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Lunch at Tacomiendo Review

I had lunch at Tacomiendo today at work. I work at SM Biz park and promised to write back with reviews on the places I tried that were recommended to me.

I'm trying to figure out if it was me or the food. I am very opinionated when it comes to food, and I've got to say, I really don't have much of an opinion on this place. I think it might be that I just don't care for soft tacos all that much. Well, to be honest, I hate to admit this, but I do have a strange fondness for the Jack in the Box variety. I know, I know, but there's a certain nostalgia in them for me. I ate them all the time as a kid when my big sister worked there as a teenager. In the 3 years I've lived in Los Angeles, I have not had a single non-fast food taco until now. For shame!!! I have to qualify all of this by saying that I'm not someone who craves Mexican food. I like it when I do eat it, but I never really get those hankerings for it for some strange reason. I only go Mexican when someone else suggests it.

Anyway, I ordered one adobada and one carne asada. I was hoping to get an al pastor but didn't see it on the menu, and the counter lady told me adobada was similar to al pastor. It was a little salty for me and it wasn't very tender. It just didn't have a whole lot of depth or complexity. The asada meat was better. Very tender but not the most flavorful. I just don't like chopped beef. I don't like the way it feels in my mouth. I prefer sliced meat. I like to feel the delicate tendrils coming apart as I chew. Again, I'm picky about texture.

There was a nice salsa bar and a pot of self-serve frijoles, which was nice, too. The salsa was nice and seemed fresh. The spicy version had a pleasant piquant kick. I liked it better than Gallegos' except I thought the onion to tomato ratio in the salsa and the pico de gallo could use an adjustment. Too many onions for my taste.

The tortillas were fresh and had a nice pillowy feel. I liked how they felt in my hands, too, as well as in my mouth. Although I can't remember much about the taste (if that tells you anything), but their tortillas beat Gallegos' as well. That barbacoa at Gallegos', however, has anything I tried at Tacomiendo beat hands down. At $2.00 a piece for a taco, I doubt I'll go back to Tacomiendo. It wasn't bad by any means. It was just sort of....meh... :-| ....I'd just as soon rather have a banh mi for less than $2.00....

Tell me something. Is it me??? I think I probably have to try more tacos at other places in order to really decide if I like Tacomiendo or not. So, next up is Taqueria Sanchez....I might be more of a burrito person, but the jury is still out....

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  1. I've eaten there now about four times. I've tried the carne asada and fish soft tacos and the chicken and beef hard shell ones (taco dorados). I discovered that I like the taco dorados the best. These be similar to the Jack in the Box tacos you like.

    next time, give those a shot. I'm going to try the sope next.

    1. Try Tito's Tacos for the style of taco that you like?

      1. Phew - you're a tough nut to crack! The minutia to which you take your gastronomic experiences pains me... I guess it's a mixed blessing for you, as you truly know you what you want, yet to be in your shoes, or maybe I should say, to be your senses... all of the esoteric requisites to be met must keep you searching on a mad and endless journey! Maybe at this point you need to nix all Mexican food places off your list with the exception of one - Sabor a Mexico, which has been collecting nothing but accolades from our fellow Chowhounders. If Dommy! gives it a huge thumbs up and it is backed up alot by other Chowhounders whose other recs have served me well, then I don't think you can go wrong here, setting aside one's personal preferences of course. Unfulfilled desires of the appetite are almost as bad as unrequited love. The sorrow I feel when I read of your disappointments is similar to hearing a best friend lamenting about another good date gone bad...

        5 Replies
        1. re: bulavinaka

          LOL. If you're in pain, just think how I feel!!! I had no idea I was inflicting such sorrow with my reviews. It sucks to be me sometimes, and I guess it sucks to read me as well :) What can I say??? I've been told my senses are more sensitive and not just my tastebuds. I have a very good lock on what people like and don't like (including myself, of course!!) and I always give the very best presents....

          The truth is, I take into account more than just the food. Even when I take things to go, I always tell the server I will do it myself. I know how I want it done. One time (a very rare occasion), I let the server pack up my fish at King's Fish House. I had purposely left behind a good proportion of the side dishes to go with the half-piece of fish I had neatly sliced off, and she had the audacity to throw out the side dishes and just pack up the fish. There was still a good deal left, too. I have no clue why she would assume I don't want the whole thing. It was all neatly proportioned. I just about had a conniption, but since my boss was present I contained myself. Never since then....

          I know what I like, but I wouldn't say I'm a traditional finicky eater who will only eat the few dishes that they know and never pushes their boundaries like my sister. She will only eat dishes and brands we grew up with and to this day (she's 40) has trouble eating anything "orange-y". I try just about everything and am always willing to experiment and give a place another chance. Even when I like a place, I can rip apart if I want to. I have read about Sabor a Mexico and plan to give it a whirl.

