business trip, King Taco is the place to go for my taco fix on my drive home from LAX.

                Finally, the Maywood location has the largest selection. Try the pozole (the pork soup, like menudo without the tripe) which unlike many southland restaurants, is sold 7 days a week instead of just on weekends. This location also serves beer.