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Tacolandia 2014: Post Your Live Commentaries and After-Event Reports Here!

I did one of these for Tacolandia last year, and it was pretty successful, I think. I was trying to decide if we should just continue in the the existing pre-event discussion thread for this year, but I figure it'd be nice to have a clean slate to work with.

If you'll be at Tacolandia today, please post your live comments and photos if you get a chance, or after the event if you want to just focus on the food while you're there. Those who can't make it, feel free to make comments or ask questions. This should be fun!

Last Year's Report Thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/906589
This Year's Pre-Event Discussion: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/973256

Reminder: Those of us attending, we will try to meet up at the Eggslut stand at 4:30 PM. Check this thread on your mobile if you can, in case things change.

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  1. Sigh I'm gonna be late. Will probably miss the meetup. Hope there's food left when I get there.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ns1

      Post when you arrive and we'll meet up with you wherever.

    2. Insanely long line to get in.

      1. George's at the Cove El Pescado & Los 3 Cochinitos tacos.

         
         
        5 Replies
            1. re: TheOffalo

              Nice. Right up my alley.
              Same w other. 3 porks? Cheech?

              1. re: jessejames

                Fried pig ears, pig tails, cueritos (pickled pork rind).

                1. re: jessejames

                  It was like pho tendon. Better than the dick I ate at feng Mao that's for sure.

                  1. re: ns1

                    Guessing truffle scallop better!

                    1. re: jessejames

                      THERE WAS A TRUFFLE SCALLOP TACO?!?!

                      1. re: ns1

                        My bad said mushroom truffles scapes.

                    2. re: ns1

                      Completely agree -- I liked it to beef tendon as well. And it was fantastic.

                      1. re: phamschottler

                        I didn't particularly care for it TBH. I note in the trash can that there were many people who did not care for it.

                    1. re: jessejames

                      It was good. Had roe in them, like shishamo.

                      1. re: TheOffalo

                        U guys did good. So how many tacos did u tackle? I'm impressed with the clever kinds.

                        1. re: jessejames

                          15 or so. I blame that on my late arrival.

                          1. re: ns1

                            But guessing no midnite snack either !

                            1. re: jessejames

                              About to kill a Spumoni bar from quenelle. Some of that lobster chorizo fundito would be killer right now though.

                              I didn't eat anything before tacolandia - just coffee lol

                            2. re: ns1

                              15 uniques, 20 or so with repeats. I blame the stupid drink line.

                    2. Came so late but still so full

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ns1

                        Sorry, we didn't get to meet up.

                        1. re: TheOffalo

                          Got there at 445 by that time just wanted to destroy everything.

                      2. A pretty good event this year. Certainly better than their LA Weekly Taste or whatever they call the Gold Standard now. I was a bit worried by the long line to get in, but it moved fast enough once they opened the gates.

                        I found it funny that 3 CH'ers coincidentally were in the same part of the line at La Guerrerense. I went back twice (3x, but I was getting one for a friend!) it was so good.

                        I thought the taco from Eggslut was really good as well. That quail egg + pork combo was deadly, but made lighter by the pickles on top. I really hope they add that to the menu at their brick and mortar location.

                        The taco at Taco Maria was surprisingly good. I was a little scared of a vegetarian taco but my vegan husband got one (sans crema) and I had a bite so I went back for more. It was a mushroom chorizo-type thing that was really flavorful and meaty! I'm glad at least one stand had vegetarian offerings.

                        The most disappointing taco though, was the one from Pez. Their fish taco looked great and the salsas to drizzle on top tasted good, but the fish itself was overdone and dry. If only they had given me a bottle of Pacifico that was in that cooler, maybe I could have washed it down and it wouldn't have been as dry. Maybe making fish tacos at an event like that is more difficult than it looks?

                        But then the smelt taco at Corazon y Miel was deep fried and leaps better. Hm.

                        14 Replies
                          1. re: ns1

                            Agreed, probably in my top three for the event. Beats out their pork taco with the fried pig ears, which were excellent too.

