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Tito's Tacos

Bob Brooks Mar 25, 2010 03:35 PM

After seeing Tito's taco as among the 99 things Jonathan Gold says you should eat before you die, I realized I'm getting on in years so I'd better get to it.

I went today at 11:00 a.m. and the place was already jammed. I ordered two tacos with cheese. All I can say is...bleh! This stuff is awful. Instead of being crisp and crunchy, the shell is just hard and no fun at all. The filling is flavorless and the cheese is utterly bland. What they pass off as salsa is nothing more than a half-frozen puree of unripe and unseasoned tomatoes.

Boy, I sure don't get this place's appeal.

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  1. westsidegal RE: Bob Brooks Mar 25, 2010 03:42 PM

    imho, you are being extremely kind in your write-up.
    i concur with the fundamentals of your assessment, but with much more intensity.

    1. a
      annapurna7 RE: Bob Brooks Mar 25, 2010 03:48 PM

      Titos Taco's is comfort food along the lines of boxed mac n' cheese. I don't know why you crave it, but sometimes you just do.

      3 Replies
      1. re: annapurna7
        sparkareno RE: annapurna7 Mar 25, 2010 03:57 PM

        I agree about craving it. I went the other day after not going for a long time and sat in the parking lot & ate my 2 tacos and loved them. They are not authentic or super flavorful but for some strange reason I love them. And I love their chips & salsa. Sometimes I get a beef & cheese burrito which I also love. Just don't ask why.

        1. re: sparkareno
          westsidegal RE: sparkareno Mar 25, 2010 07:02 PM

          i'd bet the reason why is: SATURATED FAT.

          once, when i was much younger, i used to cook for a bunch of young guys.
          i had the reputation of being the absolute BEST cook they'd ever known, including their moms.
          my secret: adding a cup of lard to everything.

          the mouthfeel and taste of saturated fat can make cardboard seem delicious.

          now, being more aware, i'm sorry i set them all up for heart disease!

          1. re: sparkareno
            Foodandwine RE: sparkareno Mar 27, 2010 08:26 AM

            The Beef and Bean Burrito is very good. Nice brown sauce ( allot of it ) dripping onto the chips makes for a fun and tasty lunch with a root beer and I am happy. The salsa is very fresh tasting and lacking some heat but fresh, just ask for a small container of jalepanos and mix them together, in fact, I pour them both over the chip.. Yes, I am a minority here.. Thats okay with me..

        2. Mr Taster RE: Bob Brooks Mar 25, 2010 04:57 PM

          You've experienced the exact same thing that most non-native Angelenos experience when they bite into a Tito's Taco for the first time.

          Those that grew up in LA (like Jonathan Gold) seem to love it. Those who came to Tito's after their taste buds had fully formed tend to experience your reaction.

          It's a terrible. TERRIBLE. Terrible taco.
          (when not flavored by the Salsa of Nostalgia™)

          Mr Taster

          Tito's Tacos
          11222 Washington Pl, Culver City, CA 90230

          2 Replies
          1. re: Mr Taster
            SilverlakeGirl RE: Mr Taster Mar 25, 2010 05:40 PM

            I am a native of WLA.

            Ate at Ships in Westwood, Truman's Drive In in Westwood, the Farmers Market, The Pantry, Little Joe's, Taix's, Tail O the Pup, Phillipe's and a rare special dinner at The Pacific Dining Car ...

            I never heard of Tito's until I was an adult. It's horrible.

            Pacific Dining Car
            1310 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90017

            1. re: SilverlakeGirl
              westsidegal RE: SilverlakeGirl Mar 25, 2010 07:06 PM

              OT, but you brought up ships---
              the morning cook at the ships on olympic and la cienega made the best scrambled eggs of anyone in the world.
              once, i went up to him to tell him that.
              he, very matter-of-factly said, "yes, that's true."
              no modesty there.

          2. b
            Bjartmarr RE: Bob Brooks Mar 25, 2010 05:03 PM

            The appeal is the nostalgia. If Dad used to take you to Titos when you were eight and Mom was out of town, then you might have a shot at enjoying it. Think of it as a Mexican-American Tommy's.