          Thanks for always reading and giving recommendations!! :)

          1. re: hch_nguyen

            Wow, Christine, I was going to ask if you wanted company when you do omakase this week, or if you wanted to meet up next time you're down in OC, but since I'm not really into pain and sorrow I guess I'll just wait for your next review :)

            But I really do appreciate your reports. There are some good tacqueria's down here in Santa Ana/Anaheim that you may want to try next time you are down here. Let me know if you want the full guided tour.

            1. re: kingkong5

              Hehe...I was just kidding about the pain and sorrow thing. The truth is I enjoy myself, but there's always room for improvment. There's inherent pleasure in satiating one's hunger even if it is with an adobada taco that's slightly salty :) I try to be detailed because you never know which details will be important to one chowhound versus another. I just put up another detailed review of my latest lunch foray.

              Looks like I'm going to have to put off my omakase adventure for at least a little while. Turns out I won't have much time tomorrow and will probably end up bringing my lunch to work. Thank you for the guided tour offer. I will take you up on it one day!! Then I'll know TWO people in OC....

            2. re: hch_nguyen

              The sorrow and pain - it's probably just me - you know, I'm a whimpy LA born-and-bred kinda guy through and through. I'm sensitive too - to the disappointment that befalls any of my fellow 'Hounders - especially our new neighbors who are trying to navigate the waters of the Westside... As many veteran posters on this blog have mentioned, overhyping a place ultimately leads to dissapointment...

              I don't feel Tacomiendo has been falsely given praises like a B-movie hyped by unknown critics as an Oscar contender IMHO, it's a good place that makes very acceptable food - not an Oscar contender though. Personal tastes - truly on your part - obviously plays a huge factor in one's ultimate decision whether or not a place gets a personal Thumbs Up. And I would posit that achieving Nirvana should be an occasion as what would we have to compare the rest of life to?

              I admire your willingness to always try new things though, and your disection of the details leaves no questions unanswered. As I may continue to ache and bemoan in reading your neverending quests for that certain food experience that fit you like a well-taylored cocktail dress, I will cheer you on each time I sense you getting a step closer to that summit.

              Pretty cheesy, huh? That's what happens when a cold befalls me and I decide I need a break from work and I have a little more time on my hands. ;>

              1. re: bulavinaka

                I would not be a true chowhound if I didn't quest for culinary perfection :) and the quest is often as fun (or even more fun) than the destination itself. I told kingkong above that even when I enjoy myself there's room for improvement. I mostly dissect meals for the readers here. I've gotten a lot from these boards and want to give a little back. It's not really to bemoan my lack of alimentary fulfillment ;) ... the quest continues....

          2. I agree. I think Tacomiendo is overrated. If I'm going to get tacos near that area (which I do often, b/c I live around there) and not driving far, I go to Don Felix.

            6 Replies
            1. re: mdpilam

              Don Felix is a great destination, but IMHO Tacomiendo is great for what it is... I personally don't think it's received piles of accolades but alot of people like it alot. I consider it as one of my go-to places after work. They're reasonably priced, offer a decent and varied menu for a taqueria, and they do what they do well. When these guys first opened up in the Westside, they along with Taqueria Sanchez were a godsend. I must say though that the bar keeps going up gradually in the Westside, as that is as far as I'm willing to go on an average day for taqueria food. With that said, having a place like Sabor a Mexico around, this does move Tacomiendo into the middle of the pack, along with alot of others that were considered to be in the top third of the Westside.

              1. re: bulavinaka

                Is it the Don Felix on Sunset & Fountain? I have driven by it, and often wondered... what is good? Thanks!

                1. re: WildSwede

                  Nope Don Felix on Sawtell and Washington Place in Culver City Mar Vista. down the street from Tito's Tacos. I like the Birria Tacos and the Habenero Salsa.

                  1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                    Thanks! Do you know if they are the same?

                    1. re: WildSwede

                      I'm not familiar with the one on Sunset and Fountain, but the one on Sawtelle in Mar Vista/Culver City is actually more of a meat market that happens to have a great food counter as well. Don't know if that's the same setup over there... This one in the Westside is definitely worth a try if you're in this neck of the woods. It's right off the Venice/Washington exit of the southbound 405, just north of Washington Place (not Boulevard) on the west side of Sawtelle. I was turned on to this place by a friend of mine who originally hales from Sonora, and this is his favorite local place for now to get tacos and burritos. I say for now because I told him about Sabor a Mexico - he hasn't gotten back to me about them yet - maybe because he is camping out there permanently and has hawked his cell phone to by more food there!

