Guerrilla Tacos: Enough to Turn a Meat-Eater Vegetarian?
- TheOffalo Jun 27, 2014 03:53 PM
[For images with captions, inline with text, go to http://theoffalo.com/2014/06/guerrill...]
"That guy could turn me vegetarian!" I uttered, or rather, typed, these unlikely-if-you-knew-me words in the Tacolandia 2014 thread (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9732...) last night. The "guy" in question is chef Wesley Avila of Guerrilla Tacos, who will apparently be serving a vegetarian taco with mushrooms and hazelnut "dirt" at Tacolandia 2014 (happening mañana at the time of writing). [Thanks for the tip, revets2!]
I first encountered Guerrilla Tacos at Tacolandia last year (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/906589), where they were serving a classic lengua (beef tongue) taco. While it was expertly prepared and tasted great, it did not tip me off to their prowess with vegetables. My ignorance was quickly corrected over this past year.
What could possibly *potentially* turn this dyed-in-the-wool carnivore into a herbivore? Simple: Use fresh, local vegetables, pair them with interesting ingredients, incredible salsas, and cook each dish to-order. Easier said than done, but Wes Avila and his crew does just that every Wednesday through Sunday out of their bright, blue Guerrilla Tacos truck. Here's just a few recent examples of what they can do with vegetables:
* Portobello Mushroom Taco, with fried egg, duxelles, portobello conserva, burnt tomato chile, and chives: The cubes of portobello were tender, the duxelles (a mixture of mince 'shrooms, aromatics, herbs, and spices) spread in between the two tortillas was flavorful, and the sunny-side up egg was perfectly cooked!
http://instagram.com/p/nbPqKeg-hO/ - Portobello Mushroom Taco
* Morel Mushroom Quesadilla, with farmer’s market greens, chives, Oaxacan cheese, burnt tomato chile, and cashews: Continuing with the mushroom vibe, this was an "open face" (unfolded) quesadilla, with generous portions of morels and cheese and some greens to lighten things up a bit. A bit unwieldy to eat, but it was delicious!
http://instagram.com/p/oRfVGSg-lb/ - Morel Quesadilla
* Heirloom Tomato & Squash Blossom Quesadilla, with Oaxacan cheese, Valbreso feta, market greens, almond chile, fried corn, and herbs: The tomatoes were incredibly fresh, and the cheese had a kind of queso frito quality to it. Also, the almond chile was great. Strangely, I didn't find any squash blossoms in the quesadilla...
http://instagram.com/p/ojYsAeA-nx/ - Heirloom Tomato & Squash Blossom Quesadilla
* Golden Beet Taco, with queso fresco, Brussels sprouts, dehydrated grapes, pine nuts, árbol chile, and cilantro: Brussels sprouts and beets, the bane of childhood vegetable consumption, have both made culinary resurgences. They also work really well together apparently, with the help of the other seemingly disparate ingredients. Is "dehydrated grapes" the molecular-gastronomical term for raisins?
http://instagram.com/p/oRggpwA-nY/ - Chicken Albondigas Taco; Golden Beet Taco
The kicker is of course that Guerrilla Tacos is not a vegetarian-centric enterprise; they also make great, stick-to-your-ribs meat dishes! While the above Chicken Albondigas Taco (ajonjoli salsa, castleveltrano olives, chives) didn't work for me ('twas a little dry), the other meat-centric dishes I've had have all been fantastic. Again, some recent offerings:
* Pork Short Rib Burrito, with fingerling potato, Swiss chard, and raw tomatillo: Speaking of quality ingredients, it's not just for vegetables; Guerrilla Tacos sources their pork from Cook Pigs, a small, family-owned ranch/farm that raise some of the best pork I've tasted. This burrito was no exception, with the bitter greens complimenting the short ribs perfectly!
http://instagram.com/p/oRZOwUg-rM/ - Pork Short Rib Burrito
* Lamb Tongue Taco, with charred flowering kale, manchego, raw tomatillo chile, pickled onions: Unlike most lengua, which is cubed, the lamb tongue was "pulled" or shredded, not unlike carnitas, and had a mild, not too grassy taste. The pickled onions and tomatillo chile added a great, tangy kick.
http://instagram.com/p/nbPf96g-g-/ - Lamb Tongue Taco
* Beef Chile Colorado Taco, with tomato-braised beef shoulder, jalapeño, onions, garlic, avocado, and cilantro: The seasoning almost tasted like 沙茶醬 (shā chá jiàng). The beef was very tender without falling apart.
http://instagram.com/p/ojaHYkg-qQ/ - Beef Chile Colorado Taco
* Fried Oyster & Beef Tendon Taco, with raw tomatillo chile, herbs, and shallots: Um, wow. The oysters were nicely fried. The tendons were springy. The combination of the tendon, the tang of the tomatillo, and the cilantro paid homage to phở (likely unintentional, but I wouldn't put it past Wes).
http://instagram.com/p/ojabhHA-qr/ - Fried Oyster & Beef Tendon Taco
Wait, oysters? Oh yeah, Guerrilla Tacos and Wes Avila also kick ass with mariscos!
