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Cheap Taco Plate, Pasadena

Where can I get a good, cheap taco plate (rice, beans, a few chips, tacos) in Pasadena? I am thinking about a "to-go" place with outdoor benches-- nothing fancy. By cheap, I mean up to $7, after tax.

I am thinking about:

El Burrito Express
Tortas Mexico
King Taco (again)
Los Tacos
El Toreo
El Metate
The mom and pop shop that Wild Swede likes on Summit and Hammond
The various Pasadena taco trucks-- are they around on the weekend?

I just want a no frills place, that's cheap, with good food (grab a seat, eat there, leave, without full-service). There's a freestanding hole-in-the-wall on Colorado and Rosemead Bl. (?) that I've been meaning to check out. Is that El Burrito Express?

What about that liquor store next to Pie N Burger? I noticed they sell tacos, etc. Is tbeir food any good? Thanks. Any thoughts on the above places would be appreciated.

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  1. That's the place, good stuff as i recall, near the Cost Plus? 1 block west of Rosemead, north side of street.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Burger Boy

      Thanks, Burger Boy. That might be lunch today. :)

      1. re: katkoupai

        After tutoring last night, I was hungry. So I thought about this post and as I was just a few blocks away, I decided to stop at "that place right by Cost Plus on Colorado". Okay, first, it is called "El Super Burrito". I arrived around 7:45. There were two people sitting eating their food at the cute mosaic-tiled tables. One other person was standing at the window placing their order. I read over the offerings and read the review that was taped in the "pick-up window". The reviewer mentioned some items but specifically stated that the tamale was good. Sold! I ordered the #19 - Tamal and Soft Taco since I also wanted to try my standard, the Al Pastor. The dish cost $6.79 and came with rice, beans a couple of chips, red & green salsa (I asked for the hottest and then asked for the other) and jalapeno (did not get one jalapeno, but got lots of marinated carrots) and a medium tamarindo. They called my number and I picked it up. I sat at a table and while I ate I watched the people in the karate gym across the street. I took a bite of the Al Pastor and found it left A LOT to be desired. It was extremely dry and greasy at the same time. Not much flavor, either. Even with salt and salsa added. This was left almost untouched on the plate. The tamal was large and covered with a red sauce and cheese. I took a bite of the tamal and was not expecting anything. Wow! It was actually really good in a basic-kinda weird tamale way. The sauce that it was covered with is their enchilada sauce. But, it has a nice kick to it that you do not normally find in enchilada sauce. Also, I am not a fan of tamales that do not have salt in their masa. This masa definitely had salt added and was somewhat flavorful, and had bits of corn kernels in it. The inside was shredded beef which was moist and tender. I have to say - this was the best part of the meal. Now, I wondered if this really was as good as I thought, or if my hunger and/or the fact that I had burned the hell out of my tongue on the soup I made on Sunday (why don't I ever learn??) had something to do with it. So, I ordered another tamal to go and will eat it today for lunch. I asked for extra of the sauce and was obliged. $2.25.
        The rice was bland and oily, but that was quickly remedied with the addition of the red salsa - it became really good and I ate every last bit of it. The beans were your basic canned variety which were not good and got really nasty-looking when it got cold. These stayed on the plate as well.
        All in all, the tamal, I would go back for.

        Prices have gone up ~$1.00

        3631 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA
        "Save Time ~ Phone Ahead" (626) 792-4482

        1. re: WildSwede

          Thanks for checking it out, WildSwede. I'm bummed to hear about the canned refried beans at El Super Burrito. I'm looking for a place where everything from the salsa, to the beans, to the drinks, are made with fresh/real ingredients. The tamale does sound good, though. I have a long way to go to get through this list, so this helps. :)

          1. re: katkoupai

            My favorite taqueria (MFT from now on) makes all their ingredients. Sometimes they have drinks (more so recently) but I think I have only seen Fruit Punch and maybe lemonade(?). I always get the Mexican bottled drinks from the market in front. They do not have refried beans but whole pinto beans which are delicious! Maybe this is where I will go for lunch today and save the tamal for dinner, hmmm.