            Of course, it might have been nice if JG had mentioned that in his review. As it is, I think we're going to get a lot of mystified posts like yours...

            My Dad used to take me to either Apple Pan or Marty's hamburger stand on Pico near Prosser. I still like Apple Pan, but even with the nostalgia I can no longer stomach Marty's.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Bjartmarr
              nothingswrong RE: Bjartmarr May 5, 2010 02:58 AM

              Oh no, Marty's. That was our rotation too when mom was gone or didn't want to cook--Tito's, Apple Pan, Marty's, and a taco truck down by Holmby Park. I cringe every time I drive by Marty's though...

              Apple Pan
              10801 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

            2. SilverlakeGirl RE: Bob Brooks Mar 25, 2010 05:35 PM

              I went once, it was hideous!

              1 Reply
              1. re: SilverlakeGirl
                terencio RE: SilverlakeGirl Mar 25, 2010 05:56 PM

                Nasty yesterday.
                Nasty today.
                Tomorrow? mmmm-hum.....

              2. b
                burntwater RE: Bob Brooks Mar 25, 2010 09:15 PM

                Jonathon's quote

                One Tito's taco is perhaps an underwhelming artifact: meat, lettuce and shredded cheese if you pay for it, forlorn in its prefab shell. A box of 22, on the other hand, is a Westside childhood writ large, unimaginable abundance, shredded animal flavored mostly of itself, rich and weighty and comforting. Purists who have just learned the difference between buche and tripas often disdain Tito's Tacos, imagining it as somehow "inauthentic." And I suppose it is inauthentic if you're comparing it to what may be available in outer Quintana Roo, although certain styles of taco-making in Durango are interestingly similar. What Tito's Tacos provides, 500 calories at a time, is the plain, nourishing taste of third-generation Mexican L.A. Tito's Tacos, 11222 Washington Place, Culver City. (310) 391-5780.

                I get it and I love the place.
                To me it's a great melting pot of Angelenos getting their fix of comfort food.

                It's not authentic and it's not trying to be. I can understand if you don't like it but if you don't understand why others may like it then I feel sorry for you.

                Tito's Tacos
                11222 Washington Pl, Culver City, CA 90230

                17 Replies
                1. re: burntwater
                  monku RE: burntwater Mar 25, 2010 09:33 PM

                  JG told it like it is and he must feel sorry for the OP.
                  "It's not authentic and it's not trying to be. I can understand if you don't like it but if you don't understand why others may like it then I feel sorry for you."

                  I was surprised to see a Tito's Taco commercial on a major LA TV network yesterday afternoon.

                  Tito's Tacos
                  11222 Washington Pl, Culver City, CA 90230

                  1. re: monku
                    ns1 RE: monku Mar 26, 2010 01:40 PM

                    Strangely enough, I've been seeing Tito's Taco's commercials in Big Bear since 2004.

                    Tito's Tacos
                    11222 Washington Pl, Culver City, CA 90230

                  2. re: burntwater
                    E Eto RE: burntwater Mar 25, 2010 10:31 PM

                    Exactly. I've enjoyed plenty of these style of tacos growing up, and Tito's represents a style of food that's historically and geographically specific. For some reason, east coasters love the stupid, shitty food called east coast Chinese egg rolls, and transplanted LA chowhounds lament that it's not available in LA, but it's what it is. Shitty nostalgic food. In a similar way to what Tito's Tacos represents for those who grew up in LA or southern California in general. There's nothing wrong with Tito's Taco as it has wide appeal to many, but for those who don't like it, that's fine too. Some people don't like NY style pizza, but they don't go around calling it "awful, tasteless food." And they aren't incredulous because other people like it. I'm reminded of a LA friend who has recently come to like wines and has been getting really into it. He's been groomed on many California wines, and revealed to me that he tried all kinds of wines during a trip to Italy and he thought they all sucked. Of course what he's saying is that he doesn't care for that style of old-world wines, but I don't think he would on internet forums saying that Italian wines suck. I'm all for reasoned opinions, but this topic has been beaten to death by many of the same posters saying the same exact thing every year when the Tito's Taco topic comes up. I'm not even a fan of Tito's, but I do appreciate it for what it is and still represents. Can we just leave it at that?