                            1. re: TheOffalo

                              Top 5 (alphabetical order):

                              Finca Altozano
                              George's at the Cove
                              La Guerrerense
                              Tacos Kokopelli
                              Timothy Hollingsworth

                              George's was 3 for 3 yesterday. Just an amazing trio of tacos/tostada from their A-Team.

                                1. re: jessejames

                                  Finca Altozano - dickhead taco
                                  George's at the Cove - los 3 cochinitas taco
                                  La Guerrerense - bacalao, octopus & scallop tostada
                                  Tacos Kokopelli - smoked salmon chiltepin chimole
                                  Timothy Hollingsworth - cochinita pibil

                                  George's also had an achiote-cured red snapper taco (which they also served last year), and a pineapple tostada w/ mezcal espuma.

                                  1. re: chrishei

                                    all those sound clever and delicious to me...well except one!

                                    sounds like i gotta check out la guerrerense...that's yet another super tempting option.

                                    glad you guys all had fun and had some great tacos. thanks for the report

                                    1. re: jessejames

                                      If you're referring to the "cochinita pibil," then take a look at this:http://instagram.com/p/p0JUvksxeY/

                                      Plated w/ tweezers of course. And the tortilla was one of a kind - made w/ heirloom corn.

                                      Here's a photo of my "All-Tacolandia Team": http://instagram.com/p/p0N-AzsxUO/

                                      1. re: chrishei

                                        nah i love cochinita pibil and that 3 cochinitas one looks great too....call me old fashioned, but there are numerous cuts of beef id prefer over the dickhead (and shaft and balls, just saying).

                                        we're lucky here in la, we have all my favorite foods in spades: sushi, chinese, pastrami and tacos!

                                        great photos and thanks for sharing.

                                        1. re: chrishei

                                          I think I might swap Timothy Hollingsworth's taco for Carnitas El Momo's, but these were the same hits for me. The Dickhead from Finca Altozano (by Javier Plascencia) was kind of a gimmick but was done so well. It was easily one of my favorites; I had three of them!

                                          1. re: phamschottler

                                            Must buy dick in bulk. Sad butcher bag.

                                            1. re: phamschottler

                                              Carnitas El Momo's sortido taco was amazing - top 5 all things considered actually, I agree. I gave the edge to Mr. Ladies Man because I've already had El Momo before and it's something you can get on a regular basis.

                                              1. re: chrishei

                                                Haha, that guy had "heartthrob" written all over him, huh?

                              1. re: PandanExpress

                                Great to meet you! I'm still trying to post all my pics to IG and then maybe I'll do a quick write up and post my pics here. I think my biggest disappointment, aside from the drink lines being fucking long (and I don't curse lightly, #freekevin2014v2) is actually how many places I missed out on (I blame the 45 minute drink line for part of it--I paid $20 extra for those drink tickets, I was gonna use them!)...

                                1. re: TheOffalo

                                  Yeah those drink lines were ridiculous! And the drinks...eh. I would _not_ stand in such a long line for crappy sour mix.

                              2. I had quite a bit, and most of it very good. Unsurprisingly, La Guerrerense was the best, followed closely by Mariscos Jalisco. I had only eaten Jalisco once before, and my prior experience had been disappointing. Today I realized that last time the tacos were burned--today they were perfect and glorious.

                                I feel like this event could be run a whole lot better. Here is some constructive criticism, in case anyone at LA Weekly is reading.

                                DRINKS: The drink situation was a catastrophe. They decided to have the bars also be the only place you could buy water. I saw two people look like they were going to have heat stroke have to wait in line a half hour for water, mainly behind people who just wanted alcohol. Boy did they give up a lot of money having the drinks lines being so slow. I probably would have had 3 or 4 beers, ended up having none because of the line.

                                TEQUILA GARDEN. This ended up being pretty unappealing--just drinking straight tequila shots in heat. There were no margaritas, no fun cold drinks on a hot day, and half the stations were pure garbage (I almost vomited from Adam Carolla's wine/tequila item).