                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        Thanks! I definitely have to try Sabor!! ;-)

            2. I prefer tacos dorados as you do. Try Mario's Taco's in Pico Rivera. The tacos are stuffed with shredded beef first and then fried so the shells look like a plump golden clamshells. They somehow pry them open without cracking them to stuff them with cheese, lettuce and a very simple but tasty stewed tomato salsa (not at all spicy). You can only make the taco better by adding their house salsa which is very hot (hiccup hot) but very tasty. I always say that a taco is only as good as the salsa that the restaurant offers to put on the taco.

              I used to live blocks away from Tacomiendo but I would drive to Pico Rivera when I wanted a really good crunchy taco.

              1. Sorry you were underwhelmed by Tacomiendo. It's a pretty dependable place, but I have also had less-than-perfect carnitas tacos there. Depends on the day I suppose. Seems that my usual go-to's for tacos in the area - Tacos LAX, Don Felix's, Tacomiendo - can occasionally be hit or miss, but very rarely. [Sad to say that since I cracked a tooth at Tito's a couple of years ago, I don't frequent that Old Flame as often as I used to... :( ]

                Your quest to "burrito-up" at Taqueria Sanchez might be more rewarding. (The one on Centinela, one block north of Culver - but both locations are good.) I recently had the shrimp burrito there.... well, ok I had 2 in one afternoon - call me a pig, but sometimes I can't resist. Anyway, the shrimp is always fresh there and assuming they don't run out, I highly recommend it.

                1. I agree, I definitely think I need to go with the hard shell. I didn't know what they were called in Spanish until now. The search continues....

                  1. I think both Tacomiendo and Taqueria Sanchez are overrated, meaning they get too many mentions and recommends. I had some of the worst sopes ever at Taqueria Sanchez, and Tacomiendo is just okay plus overpriced.
                    Someone at work recommended the place across the street from Tacomiendo, next to the gas station, I'll try that next.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: slacker

                      If you're asking about the eatery across the parking lot from Sanchez Carneceria, it's El Abajeno. Very basic Mexican cuisine that is somewhat Americanized for the most part, but it's good and very filling... But I would venture to guess that for every patron that walks through El Abajeno, probably 10 go to Sanchez and maybe five to Tacomiendo - mostly locals from the general neighborhood. Another testament to Sanchez's popularity is that the parking lot that seperates the two is actually for El Abajeno patrons only. That's why they post a guard at the driveway and he will shoo you away if you're seeking parking for Sanchez or anywhere else...

                      I think both places get lots of recs because they offer good food. Nothing that will create an epiphany with beams of light breaking through the clouds, but just plain good food. I prefer Sanchez's al pastor to Tacomiendo's adobado, as it's juicier, more flavorful, and has nice bits of pineapple in it. No, not fresh off a rotating spit, but still good. Try it in most of their options and I think you'll like it. Their shrimp/prawn dishes are moist, flavorful and never overcooked as well...

                      As for Tacomiendo, they offer a menu with a fair amount of selections with items not offered at Sanchez, like the chancla con carne and pollo con mole. They also have freshly pressed tortillas which are truly nice with their tacos. Again - no trumpets when you eat here - save that drama for 5-star places - but just good food to alot of people.

                      Sorry if you get a sense that people overrate it - I personally think they are solid.

                      1. re: slacker

                        the things to get at taqueria sanchez are:
                        shrimp tacos
                        shrimp burritos
                        shrimp tostadas

                        i always go to the one on centinela.
                        do remember that they close early--7pm on weekdays, i believe 5 pm on sunday, dunno the saturday story.

                      2. I was working in Culver City for a few months last spring and summer, and I ended up going to Taqueria Sanchez a lot. I did go to Tacomiendo a few times and also to the restaurant across the street with the steam table, the name of that restaurant eludes me right now. I liked Taqueria Sanchez the best but there I pretty much stuck to the shrimp burrito which had been recommended by Dommy!. I loved Taqueria Sanchez's avocado salsa. At Tacomiendo I had the adobada in both taco and burrito form, but something about it just didn't do it for me although I can't state it as precisely as you can, espcially since it was more than six months ago! At the restaurant across from Tacomiendo I think I liked the sopes best, with carnitas, but I didn't all-out love anything there. Sanchez was definitely my favorite of the three.

                        Since you are working in Santa Monica, may I suggest that you try one of my all-time favorites - Campos Famous Burritos at the corner of 20th and Pico. Have the hard-shelled turkey tacos - you can get three plus a drink for around $6. There I like the green salsa better than the red. I have been eating the turkey tacos at that location since 1973. No it's not the most authentic but I'd argue it's more authentic than JITB and probably more than Tito's (which I also like but I like Campos a lot more).