                    1. re: E Eto
                      mc michael RE: E Eto Mar 26, 2010 09:47 AM

                      It's comfort food. The green salsa has a nice kick too.

                    2. re: burntwater
                      Mr Taster RE: burntwater Mar 25, 2010 11:42 PM

                      The concept of "authenticity" is a slippery egg. I don't think anyone here is disappointed in Tito's product because it's "inauthentic". We're disappointed because the meat is flavorless. The guacamole is green colored water. It tastes like nothing, with a crunch and a slick of grease. The only redeeming quality, as far as I can tell, is that at least they're not using those mass produced "Old El Paso" taco shells from the supermarket.

                      I get it that nostalgia and the gestalt of the place draws people back. But to any outside observer, we're agog that so many people don't see that naked emperor strutting down the street.

                      And because Mr. Eto is so fond of bringing it up, the same near-universal disdain by outsiders for Tito's cannot be said for a well made New York eggroll (but can *absolutely* be said for New York style chicken chow mein.)

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster
                        E Eto RE: Mr Taster Mar 26, 2010 09:42 AM

                        I understand the disdain for Tito's as well. But it doesn't need to be repeated over and over and over again. And it's interesting because my comparison to the NY eggroll is still apt. There is no such thing as a well made NY eggroll. It's crap by its very definition, but people like it because that's what they grew up with. And you grew up with it. So you seem to like it and crave it. There is no difference between a Tito's taco and a NY eggroll. They're both crappy, but you like one and not the other. The same quote applies to the NY eggroll as well: "But to any outside observer, we're agog that so many people don't see that naked emperor strutting down the street."

                        1. re: E Eto
                          Servorg RE: E Eto Mar 26, 2010 10:08 AM

                          Right on the mark - like a laser guided gut bomb...

                          1. re: Servorg
                            mlgb RE: Servorg Mar 26, 2010 10:43 AM

                            Fair enough but I do wish we wouldn't tell anyone who hasn't developed a craving from early age feedings to go over there as a "must visit".

                            My own weaknesses are "crap dinner" aka Kraft Dinner and McGriddles but I don't encourage other people to eat them, and neither is as feh as a Titos Taco.

                            1. re: mlgb
                              annapurna7 RE: mlgb Mar 26, 2010 11:19 AM

                              I think more people can appreciate Tito's than not. It's simple food and there are plenty of people that like their food simple and full of lard. Lard tastes good.

                              Would I recommend it to my out of town "foodie" friends? No. But I would recommend it to everyone else.

                              1. re: mlgb
                                Bjartmarr RE: mlgb Mar 26, 2010 01:13 PM

                                I feel the same way. Nobody (well, nobody significant) calls NYC-style eggrolls a "must eat"; Tito's shouldn't be called that either.

                                I actually took my girlfriend there last week, at her insistence and over my objections. She had read that it was "one of the 99" and therefore had to go.

                                After her first bite, she looked puzzled. After the second, understanding began to dawn. I kept a straight face and encouraged her to try a third bite, which she did, and then pitched the rest into the trash and we went down the street to Jasmine.

                                (It wasn't a total waste of $2. I mean, I found watching her to be immensely entertaining.)

                                But yeah, I think that calling it a "must visit" is grossly (so to speak) misleading.

                            2. re: E Eto
                              Mr Taster RE: E Eto Mar 26, 2010 12:06 PM

                              >> There is no such thing as a well made NY eggroll.

                              There is not just one recipe for those eggrolls. They are made by countless hundreds (if not thousands) of family-owned restaurants all over the northeast corridor. I've had some eggrolls that are as bland, greasy and lifeless as a Tito's taco, and others that are perfectly fried and bursting with flavor.

                              Tito's is just Tito's. Nobody else is making them. There's just one recipe, and it's bad.