            1. re: WildSwede

              MFT means that's where you will be going from now on?

              I will check this place out the next time I have the time and opportunity. :)

              1. re: katkoupai

                No, sorry. MFT (my favorite taqueria) = the place on Hammond and Summit. I get tired of writing it out!! ;-)

                  1. re: katkoupai

                    Also, while I was eating, I noticed that across the street and on the other side of the street from the Karate studio, that there was a Carniceria that advertised pupusas on their outside wall. It was called Elizabeth's (or something like that). I am going to try the pupusas there one day (and check out their other offerings). So far, though, the best pupusas I have had can be found at La Caravana on north Lake (just before Washington) in Pasadena.

                    1. re: WildSwede

                      This is good to know. I almost went to La Caravana a few weeks ago, but I decided against it, due to parking issues. I think they may have parking in the back, but I couldn't find street parking at the time. :)

                      1. re: WildSwede

                        Sorry, the Carniceria is on the other side of the PARKING LOT from the Karate Studio, not the other side of the street! I have only ever parked on the street when going to La Caravana, so I am unable to speak to whether or not they have parking in back.

                        1. re: WildSwede

                          Okay, thanks for the info. :) Both places sound worth checking out. I haven't had a pupusa in a long time. :)

            2. re: WildSwede

              If you are looking for REAL authentic mexican food, that is a fast food place even better than some restaurants you need to try Pepe's. There is one in Alhambra and Temple City. The beans are the best and almost all the things on the menu are authentic.

              1. re: mrspineapple

                Thank you. I have tried Pepe's in Alhambra. It's pretty good.

        2. I have looked at a few reviews more on past threads, and here are a few other places that I would like to check out (but haven't yet).

          La Estrella-- either one
          Puebla Tacos (three locations in Pas)
          Green St. Taqueria

          My top three places to check out would be:

          Los Tacos
          Puebla Tacos
          El Burrito Express

          Any place that makes fresh chips, salsa, and hopefully agua fresca would be great. I might just have to check each place out, one by one.

          6 Replies
          1. re: katkoupai

            LA ESTRELLA on altadena and foothill rocks. but don't expect rice and beans. this place is pretty authentic.

            get the fish tacos, camarones, and ceviche. all good. all reasonably priced washed down with excellent horchata or hibiscus tea.

            1. re: revets2

              I will take your advice, revets, and try La Estrella for the shrimp tacos. Is the horchata made from powder mix or fresh? Thank you for your suggestion. :)

              1. re: katkoupai

                the shrimp tacos are very good, but i was not recommending them. the camarones served in a styrofoam cup with gazpacho like soup/sauce. that's the one you want to order. have fun. don't know if the horchata is powder or fresh. they dispense it from a drink machine. hope that helps.

            2. re: katkoupai

              The La Estrella on Orange Grove & Garfield - the restaurant one, the one further from the street.. ( there are 2 at same location believe it or not!) - is in my opinion the best of many items in all of pasadena: best carne asada soft taco, best tamale's, best salsa (green or red sauce), and best horchata's in all of Pasadena!

              I'm open to refuters, but you better have tried these first, because I live next to 15 authentic mexican places on Orange Grove (or what I like to call 'Little Tijuana') and this place blows them all away.

              Remember, NOT the la estrella closer to the street, but the one in the back of the plaza at 330 E Orange Grove.

              Highly recommended!

              La Estrella Restaurant
              330 E Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91104

              1. re: chuckienorton

                Hey Chuckie, I think the one that is further from the street does not offer their fish tacos or their ceviche (or any fish items iirc) which are what I feel their strongest offerings (although I do really like their al pastor in both taco and burrito form). And their red salsa... I would swim in it if it would not burn my eyeballs!! Have never had their tamales, tho. Which do you recommend? I agree on the horchata! YUM!