* Octopus/Chorizo Taco, with pistachios, árbol chile, lime, avocado, and cilantro: Another amazing surf and turf combination, both proteins have strong flavors, but they complemented rather than completed with each other.
http://instagram.com/p/nbPSwqg-gq/ - Octopus and Chorizo Taco
* Honolulu Ahi Tuna Poke Tostada, white miso, scallions, habanero, and togarashi: Pretty much a straight-up classic poke, it was delicious. No worries about raw fish from a food truck; the tuna was super-fresh!
http://instagram.com/p/ojZjFtA-pR/ - Honolulu Ahi Tuna Poke Tostada
Any place that can make me not order multiples of the tendon/oyster taco or ahi poke tostada, so that I have room to try their non-meat options, is definitely making magic with vegetables. Would I convert to vegetarianism if it was the only way to get Guerrilla Tacos' vegetarian dishes? Fortunately, I don't have to; but I'd consider it, and that's something!
Looking forward to whatever chef Wesley Avila and crew are cooking up tomorrow! See you at Tacolandia 2014!
Guerrilla Tacos (http://www.guerrillatacos.com/)
@ Cognoscenti Coffee
6114 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA
Wednesdays, 10 AM to 2 PM
@ Blacktop Coffee
826 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA
Thursdays/Fridays, 9 AM to 2 PM
Saturdays/Sundays, 9 AM to 1 PM
well, arranged to meet a girlfriend who works in west LA at the truck for lunch today at 1pm.
by the appointed time only two items were left, both meat based.
i don't eat meat, and neither of the two available dishes appealed to my omnivore friend.
the upshot is that between the two of us we threw out 3 hours of driving and gas in the middle of a weekday.
my girlfriend threw out her entire lunch break.
guess we are not food truck gals. . . . .
Ack, so sorry to hear that! I did neglect to mention that they do sell out of some items often. Since they start at 10 AM, that last hour at 1 PM may likely always be slim pickins. I don't know if they stock less for the vegetarian items or if those are actually the most popular items; I'd like to think it's the latter.
Hope you'll give it another try, the earlier the better. It also cuts down on the wait time (both pre- and post-ordering) as they do make everything to-order there.
(I almost went today, but couldn't. Our missing leader kevin was going around 11:30 AM. Don't suppose you saw him at the late hour that you arrived?)
They are pricey. If they have four or five items on the menu, in order to sample them all, I'm likely to spend $30+ (a little more or a little less depending on the ingredients), so that's why I don't go that often. But the adage about getting what you pay for is true. Just because it's tacos out of a truck doesn't mean it should be cheap.
I know... I'm preaching to a fellow fan. :-)
My son sent a pic this morning of his beer battered cod taco and brisket taco from Guerrilla. He's going to move to SF soon and will probably miss Guerrilla Tacos more than anything else in DTLA.
Indeed, Guerrilla Tacos' most spectacular items are the vegetarian ones. A lot of his meat tacos are good, but they're not *that* much better than what you can get at cheap trucks--just different. But the vegetable ones are where his skills really shine. The sweet potato one with crispy corn is really special.
That tomato quesadilla looks other worldly.
Looking forward to trying whatever Wes is offering, although mushrooms are VERY low on my radar scale.
Would have loved to have tried those lengua ones last year.
See you tomorrow.
On paper, yes, but that taco with mushrooms was good enough that I didn't mind that it wasn't chorizo, and like I said, it (or their other vegetarian dishes) also causes me to not order a second of a meat dish in order to try a vegetarian. Unlike chrishei, I have a finite amount of space in my stomach.
Great review! I ended up trying it yesterday around 1:30 at their Cognoscenti Coffee location. The only items left were the Jpn Sweet Potato taco with Feta $4 and Pork rib tacos $5 (the last one). They also had a burritto, but skipped that because of my wheat allergy.
So glad I got to try them at the Culver City spot because I missed the boat at Tacolandia. Now that I know where they'll be, I'll be going back for more. Thanks for the info, T.O.!
Pretty abstract question, but how many of these tacos actually have more traditional Mexican flavors?
Based on reading your reviews, it seems like the mushroom taco, the oyster and tendon taco, the tomato and squash blossom taco, and the ahi poke taco have little, if anything to do with our beloved neighbor to the south.
Are tortillas just the new plating device of choice?
With that being said, I am dying to go here and curse Wes everyday for not serving nights.
I'm not qualified to judge on traditional Mexican flavors. I'd definitely agree on the ahi poke tostada is basically just using tortilla as a vessel for ingredients likely not to be found in Mexico (except the habanero), and probably agree on the oyster and tendon (at least in combination--I'm sure there are coastal regions in Mexico where you can find fried oyster tacos and other regions where you can find beef tendon tacos).
The other ones you mentioned, using fresh vegetables, while again I lack the expertise to speak definitively on the matter, I'm sure tacos and quesadillas made with fresh, seasonal vegetables are not unheard of in Mexico.
I think I was reading on Street Gourmet about the lamentations on traditional and authentic Mexican cuisine and how in Mexico the various regional cuisines are also changing, just like they are anywhere else. So perhaps what chef Wes is doing parallels what is happening in Mexico too.
"The other ones you mentioned, using fresh vegetables, while again I lack the expertise to speak definitively on the matter, I'm sure tacos and quesadillas made with fresh, seasonal vegetables are not unheard of in Mexico"
see AB in Baja where he feasts on zucchini blossom tacos on hand made blue corn tortillas. Not sure if it was "No Reservations" or "The Layover".