                              But hey, I'm not organizing any protest marches! Suum cuique pulchrum est.

                              Mr Taster

                              1. re: Mr Taster
                                annapurna7 RE: Mr Taster Mar 26, 2010 12:11 PM

                                With that thought, I think I'm going to have Tito's for lunch.

                                1. re: annapurna7
                                  Servorg RE: annapurna7 Mar 26, 2010 12:15 PM

                                  Viva Tito's! ;-D>

                                2. re: Mr Taster
                                  E Eto RE: Mr Taster Mar 26, 2010 01:14 PM

                                  Ever wonder why those eggrolls are so uniform across the coast? It's because they're manufactured in some soulless factory and shipped frozen to you favorite Ameri-Chinese eatery. You're probably right that there's someone out there making them, but I highly doubt it's the countless hundreds (if not thousands) you're dreaming of. These factories probably manufacture that slime called "duck sauce" as well. You can rationalize your fine palate for these things, but it's still crap, just like most east coast CHers will tell you. But if it's your comfort food, then more power to you. Eat up and enjoy.

                                  By the way, Tito's has an entire menu of items. Have you tried most of them, or are you basing your vitriol on a couple items?

                                  1. re: E Eto
                                    Mr Taster RE: E Eto Mar 26, 2010 01:22 PM

                                    Oh Mr. Eto,

                                    You're thinking of Panda Express spring rolls. NY eggrolls are not universally manufactured in some anonymous factory. If you spent enough time at these restaurants, sometimes you find one with an open kitchen, and sometimes you can watch them being made.

                                    That's the whole point of the thing.


                                    I'll give you duck sauce, though. That's a better (though not exact) equivalent to a Tito's taco as a food item that's craved only to those who grew up with it. Really, the gloppy chicken chow mein is a much better example of a food item that's repulsive to anyone who didn't grow up on it (and to those, like me, who got away long enough to realize it!)

                                    Mr Taster

                                    1. re: Mr Taster
                                      a_and_w RE: Mr Taster May 5, 2010 10:09 AM

                                      Hey now, I didn't grow up with duck sauce, but I occasionally crave it on my fried rice lol!

                              2. re: Mr Taster
                                LATrapp RE: Mr Taster Mar 26, 2010 10:50 AM

                                Mr Taster-

                                As much as I respect your countless contributions here, I just have to completely disagree with "we're agog that so many people don't see that naked emperor strutting down the street."

                                Speaking for myself only, I don't go to Tito's because of the hype, or the history, or the quality of the product. I go there for one simple reason:

                                Every now and then, my body craves it. There is an itch. It needs to be scratched.

                                Whether the itch is formed by childhood memories or my tastebuds are freak mutants that actually enjoys Tito's tacos- I don't care. There is no shiny clothed emperor that I am
                                chasing. No website or blog or hype that is driving me there. I'm actually shocked that you don't 'get' that.

                                Not to derail, but it's the same for me with Pink's and Carney's. I can't stand Pinks and after having it more than a few times would never again waste 30 seconds in that line. But I crave Carney's. Often. Guess what I grew up with? Never seen a naked emperor there either.

                            3. b
                              bulavinaka RE: Bob Brooks Mar 25, 2010 11:57 PM

                              >>After seeing Tito's taco as among the 99 things Jonathan Gold says you should eat before you die, I realized I'm getting on in years so I'd better get to it.<< - Respected OP

                              >>Those that grew up in LA (like Jonathan Gold) seem to love it.<< - Respected Chowhound

                              >>Those who came to Tito's after their taste buds had fully formed tend to experience your reaction.<< - Respected Chowhound again.

                              >>Titos Taco's is comfort food along the lines of boxed mac n' cheese. I don't know why you crave it, but sometimes you just do.<< - Respected Chowhound who's "been there."