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Debbie W

                          Okay - you're talking turkey tacos since 1973 - this means you were there when it was Las Palmas... You must have also been going to SMC, when it was still SMCC - if that's the case, I hope you did well there and decided to move on after a couple of years unlike most of us who decided to make a career out of taking all of the classes in their catalog...

                          I have to admit - I still think of their turkey tacos - especially with the lettuce that has been tossed in their vinagrette which is a nice contrast to the cheese and of course the turkey as well. Las Palmas was my first big step away from Tito's. Not that Tito's was anything bad back then, but it made me realize that there was more to Mexican cuisine than Tito's and Taco Bell. I haven't been back to Las Palmas/Campos on 20th and Pico since I moved on from SMC a couple of days ago - I jest - but it sounds like you are still a regular there, and I hope the turkey tacos are as juicy and flavorful as they were back in the 70s. I'm looking for my Zephyr skateboard right now...

                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            Yes it was Las Palmas but in 1973 I was a student at Pali. My stepbrother had a couple of friends who knew about L.P. and introduced it to us. I think one of those guys may have co-founded Rhino Records but that's another story...:-) I never did go to SMC, just straight to UCSB and then to Cal. I still like to eat at Campos when possible. The turkey tacos are about the same, I guess, although they don't use that vinaigrette anymore but it sounds like you know that. I don't know exactly when they stopped because I lived up north for over a decade and my visits to Campos were well-spaced. I like the famous avocado burrito also but I don't get it very often. I actually didn't start going to Tito's until a couple years later, once I had a car and a job at Fox Hills Mall. But the lines at Tito's are offputting and it's hard to find a place to eat there, so all in all I find the Campos food and "ambience" more to my liking.

                            1. re: Debbie W

                              Pali - nice high school back then... so was Venice if you could look past the race riots and occasional shootings. I can't believe that they don't toss the lettuce with the dressing anymore - that was what really set it off... oh well... thumbs up to the Dolphins and Gondos back in the best decade to be a teenager...

                        2. I think I mentioned this in your original lunch request thread. El Super Taco, same center as Monta Alban. Taco's are only a buck and I really like their al pastor and carne asada.

                          I like Tacomiendo but think this place is better. Its a basic place with a small salsa bar and soda fountain. Their habanero salsa is very hot but still flavorful and doesn't blow out your taste buds.

                          1. Enjoyed your very detailed review. I hope you have a better experience at Taqueria Sanchez, I like it a lot. I've always gone to the location on Centinela between Washington and Culver -- note that there is parking in the back. Definitely try the shrimp taco or burrito, it is their claim to fame. I also like their al pastor, nicely spiced, and the carnitas is moist and tender most of the time. I find that three tacos there fills me up well, and they do offer a hard-shell alternative, so you may want to try two soft and one crispy.

                            I also am a fan of El Super Taco, which is a bit closer to me. As someone mentioned above, their tacos are only a buck and a bit smaller, and are served with grilled onions rather than the usual chopped onion and cilantro, though that is available at the salsa bar. I find that about one part of the habanero salsa mixed with two or three parts of the salsa roja gives me good taste and a spicy kick. It appears that their specialty is tortas -- that's what I see most of the customers eating and going into the takeout and delivery packages.

                            Not mentioned on this thread yet is Tacos Por Favor, on Olympic and 14th in Santa Monica. Much heftier tacos, fresh and healthy looking tostadas, and the best salsa roja of the three.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: nosh

                              Tacos Por Favor is good for one thing: Chorizo and Cheese tacos. Their other tacos are average at best. I do agree with you on their salsa roja as well.

                              1. re: nosh

                                Thanks, nosh. I'll try the shrimp fare at Sanchez as well as the other things at Super Taco and Por Favor. I think with a little experimentation I can get a better feel for what I like about Mexican food.

                                1. re: hch_nguyen

                                  I'm a fan of Tacos Por Favor and El Super Taco, and keep meaning to try Sanchez. Some other great places for tacos and burritos in the area are Taco Plus on Bundy just south of Santa Monica Blvd. (excellent carne asada and al pastor -- similar to Tacomiendo but no self serve frijoles) and Eduardo's on Westwood at Santa Monica Blvd (excellent carne and pollo asada). The meat at both of these places is a cut above the usual taqueria, imo.