              2. re: katkoupai

                Tried Tacos Puebla on Villa a couple of weeks ago, had the carne asada, al pastor, and tripas. If I were rating taco places 1 through 10 (1 being a 35cent taco stand in Baldwin Park that is overpriced and 10 being the heavenly Tacos de Huicho in Bakersfield), I'd give them a 2. Asada was bland, pastor had an off taste, the tripas seemed slimy and underdone. All were wrapped in corn tortillas that had the consistency of moist dough.

              3. I tried the following at Los Tacos in Pasadena (on Fair Oaks near California), with a friend today:

                Carne asada tacos
                Lengua tacos

                Carne asada was pretty good. Lengua was good. Beans and rice were okay. I don't usually eat mole, but my friend said that it was decent and sweet. Salsa-- only okay-- didn't seem homemade. Aquas-- not fresh juice, but decent. Total was about $10 a person or $20 total. Pretty good, although my friend noted that better Mexican food can be had elsewhere for a cheaper price. :) Still looking...

                Grade: B/B+

                3 Replies
                1. re: katkoupai

                  Yeah, not a big fan of Los Tacos. Probably my least favorite out of all the places in the area. La Estrella - try their fish tacos or fish ceviche. Those are the best. If you go to the location on Orange Grove/Marengo (?) you will note that they reopened the old location in the small strip mall on the east side of Marengo (they closed this when they built the new location building on the west side of Marengo (right across the street). We went in to the old/new location and quickly realized that they have select items (more menu items at the old location) at each location. Seafood is only available at the new location - go there. People have been saying that the LE on Fair Oaks and Villa has gone downhill, but I do not go there anymore since I found the Hammond/Summit place, so I cannot speak to that.
                  At the Hammond/Summit place the tacos are $1/each and you can get rice and beans (not sure how much that is) and their burritos (which include both R&B) are $4. Definitely homemade salsas (green and red) - I have watched Isaura make them in the past. MMMM-mmmmm good!! ;-)

                  1. re: WildSwede

                    Thanks. I need to try this place that you are talking about. I first thought Los Tacos was good, and then a few hours later, I changed my mind. It was okay, but it left something to be desired.

                2. El Taquito Mexicano #2 (467 N Fair Oaks Ave) have excellent $1 carne asada tacos. It's a small hole-in-the-wall sit down joint.


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Oishii Eats

                    Hey, thanks. :) Actually, a few hours after the meal at Los Tacos, I was unsure what I thought of it. (Maybe it wasn't as good as I thought it was.) There has to be better Mexican food in Pas. I haven't heard of El Taquito Mexicano, but thank you-- I will check it out. :)

                  2. I like the Tortas Mexico on Fair Oaks just N. of Union. They have good carne asada tacos (you can get them plain or with cojita cheese -- and I think the cheese makes them really tasty), a delicious-and-spicy red salsa, and good beans. While I've never gotten the taco plate, they definitely have them and they would be within your price range.

                    2 Replies
                      1. re: DanaB

                        I have been pretty underwhelmed with this place as well.

                      2. Check out Lupita's in the strip mall on the NE corner of Colorado & Sierra Madre. Just a little hole in the wall with some good food.

                        The taco trucks on Fair Oaks are def. around on the weekend for the late night, old town revelers.

                        2 Replies
                          1. re: ozzygee

                            Lupita's I like. Have not been there in a couple of years, but remember really liking what I have eaten there.

                          2. Since Pasadena does not have a Cactus (Hollywood), just go to King Taco. So many raves here about Tonny's. It good, but not cheap - it is no longer open 24/7. But that's ok, it just attracted drunks after 1am. El Burrito Express is horrible, the carne asada was a grayish color w/ the flavor of drain water. La Estrella is never very clean, even the new one! Ok, if your drunk.
                            This goes for Puebla as well. There are a few taco places on Lake, just N of Orange Grove, but have not tried them yet.

                            29 Replies
                            1. re: alkyd9

                              I have to be honest, the more places that I try, the more I think King Taco is the place for me. I know people disagree, but so far, it is my favorite. What have I tried so far? Tonny's, Rick's, Los Tacos, various chains, and I'm still trying. :)

                              1. re: katkoupai

                                I haven't found any place in LA that beats a San Diego Taco shop. King Taco was subpar at best.