                              If memory serves me, J. Gold grew up in the Westdale neighborhood of the Westside - a short bike ride down Sepulveda to Tito's. Aside from my first two years growing up in Midtown, I've considered the Westside to be home as well. Starting in the 60s, part of growing up in the Westside was regular visits to Tito's. Shredded yellow cheese, iceberg lettuce, and 100% steer wrapped in some sort of tortilla - this not only was Mexican food to many outside of the Mexican community here, it was just something that fit well given the post-baby boomer culture and its take of food. My mom learned to make tacos in an almost identical fashion (sans 100% steer - she used ground beef seasoned with ketchup and chili powder) from a govt-sponsored cooking class that was part of the naturalization process for foreign-borns wanting to melt into the American pot.

                              Whether one wants to argue the merits of Tito's for its food, its nostalgia, whether it's for pre-formative tastebuds of foodie novices and fodder for those anointed with good taste receptors by who I don't know, whatever. I think it's like the Peter Sellers movie, "Being There." It's as shallow or as deep as you want it to be. It's all in who you are and what you bring to table. Idiot or savant? Both? Hmmm...

                              If anyone can wax poetic, J. Gold can ladle, mince, and pour it on in spades. Aside from being under the spell of Tito's for years as many Westsiders obviously were and still are, I was puzzled when I saw this on his list (along with Phillipe's French dip right before Cole's). But after rereading this intriguing list and his "confession" that leads into the list, I grant Jonathan whatever he wants to put on his list:

                              >>And as long as we’re on the subject of metaphysics, we will also confess to being a bit judgmental, because judgmental is what we do around here. If we’re suggesting that some things — 99 things — are on this particular list, we’re also suggesting that others are not. A Tito’s taco: Eat before you die. A Pink’s hot dog? You’re on your own.<< J. Gold from, "99 Things to Eat Before You Die"

                              It's his list, and when I earn my own column and my own Pulitzer, I will create my own list for others to read, check off, and wonder what and why I was thinking as well. It's going to be a while, though. :)


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: bulavinaka
                                LA Buckeye Fan RE: bulavinaka Mar 26, 2010 09:47 AM

                                Well said.

                              2. m
                                mlgb RE: Bob Brooks Mar 26, 2010 12:05 AM

                                Yeah, well, some of us have been saying it's disgusting for over 30 years.

                                1. m
                                  malibumike RE: Bob Brooks Mar 26, 2010 01:39 PM

                                  Maybe it's just my circle of friends but Tito's is a lot more popular for its burritos than for its tacos, we would have named it Tito's Burritos.

                                  1. m
                                    mc michael RE: Bob Brooks Mar 26, 2010 01:51 PM

                                    We can all agree that Tito's is a known quantity. It's just known differently to different folks.

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: mc michael
                                      fkingford RE: mc michael Mar 26, 2010 05:12 PM

                                      When I took my eight year old son to Tito's when we first moved into the hood and had seen the crowds at all hours, his reaction after the first bite was, "Dad, I wouldn't give this to my dog!" I reminded him that he didn't have a dog and he said that was the point he was trying to make; if I got him a dog he'd take good care of it and wouldn't let it eat crap like that. A better assessment of Tito's I've yet to see. We still live just blocks away and have never been back. And yes, my son did get his dog.

                                      1. re: fkingford
                                        mc michael RE: fkingford Mar 26, 2010 08:15 PM

                                        My experience with 8 year olds is that they are very picky eaters and have very limited food interests--cheese pizza, pb&j, mac n cheese, cheese burgers with only cheese and catsup, and so on. Not judging your kid but this could be a factor. Also, I think the way the meat is "minced" up might freak some kids. Again, no offense, but I think i'll stick with the judgments of people 16 and over on many food items, not just Tito's..

                                        1. re: mc michael
                                          bulavinaka RE: mc michael Mar 27, 2010 07:40 AM

                                          >>My experience with 8 year olds is that they are very picky eaters and have very limited food interests--cheese pizza, pb&j, mac n cheese, cheese burgers with only cheese and catsup, and so on.<<

                                          Judge away - our daughter just turned eight, and she's been that way for about three years now. :) Oh, and you forgot to add french fries to your list. :)

                                          1. re: bulavinaka
                                            mc michael RE: bulavinaka Mar 27, 2010 07:49 AM

                                            You're right. I also forgot the dreaded chicken nuggets.