                                LINE AT FIRST: Since they only had like 3 people to let people in, the line was comically long and terrible. Just poor planning here.

                                All of this being said, it was a fun event. It's a nice chance to try a lot of tacos, but it is hardly a substitute for going to these places.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: Haeldaur

                                  I was writing a very similar response at the same time you were. I definitely agree about the line and the tequila garden, and, of course, the tacos.

                                  1. re: bopdd

                                    Concur with the drink situation sentiments. It WAS a catastrophe. And especially frustrating after having to wait so long to enter the event. One of the highlights for me ended up being AVA Little Tokyo's snow cones. It was the first "drink" I had all day and was so refreshing. I wanted 10 of them.

                                    The number of good tacos I ate made up for the shortcomings though, IMO. I think we all agree that there was a lot of good food here, and I'd go so far as to say that even if LAWeekly makes no improvements next year, I'd still go. And bring my own water.

                                    1. re: phamschottler

                                      +1 to "I'd go so far as to say that even if LAWeekly makes no improvements next year, I'd still go. And bring my own water." That last part being critical.

                                      1. re: TheOffalo

                                        Sounds like just need some silver tequila to go with the jaritos

                                  2. re: Haeldaur

                                    For the life of me, I couldn't understand WHY people were waiting for drinks early on (or at all). I guess there were drink coupons or people wanted to buy beer?

                                    My main focus was to get as many tacos as you could without waiting in a long-ish line, and the beer/drinks lines were crazy long.

                                    I kept on going to the Califa Agua Fresca samples which were pretty quick as well as the Free Jarritos truck in the back. Those were great.

                                    I showed up about 2:40 and then waited until 3pm. Took about 5 min to get into the venue. Ate about 20 tacos, my main priority for going was to go to La Gurrense, and when I was in there in the beginning, there was no line, so I just kept on going back for more and more, it was great.

                                    Eventually I couldn't eat any more tacos, and by that time, probably around 4:20 or so, the lines at every stall were like 15-20 people deep.

                                    1. re: Xericx

                                      yes, sounds like the right time for the rush for tacos

                                  3. Overall, I thought the event was pretty great when boiled down to the essentials, i.e. trying different tacos from different vendors. All in all I tried about 10 to 12 tacos and left completely full.

                                    My personal favorites of the day were probably Chichen Itza's cochinita pibil taco and the mixed taco from Carnitas Del Momo. The former was packed with flavor, the latter's meat just plain delicious. Some other really tasty standouts: Soho Taco, Timothy Hollingsworth, and La Guerrerense.

                                    I was probably most disappointed by Guerilla Tacos. I've been to their truck before and loved what I had there, but for the event they provided a somewhat forgettable portobello mushroom on a fried tortilla chip thing and closed down within the first hour and a half. Yes, the line was long and consistent, but they either simply weren't prepared or just figured they would only spend so much money on food. Either way, they could have done much better in my opinion. I was also somewhat let down by Coni Seafood. I've been meaning to try them for years, and the smoked marlin taco they served was tasty, but not necessarily worthy of their reputation. I guess I still need to make it to the actual restaurant.

                                    My biggest disappointment aside from Guerilla Tacos (and the long line to get in), however, was the Tequila Garden. I bought the $20 advance ticket for a "tasting" and the best thing about it was the free shot glass. The alcohol companies on board were pretty generic (and in some cases, tastelessly commercial), and you had to wait twenty minutes to get like a .2 oz pour. They should have increased the amount poured and decreased the number of different tastings.

                                    I will likely be back next year because the variety and flavor profile of the tacos made it all worthwhile.

                                    1. ISO: run down of each vendor + what tacos they got. TheOffalo, I hope you're working on that inlined post!

                                      13 Replies
                                      1. re: ns1

                                        I am working on it, but chrishei's, if he writes one up, will be more definitive. I had only half the tacos he had.

                                        1. re: TheOffalo

                                          Depending on how busy work is today (so far, very), I might get one up by the end of the night. If not, hopefully this week :)

                                          1. re: chrishei

                                            Not as good as the rest of you guys', but feel free to take a look as a supplement: http://oheithere.wordpress.com/2014/0...