                                1. re: katkoupai

                                  King Taco is good. But the Pasadena location, good as it is, is not even close to the great KTs you'll find in other parts of L.A., like East L.A.

                                  Great tacos in L.A. is a long debated topic which I'd love to get into, but we're talking about just Pasadena here.
                                  My thoughts:

                                  Burrito Express: decent burritos, nothing exceptional but tasty. I get a JVC veggie style there on the rare occasions I go.

                                  El Gran Burrito: finally tried it after so many years. Tacos and burritos. Disappointed. WildSwede's review was on (except I didn't try the tamales. so I don't know about that).

                                  La Estrella: good fish tacos (deep fried fish), decent carne asada and cabeza. But really only thing to get is the fish tacos (big ones).

                                  Puebla: been to Orange Grove location a few times late at night, after being out drinking. OK. Pretty hot salsa roja. Nothing special, but better than most. A good friend swears by the one on Villa and Allen, but I haven't tried it.

                                  Los Tacos: so so, avoid.

                                  El Toreo: Pasadena institution, survived old townization, prices have gone up. Mediocre, but satisfying. Not what you're looking for from your description.

                                  Green Street taqueria: so so. I refuse to eat there.

                                  Rosarita?? I think. Next to the In-N-Out on Foothill: I used to eat here all the time, and I loved it. For some reason I've not been in years. I think it's because it looked way too dirty the last time I was in there so I walked out(and I eat at the illegal taco carts in East L.A. - worth it for a great Al Pastor). Still plan on returning one day to check it out again.

                                  WildSwede's place: Gotta try it. Every time he writes about it it sounds better and better, but they were already closed when I went. I also want to try El Metate; everybody I know who has eaten there thinks it's great.

                                  Taco trucks: usually open at night. Three on Fair Oaks - two south of Del Mar, and one at Walnut (my usual). Pretty good. In neighboring Eagle Rock there's Rambo and Leo's. Both good tasty not too fatty meat, but I prefer Leo's.

                                  Also the neighborhood of East Orange Grove/Los Robles-Fair Oaks has a number of taco establishments that you might like.

                                  1. re: mcmal

                                    Mcmal, thank you very much for the details above on each place. I feel like I should print it and keep it as a reference. I appreciate your help.

                                    1. re: katkoupai

                                      Sure, just tell us what you think of any of these places if you try them.
                                      Personally I'm especially interested in the Puebla on Villa and Allen, which looks like a nice place to have a plate of tacos in the day, and El Metate.

                                      I'm going to try WildSwede's place next and then I'll give Rosarito another go soon.

                                      I generally tend to do my taco eating in the evenings, so if I'm around Pasadena I usually eat from the trucks, El Chavo and recently El Gallito.

                                    2. re: mcmal

                                      Great summary, mcmal! I went to "my place" yesterday after work and she gave me a business card for their catering taco cart business. It says "Exquicitos Tacos. Para Fiestas. Catering for all occasions. Mexican Food Specialists: Asada, Carnitas, Al Pastor, Pollo, Tripitas, Buche. Fernando (909) 873-0703 or cell (626) 278-6327". Unfortunately, they were out of Al Pastor (this happens sometimes on Wednesdays (and makes me cry) as he makes the Al Pastor on Thursdays), so I "settled" for Carne Asada with some of the AP marinade on top! I mentioned to them that they should offer aguas but did not seem too enthused about it. Maybe if people mention they would like aguas with their meal...
                                      They close by 8 M-Sat and by 2 on Sundays.
                                      I like El Metate - but usually only get the fish tacos ($1.99). But he did make a burrito for me (carne asada, grilled onions, etc.) and when I said it was delicious, he put it on the menu (El Metate Burrito). ;-)

                                      1. re: WildSwede

                                        Awh, today is Thursday and I missed the freshly made Al Pastor. I'm absolutely going tomorrow (I hope they aren't closed for Good Friday).

                                        1. re: mcmal

                                          I usually like to go a few days after he makes it so the flavors really have a chance to permeate that whole meat!! MMMMM.... salivating!! ;-) I will have to try Puebla. Thanks!