                                  1. re: a_and_w

                                    If I recall correctly, prices at Eduardo's and Taco Plus are also on the high side. Eduardo's similar to La Salsa or Baja Fresh, emphasis on combo plates at like $6.95 or higher. Only stopped in at Taco Plus once - totally unmemorable, and I think it was because prices were on the high side and the taste experience didn't make it stand out. Eduardo's also loses out to Philly West, just a couple doors south, for a great philly cheesesteak or my favorite burger so far in the area.

                                    1. re: nosh

                                      I was referring to the super/border burrito, which is about the same price at Eduardo's and El Super Taco. Tacos may only be a dollar at El Super Taco, but the al pastor and carne asada is better quality meat (more moist, less gristle) at Taco Plus. IMO, Eduardo's blows them both away for carne and pollo asada -- tender, well marinated, and nicely charred.

                                      PS: Thanks for the tip re Philly West!

                                2. re: nosh

                                  the shrimp tostada at taqueria sanchez is also excellent.

                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    Just about everything we've tried with shrimp at Sanchez has been tasty...

                                3. I enjoyed Tacomiendo, but, like you, wasn't blown away. I had the adobada burrito, and while I actually liked the meat, I thought the burrito itself was rather poorly constructed. Been meaning to head back and try some of the plates.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: a_and_w

                                    The chanclas are interesting - think something similar to a thick tandoori bread with black bean paste and your choice of meat topping if you choose, topped with your choice of salsa.

                                    The champurra is good, although I prefer this with Mexican breads in the AM...

                                    The chicken mole is pretty good - albeit huge and a bit messy...

                                    1. re: a_and_w

                                      I also enjoyed Tacomiendo...until my Pollo Burrito blew up. The tortilla was unable to contain all the chicken, beans, rice, cheese, guac, and pdg inside. It was very good and hearty but difficult to hold together. Guess it's a great problem to have, an overstuffed burrito. Wanted to try the tacos but not at $2 a piece. Thumbs up for the salsa bar with four different types of salsa (dark, smokey one was best), pinto beans, pickled carrots/jalapeno/garlic/onions, radishes, chopped onions and chopped parsley.

                                      I went to the one on Gateway and Pico; they had some interesting drinks on the chalkboard menu alongside the Mexican sodas and Aguas Frescas. They had juices called Immune Building Cocktail, Digestive Tonic and Body Cleansing Tonic. All were vege/fruit juice combos--in a taqueria!?! Only in the Westside!

                                      1. re: marcelisa27

                                        I think those combination juice drinks are common in Hispanic areas, forgive my spelling but Jugos Naturales, Bionicos etc. etc. I've seen them in shops and even trucks in E.L.A. and Boyle Heights.

                                        1. re: marcelisa27

                                          If you watch them start to assemble the burritos, your first question to yourself is, "I wonder how many burritos he's going to make with all of that meat?" When you then see all of that stuff going on to one tortilla, the next words are, "NO WAY - it ain't gonna happen!"

                                      2. tacos por favor - olympic and 14th... great carne asada and al pastor... their tacos are good and their burritos are great... salsa roja is second only to king taco, but king taco is a bit far to drive to from santa monica during a lunch break.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: civicisr

                                          I too was spectacularly underwhelmed by Tacomiendo. I've been there 3 times since trying to find out what all the fuss is about, and after this 3rd last visit, I've decided that it's not particularly inexpensive, has no uniqueness worthy of mention, and the burritos are in fact, overstuffed to the point of self-destruction. I brought a friend this last time, and we were both sufficiently unimpressed that we'll likely never go there again.

                                          It's not "bad", but in my opinion, certainly not worthy of the glowing reviews given all over this website, outside of the fact that it might have more "authentic" cred since more latinos seem to frequent this place. (Versus somewhere like Tacos Por Favor.)

                                          I've mentioned it before, but I think if you like chorizo, the chorizo/cheese tacos at Tacos Por Favor are by far the ones to beat. Hi quality chorizo, sharp cheese, and a great salty kick. Pricey for a taco ($1.75ish!) but well worth it. If you can beat the crowd, that is. Unfortunately, I wasn't as enchanted with the rest of their menu (asada, pastor, etc.), but wow those chorizo/cheese tacos are spectacular for my palate.

                                          1. re: agarose2000

                                            I love Tacomiendo. However, I would never order a burrito there or anywhere, for that matter...and granted, my taqueria experience in LA is very limited, but of the few places I have tried, what makes Tacomiendo unique for me are:

                                            1. quality of the house made corn tortillas (reason Number One not to order a burrito)
                                            2. the great salsa bar, best I've found in a while anywhere
                                            3. excellent carnitas
                                            4. cebollitas with my order
                                            5. I admit it, I do enjoy the people watching there: diverse clientele...