                                            1. re: chrishei

                                              Yes, but yours is the archival reference we need, and the one we deserve.

                                              1. re: chrishei

                                                I want to thank everyone here for their coverage and photos, particularly TheOffalo and Chris.

                                                I guess I go about these events the wrong way. I'm drawn to the Mom & Pop places and often skip most of the unique Chef creations. Which is too bad, because clearly I miss out on a lot. I'm not likely to show up at these chef's restaurants unless I had an expense account, so it's my only chance to sample their offerings. Then again, these chef creations always have the longest lines. I wanted to try Guerilla, but the line was so long, I tactically chose not to. I do wish there was more visible labelling of what each stall had, a la what some did at The Essentials. So, I didn't get to have too many tacos and left early so I could catch a train without a 2 hour wait :-( And, yeah, the drink situation was terrible...as usual. I figured Jarritos charged, so passed on it and didn't know about the aguas frescas. But, in spite of what I wrote above coming off as Donnie Downer, I was quite happy with what I sampled.

                                                1. re: JThur01

                                                  Jim, thanks! Too bad we didn't meet. Thanks for your thoughts. Good points on sampling from restaurants you may not be able to or afford go to otherwise.

                                                  Guerrilla Tacos was a weird and special circumstance. They had huge lines up until they ran out, whereas many of the other long lines, even Eggslut waxed and waned, so it was almost always worth it to skip the long lines and grab a quick sample from a shorter line. Or even grab samples from multiple shorter lines to enjoy during a long line.

                                                  One thing I wish I did was do a full walk around when I first arrived. I didn't even go to the wing that Jarritos and Mariscos Jalisco were in until the last hour. I totally missed the agua fresca samples.

                                                  1. re: TheOffalo

                                                    I went to that area first, yet never realized the agua fresca samples were free. I might have come too EARLY!
                                                    I really feel the beverages need to be in one area, the food in another, with beverages separated by alcoholic & non-alcoholic, as well as free vs. with coupon or to be paid for. It sounds like a lot, but it would surely make the event run more smoothly.

                                                    1. re: carter

                                                      Yeah. It wasn't fun playing the "which line am I in?" game between the backups at Jalisco and Jarritos.

                                                      1. re: carter

                                                        Last year the alcoholic beverages were in a completely separate area because the event was not 21+. I think it actually worked better that way.

                                                      2. re: TheOffalo

                                                        I'm sorry I missed you as well. Interestingly, I got toward the back first. Aqui es Texcoco was number one for me. From there, I wandered around trying to hit what I had highest prioritized and usually ate in line. Next time, I will definitely get there a bit earlier. If it wasn't for me not wanting to wait 2 hours for the next train, that would have helped too.

                                                      3. re: JThur01

                                                        Thanks Jim. I definitely understand where you're coming from.

                                                        1. re: JThur01

                                                          For the future, don't be too discouraged by the long food lines. Most of them moved pretty quickly; the vendors were pros at speeding things along. Especially considering how frustrating the entry and drink lines were, the food lines were bearable and worth the wait. Also, a tip: if you need to take a break from eating, just jump in a longer line and "rest" while you wait.

                                                          I love that you were still happy with what you got out of the event. It seems like most/ all of us were happy to have gone, a testament to how well-curated the vendors were.

                                                          1. re: phamschottler

                                                            I noticed the lines moved fairly quickly, except apparently the lines I got in at the times I chose :-) Yes, I was very impressed with the range. I mean who would've anticipated more fried smelt or octopus tacos than pork belly? As many grasshopper as shrimp? Nope, couldn't see that coming :-)

                                                2. The biggest surprise for me personally was Carnitas El Momo. I got a mix taco and ehhhhhh. Gotta say, it wasn't what I was expecting. In hindsight, I probably should not have gotten the "mix" but the textures and taste was all very 1 note for me. Mainly the texture.

                                                  I've also come to realize that I really don't like braised meats in tacos...they are very heavy and often watery.