                                          1. re: sel

                                            Thank you sel for the low-down and your reassurance on the taco trucks around Pasadena. I'll try the one recommended in earlier posts. (at the Shell station on Walnut/Fair Oaks). After reading posts here that one seems to interest me, esp. for al pastor. I am craving it, last night being Good Friday and all, I'm sure not one place was open. Yeah, a well lit, sparkling white truck is fine. report to follow.

                                        2. re: WildSwede

                                          OK, WildSwede. I've now gone two times to your favorite taco place on Summit and Hammond and I've got to tell you, I love it. The Al Pastor can't be beat - in Pasadena at least. I also had Asada and Carnitas, which were very good too. But that Al Pastor, the first bite of this perfectly seasoned, moist and tender meat was fantastic, and so was the last one. I don't know if they charbroil it on a spit before they cut it up or use an electric spit, but either way it sure tastes like it was exposed to fire at some point. Truly a great taco.

                                          Today they had a little stand set up in front of the store and lots of people were buying Tripas, which I'll be trying on my next visit.

                                          Thanks for the really great suggestion.

                                          1. re: mcmal

                                            YAY!!! I am so glad you liked it, mcmal! The best thing, to me, is the Al Pastor burrito - the last few bites of it: chewy tortilla, squirt of lime, spicy red salsa, some rice and beans and the al pastor juice that has been working its way down there the whole time you have been eating it... heaven on a plate, if you ask me!!
                                            You can ask them if you can taste the tripe. They like to give me new things to try. They are very proud of what they do and the quality of their products. I am glad that business is doing well. Thank you for your review!!
                                            Hey, I will be going today at lunch. If anyone wants to meet me there, I will be there around 12:15-ish.

                                            1. re: WildSwede

                                              K, went today and have a couple of updates. Summit & Hammond place: they are no longer open on Sundays, but are open til 9 M-F; til 2 on Sat. Also, they just moved (their home) from Altadena to Rialto, so if anyone needs a taqueria caterer in that area... although he will travel. Al Pastor still rocks!! ;-)

                                              1. re: WildSwede

                                                I finally found the place on Summit & Hammond a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, the day that I went, there was a party of regulars just hanging out in front of the shop. I felt a bit awkward (almost as if I was intruding upon a family bbq), so I decided to eat at Rosarito #2. I will have to try to stop by the Summit/Hammond place another time, when it's less crowded. :)

                                                1. re: katkoupai

                                                  Sorry to hear that. I have never felt uncomfortable there. I just wait and talk to the other patrons while I am waiting. Sometimes it is very crowded (evenings) and other times (lunch - I go after 1) it is not.

                                                  1. re: WildSwede

                                                    I will give it another try at another time. :)

                                                    1. re: katkoupai

                                                      Unfortunately, the place at Summit & Hammond is now gone. <BOO!>. Too far for them to come since they moved to Rialto. Maybe they will open something out there?? However, we can still get their delicious goodness in catering form. They bring their grill and will cook up whatever you want, wherever you want. Fernando of Isaura: (909) 873-0703 or (626) 278-6327 (cell)

                                                      1. re: WildSwede

                                                        I'm so bummed. That was my go to place to pick up meat for parites and tailgates. Fernando was the best...and so was the el pastor. Any other recs for catering?

                                        3. re: mcmal

                                          What's your knock on Green Street Taqueria? The al pastor is good. The guac is good. The only downsides are only open to 5 and no alcohol.

                                          1. re: mc michael

                                            I stopped by Green Street today again. Everytime I go, it seems to be closed. I usually stop by on weekends. Anyway, this time they were open, but they only take cash. I walked over to El Metate instead-- they take cash and cards.

                                            1. re: katkoupai

                                              Green Street closes around 5 and is not open on Sundays. And only does cash.