                                            1. re: mc michael
                                              westsidegal RE: mc michael Mar 27, 2010 07:59 AM

                                              at eight, my daughter was a very sophisticated eater, and didn't fit your description AT ALL.

                                              now that she is nineteen and has a boyfriend whose food preferences resemble those of your eight year old (add disgusting PANDA EXPRESS to the list), she has become like him.

                                              shoot me now.

                                              1. re: mc michael
                                                bulavinaka RE: mc michael Mar 27, 2010 08:27 AM

                                                Add Mc to the nuggets and you have my daughter's number one food choice. Shoot me to.

                                            2. re: mc michael
                                              annapurna7 RE: mc michael Mar 27, 2010 09:22 AM

                                              I have a four year old. I don't know if he'll touch a Tito's taco since I only go there once every few years. I know he won't look at a chicken nugget.

                                              Right now he can subsist on a diet of fresh tomatoes, lamb chops, cucumbers and french fries if I let him. I can get him to eat bratwurst and fresh french bread as well, but not much else.

                                              Won't touch a burger either. It's weird (though I can't really complain, it's a self imposed Med. diet) . He likes going to Open Sesame in Long Beach or Papa Cristos in Mid LA. ;)

                                              Papa Cristos
                                              2771 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006

                                              Open Sesame
                                              5215 E 2nd St, Long Beach, CA 90803

                                              1. re: annapurna7
                                                fkingford RE: annapurna7 Mar 27, 2010 11:15 AM

                                                My eight year old's - now sixteen - original assessment of Tito's still stands. At age four he called Louise Trattoria's pizza "cardboardy," and by age ten I had to drive him to Westmister for his favorite "soup," pho. Nothing on the westside would do for him. He has his fast food faves like any other teen, but they tend to be mostly taco trucks rather than burger joints. So when he pronounced Tito's inedible at age eight he knew whereof he spoke even then.

                                            3. re: fkingford
                                              mlgb RE: fkingford Mar 27, 2010 11:17 AM

                                              I think my comment on first taste was "What's in here, dog food?" But fkingford's kid had it right.

                                          2. cagey RE: Bob Brooks Mar 27, 2010 11:33 AM

                                            This particular Tito's thread has been beaten to a pulp I think..... to the consistency of the "mystery meat" of lore in their tacos. You can all return to your Mariscos Chente and Tacomiendo and Taqueria Sanchez over-raves, and leave TIto's to the local's collective fond memories. After 40+ years of occasional lapses in better judgement, I'll still knock off 4 Tito's tacos - 2 cheez, 2 w/out - just to scratch that itch whenever it occurs.

                                            Taqueria Sanchez
                                            4541 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                            11462 Gateway Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                                            Mariscos Chente
                                            4532 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: cagey
                                              swimfin RE: cagey May 4, 2010 07:36 PM

                                              All- someone said it should be Tito's Burritos - agree whole heartedly. I don't ever order tacos. It's the bean and cheese burrito. Lots of red sauce and the potent green sauce. No badness in the beans. Mystery meat = no way. Been going for 30 - plus years, since I lived down the street (Washington) in Mar Vista while in grad school. Too hot to eat at first, take a big chip and use it as a seal at the bottom of the burrito, liberal applications of red and green. Comfort food. Tip - go to the inside order window. Faster. Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

                                              1. re: swimfin
                                                sparkareno RE: swimfin May 5, 2010 09:18 AM

                                                I ask for a meat & cheese burrito & it is also laced with that magic stuff that makes their tacos so addictive. I know it's not "good food" but sometimes I just have to get into the car and drive over there--it's like I have no control over it. And I agree about the red & green sauces.

                                            2. maxzook RE: Bob Brooks May 6, 2010 09:31 AM

                                              Interesting how we tend to shred Tito's on this board, considering that it won eighth place in the very first Chowhound Ultimate Restaurants Poll in 2002:


                                              (... albeit with only eleven points from four voters)

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