                                                  Finally, surprised no one has mentioned this yet: seems like the taco vendors really stepped up their tortilla game this year. Ate soooooooooo many fresh tortillas, it was glorious. SOHO's tortilla setup was badass.

                                                  There was one street cart vendor who looked like they literally brought their street cart to the party. They were serving both asada and al pastor and looked like they could have been from Baja. Anyone know who I'm talking about? For street tacos, they were freaking glorious.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: ns1

                                                    I disagree regarding Carnitas El Momo. I found the meat extremely succulent and flavorful. One of the highlights for me.

                                                  2. A wrote up about a handful of tacos on my blog (link on the bottom) with pictures. But the text of it is below. Based on the posts here, I was on the low end of how many tacos I ate. I am impressed by everyone else's taco eating powers. Maybe if I hadn't gone for seconds to some spots...

                                                    One of the first tacos I had this Saturday was the bacalao/octopus/seafood salad taco from La Guerrerense of Ensanada. It was so good that I went back to get a second helping. It was so good that both times, I devoured it before taking a picture it. The only bad thing is that I’d have to go to Mexico or wait till next year to try their taco again.

                                                    Eggslut’s pork and quail egg taco was perfect: Crispy, flavorful pork underneath a perfectly fried quail egg and a pile of thin-sliced pickles and herbs. I don’t know what that puree under the pork was, but it was tasty. Like their GCM location, the Eggslut tent also had a long, winding line in front of it. I hope this taco makes an appearance on the GCM menu soon.

                                                    The surprise of the day was that there was a vegetarian taco stand that was super nice about leaving off the dairy to make a vegan taco. The second surprise was that their taco was really good. Taco Maria’s mushroom chorizo taco with house-made chips on top were so good I almost thought Will got a meat taco by mistake. The best part was that because their taco was vegetarian, there wasn’t that much of a line for it, so it was easy to get seconds. People who avoided that tent because it was vegetarian missed out, but more tacos for us!

                                                    Thanks to a tip from a friend, I got in line for a smelt taco from Corazón y Miel. It was artfully plated and tasted as good as it looked. The smelt was full of eggs that popped delightfully between my teeth. This was a different take on a fish taco that I enjoyed.

                                                    I had another octopus taco which I believe was from Picca. It was good, but its flavors were nowhere near as good as the one from La Guerrerense. I thought the flavors of Picca’s was a bit muddied and not as bright as what I would expect from them. What a great problem to have: one tasty octopus taco was not as delicious as another one.

                                                    The Bad

                                                    I really wanted to like the fish taco at Pez Cantina. They had an impressive array of house-made condiments for the fish taco. But no amount of condiment could disguise an over-cooked piece of fish. The batter was nice and crispy, but the fish itself was dry, hard, and tasteless. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by fish tacos from Taco Baja Ensenada, but this one was just not worth the line.

                                                    The Ugly

                                                    The line to get into the event was pretty slow. Considering most people had printed tickets or tickets on their phone, I would expect the line to get processed pretty quickly, but that wasn’t the case. But that line was nowhere near as bad as the line for drinks.

                                                    Whoever decided that alcohol and bottles of water would be bought at the same measly handful of locations needs to re-think that plan. Those lines snaked through several food lines, adding to a lot of confusion. If I were one of the people who bought drink tickets with their ticket and I had to stand in a 30-minute line for a $5 crappy beer or sticky sour mix cocktail, I’d be pretty angry. I didn’t have drink tickets and I’m still angry about that.

                                                    From what I hear about the tequila garden, it was similarly disappointing. I get that the Weekly has to make money off of an event like this, but having big soulless tequila vendors and Spearmint Rhino stands in the festival clashed with the better curated food vendors.