                                              1. re: mc michael

                                                Thanks, mc michael. I will keep this in mind, and hopefully next time, I will actually try the food there. :)

                                            2. re: mc michael

                                              Why the knock? It's not that I think it's inedible, it's just that there are a half a dozen other places within a few miles radius that are much better. I suppose it's good if you work in the neighborhood and are looking for a quick bite for lunch (there's a reason it's only open to 5). And not having alcohol isn't a problem; I don't expect alcohol at most taquerias I go to.

                                            3. re: mcmal

                                              Mcmal, I tried a place called Rosarito #2 on Lake and Orange Grove today. It was very good. I checked the website and it's related to the place you mention above next to In N Out.

                                              I got a taquito plate, with rice, beans, guac and sour cream, plus a medium jamaica (made from scratch), for $6.28. The salsa bar was very fresh, and the food was very good. Large portions = lunch and dinner in one (at least two meals). The beans had a nice flavor, the taquitos were good, the rice was good, and best of all, the guac was real. I loved the pico de gallo with the chips.

                                              Also, this place was very clean, with plenty of parking in the back. I recommend it, and I liked the flavor of the food better than what I had at El Metate. El Metate has a better selection of agua frescas, though. I thought Rosarito #2 had better beans, and I liked their salsa more too.

                                              Rosarito #2 Mexican Fast Food
                                              720 N. Lake Ave.
                                              Pasadena, CA 91104
                                              (626) 296-2634

                                              Hours: 9AM-10PM Monday-Saturday (Sundays, they close at 9PM)


                                              1. re: katkoupai

                                                Like I said, I used to go to Rosarito on Foothill and I always liked it until the day I stopped going. I do intend on returning one day. I'll keep #2 in mind as well. But honestly, in Pasadena I've been sticking to WildSwede's place on Summit, and to the taco trucks at night.

                                              2. re: mcmal

                                                Green Street Taqueria is horrible. I live down the street and I will never go back. It's owned and run by a gabacha. I guess that explains it.

                                                  1. re: sel

                                                    By "gabacha," he means a white woman.

                                          2. I finally checked out El Metate, on Mentor between Colorado and Union. The first thing I noticed is they make their own aqua frescas. I had a small watermelon aqua fresca, plus a refill. It was very good, and I believe it was made with real fruit, sugar and water. It didn't taste like the kind made from syrup, concentrate, powder, etc.

                                            I also got a taco plate, with rice, beans and salad. The total was around $7-$8 ($5 for the taco plate, $2 for the drink, plus tax). My order took a long time to come out-- someone forgot to put my order in. Anyway, when it finally came out, the plate was huge. The beans looked really good, and everything looked fresh.

                                            The shredded beef taco was okay-- I thought it needed more flavor. The carne asada was a bit fatty, but it was tasty. I liked the beans. The salsa was okay. I thought the green salsa was better than the spicy red salsa. The lettuce and garnish were very fresh. The rice was okay.

                                            The food was good, but not great. I cannot rave about it, but I can say that I was very, very, very happy to find a place that makes fresh aqua frescas close to home. I have been looking for aqua frescas for a while now, and I didn't realize El Metate had the real thing. They also had homemade-looking horchata. I would definitely recommend this place for the aguas. The prices are also reasonable. I also liked the space itself. They have plenty of indoor seating, and it is clean and spacious. I would go back.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: katkoupai

                                              Well, after reading the raves went to Summit/Hammond place, wonderful, thanks so much for suggesting this place. We got a carnitas and an al pastor taco, plus a side of beans which were also great.

                                              Btw, I think the Puebla Tacos at the top of Los Robles in Hens Teeth Square is cleaner and has better food than the other 2 locations, even the sitdown family style place on Villa doesn't compare and has been hit or miss for me. And I like their champurrado (sp?).

                                              1. re: MaryT

                                                Thanks for the info on Puebla Tacos. That's another place that I want to try. And I still want to and have to try to place on Summit/Hammond.

                                              2. re: katkoupai

                                                At El Metate I stick with their fish tacos. They are grilled whitefish with shredded cabbage and tomatoes on top. Add squeeze of lime, salt and some of their delicious salsas and you have a great meal. $1.99/each and 2 usually fill me up. I also like their tortilla soup. Their regular tacos are not that great.