                                                    http://www.nakedsushi.net/

                                                    13 Replies
                                                    1. re: PandanExpress

                                                      Taco Maria’s mushroom chorizo taco with house-made chips on top were so good I almost thought Will got a meat taco by mistake. The best part was that because their taco was vegetarian, there wasn’t that much of a line for it, so it was easy to get seconds. People who avoided that tent because it was vegetarian missed out, but more tacos for us!
                                                      ---------
                                                      They were out by the time I got there at 4:45

                                                      1. re: ns1

                                                        They were also out when I got to it, as was guerilla tacos.
                                                        The highlights for me were quite similar to chrishei's list.
                                                        Favorite section was that east side facing Alameda, starting with Tim Hollingsworth @ The Broad and the next few north of it.
                                                        Amazing array of flavors, most from south of the border. Never got to try Pez in that row, however.
                                                        Finished off about 18-20, maybe more over all.
                                                        Momo was a bit disappointing, with Eggslut the most surprising - its only problem was its line melded with the only drink station in the shade across the way. That was just chaotic by 4:30/5:00.
                                                        Glad to meet some of you.
                                                        Hope next year's event provides some different vendors.

                                                        1. re: carter

                                                          I don't mind the same vendors if they change up what they bring. Of course, saying that, two of my favorites this year ended up being repeats of the same dish last year: La Guerrerense's seafood tostada (I could eat that every week) and George's at the Cove's cured red snapper.

                                                      2. re: PandanExpress

                                                        How did some of you, and you know who you are, put down so many tacos without a drink since the drink line was so crazy?

                                                        1. re: JAB

                                                          There were a few vendors giving drink samples, so we grabbed drink samples to wash down the tacos.

                                                          1. re: JAB

                                                            I brought a water bottle with me because I didn't want to stand in line for expensive water.

                                                            1. re: JAB

                                                              I had to get a kidney transplant.

                                                              1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                It was actually easier without drinks -- more space for tacos. When I finally got my hands on a bottle of water, I chugged half of it, then was instantly too full to stand.

                                                                [For reference, I ate 27 tacos, plus some other stuff like rice and beans, and snow cones. I spent all of Sunday at home, not moving.]

                                                                Tip: For any taco that comes on 2 tortillas, ditch the bottom one. More flavorful, less filling.

                                                                1. re: phamschottler

                                                                  phams, Im always with you on the 2 tortilla deal...id rather not fill up on that esp when tacos are generally so cheap...27 is putting in some f'ing work. nice.

                                                                2. re: TheOffalo

                                                                  I brought my own water canteen and a cheap aluminum frame chair that came in handy when waiting for the hand-pressed heirloom blue corn tortilla Cochinita pibil by Timothy Hollingsworth.

                                                                  Missed out on the free Jarritos, but got some juice samples from the Goya Foods booth.

                                                                  Ate a total of 20 tacos and 3 mini pina colada dessert tostadas by George's at the Cove.

                                                                  1. re: FoodShutterbug

                                                                    20 tacos!!! For arriving late and leaving early, you fared damn well!

                                                                    1. re: phamschottler

                                                                      Thanks @phamschottler! I'm impressed you and Chris were able to put away so many tacos and didn't complain of palate fatigue!!! I had Coni' Seafood's marlin taco at the end and could hardly taste it. Hoping to make it to 25 tacos next year.

                                                            2. OH yeah, no mentions of PICCA's superb octopus taco? Lovely textures on that bad boy.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                                1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                  it's okay, I didn't get to try La Guerrerense either - line was massive when I got there and I said "screw it, we tried it last year".

                                                                  oops =X

                                                                2. re: ns1

                                                                  I really liked Picca's offering, yet every time I passed, they looked REALLY lonely without much foot traffic.

                                                                  1. re: ns1

                                                                    @ns1 I agree the textures were really great with the toasted quinoa, mustard seeds, tender grilled octopus and hummus of all things. I enjoyed PICCA's entry, but I think they were upstaged by Tacos Kokopelli and Timothy Hollingsworth when it came to plating.

                                                                  2. [For images with captions inline with text, go to http://theoffalo.com/2014/06/tacoland...]

                                                                    LA Weekly's and Bill “Street Gourmet LA” Esparza's sophomore Tacolandia food festival took place on Saturday, June 28, 2014, in the Plaza Park at El Pueblo de Los Angeles, adjacent to historic Olvera Street, a change from the parking lot of the Hollywood Palladium. Anticipation had been building, with the inaugural event having received near universal acclaim from those attending; Bill linked to many of the positive reports in his own debrief last year, including mine.

                                                                    I started looking forward to this year's event shortly after the last one ended. When tickets went on sale a few months ago, I was not going to let Tacolandia get sold out again without having tickets and then have to beg, cajole, or steal (or in my case last year, win) them to attend. So, I grabbed a Premium Admission for $45, a $20 "premium" over general admission. It included a "VIP" gift bag and 5 drink tickets. Finally the date arrived. Would it live up to expectations? Would there be a sophomore slump? I have some good news and some bad news.

                                                                    The good news is that the food is still superb. The general admission ticket, $25 (up $5 from last year) is an amazing deal for four hours of all-you-can-eat food at 40+ vendors serving a range of traditional and innovative tacos and other Mexican dishes! And they improved on many of the issues I had with last year's event. But I'll get back to the good news in a moment. Let's go over the bad news...

                                                                    Lines were the biggest issue, but not necessarily for the food. The wait just to get into the event itself was very long. General and Premium only had one line each, creating a bottleneck at the entrance. I had gotten in relatively early, just after 3 PM, with a friend who had already been waiting in the Premium line before the event started. Other friends who arrived just 10-15 minutes later had to wait 30-45 minutes to get in. However, the more egregious issue was the lines for drinks. They were staggeringly long, easily a half hour wait or more.

                                                                    The event only had three drink stations, bars basically, serving both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. I personally stood in one line for 45 minutes to get a drink. That's nearly one-fifth the duration of the entire event! And I was only able to use 2 of my 5 drink tickets before the bars closed down at 6:30 PM (a condition of the event permit, I believe). It felt at times like you had to choose between getting drinks or getting food!

                                                                    (Jarritos did have a truck giving away sodas for free, same as last year, but it was parked at the end of one of the three "wings" of the larger venue, so it was not as easy as last year to grab a free, cold drink whenever you wanted.)

                                                                    Also, despite the fact that drink tickets should have been "good for beer/wine/cocktails/soda/water" according to the event website, you could not get water for your drink tickets; the bars would only sell them, at $2 a bottle. In fact, you could buy any drink for cash, so drink tickets were not the only way to get alcohol. If you had a Premium Admission, to get your money's worth, you basically had to spend a significant amount of time in line to use up your tickets, or get all of your drinks at once and look like a lush!

                                                                    What about the VIP bag? Perhaps part of the value of the Premium Admission went into that... Um, no. Now, I'm not expecting Oscars-presenter level swag, but I did expect a little more than an Amoeba Music plastic bag (not even one of those reusable shopping ones) with a package of flour tortillas and a bunch of ads and coupons inside. Retail Price: $5 (if that)?

                                                                    But enough negativity! Lest you think it was all terremotos y chupacabras (the, um, "opposite" of rainbows and unicorns), with the exception of the lines and the general drink situation, the event was fairly well run.

                                                                    This year's venue was much bigger, and Bill said they sold a thousand more tickets, but the event didn't feel too crowded. Lively, yes, and for certain food stands--and the damned drink stations--when the lines snaked a bit long, somewhat congested, but overall the crowds were very manageable. Organizers did a good job not over-selling the event. Also, the venue had much more shade and a lot more seating compared to last year! So while it was a warm day out, and you still get a good bit of sun waiting in lines, the venue provided many spots to digest and rest after your 10th, 20th, or 30th taco before going back for more!

                                                                    Speaking of food, let's get to it! A vast majority of last year's restaurants participated again, and fewer participants ran out of food early this year.

                                                                    Unfortunately, one of the return participants that did run out early was Guerrilla Tacos, at around 4:30 PM; I just posted about them this week in anticipation of Tacolandia. Their stand was very popular, with long lines as soon as the event started. As anticipated, chef Wes Avila made a vegetarian, actually vegan, dish, with bright, complex flavors (the truffles did not dominate all), and a nice salty kick!

                                                                    + http://instagram.com/p/pzhaLzg-nb/ - Guerrilla Tacos' Wild Porcini Mushroom Tostada, Black Eyed Peas, Hazelnut Crumbs, Garlic Scape Chile, Shaved Black Truffles

                                                                    Another returning chef, Trey Foshee of George's at the Cove in La Jolla, San Diego, CA, brought back his dish from last year, along with two others. He had plenty of food, and he and his crew were serving right up to the end! The cured snapper was better than last year! For me, it even managed to beat out his other savory dish, and that one had crispy pig ears and pig tails! The dessert tostada was also excellent!

                                                                    + http://instagram.com/p/pzfbnQA-j1/ - George's El Pescado Taco: Achiote Cured Snapper, Avocado, Pineapple, Jalapeño Salsa, Cilantro, Cabbage, Crispy Fish Skin

                                                                    + http://instagram.com/p/pzf5apg-kv/ - George's Los 3 Cochinitos Taco: Marinated Pig Tail, Crispy Ear, Cueritos, Cabbage Slaw

                                                                    + http://instagram.com/p/p0IFTUg-rp/ - George's La Piña Tostada, Pineapple, Espuma de Mezcal

                                                                    As with last year, Bill invited several chefs and restaurants from Mexico to participate. All the ones this year were veterans of last year's event. Tacos Kokopelli of Tijuana brought three this year, including a show favorite from last year, the "Kraken" octopus taco.

                                                                    + http://instagram.com/p/p0TFH8g-qk/ - Tacos Kokopelli's Kraken Taco: Grilled Octopus, Herbs, Spices, Peanut Salsa

                                                                    + http://instagram.com/p/pzot0zg-kI/ - Tacos Kokopelli's Polvora Tostada: Smoked Salmon, Chiltepin, Chilmole

                                                                    + http://instagram.com/p/p0k3BjK88s/ - Tacos Kokopelli's Summer Dash Tostada, Salmon Ceviche, Mango, Tamarindo (Credit: @foodshutterbug on Instagram)

                                                                    Chef Javier Plascencia, and his new Baja California restaurant Finca Altozano, brought one of the more "challenging" dishes, a taco with braised bull penis. The texture was like the beef tendon you'd find in phở. Beyond the shock value, it was a very good dish, with the birria of beef cheeks and tongue.

                                                                    + http://instagram.com/p/pzmFpNA-v4/ - Finca Altozano's The Original D#ckhead Taco: Beef Cheek, Tongue, Pizzle, Birria Style

                                                                    Sabina Bandera and her Ensenada mariscos stand La Guerrerense was back, serving their signature tostada with a roasted sea urchin base and topped with octopus, scallops, and bacalao. Fantastic stuff!

                                                                    + http://instagram.com/p/p0RKPxg-oS/ - La Guerrerense's Seafood Tostada: Sea Urchin, Octopus, Scallop, Bacalao

                                                                    Serious props to the participants from Mexico for coming all this way! Hope they all come back again next year!

                                                                    Leading up to the event, there were questions about why Eggslut was participating. I asked Bill about that, and he said that with chef Johnny Lee's experience at Rivera and his participation in Tacolandia last year with Spirit House, Bill was glad to invite him back even if the restaurant he's currently at didn't normally serve tacos. I think it was a great decision. Eggslut's line, as it is at Grand Central Market, was one of the longest at the event, and the breakfast-y Neuske's bacon and fried quail egg taco was a delicious and inspired dish!

                                                                    + http://instagram.com/p/pzwiCCA-hU/ - Eggslut Taco: Braised/Fried Nueske's Bacon, Fried Quail Egg

                                                                    Alright, enough of my blathering. Here are the rest of the tacos that I had at Tacolandia 2014:

                                                                    + http://instagram.com/p/p0DPNNg-kV/ - Chef Katsuji Tanabe's Fried Smelt Taco, w/Beet Salsa ... and Sprinkles?

                                                                    + http://instagram.com/p/p0Ex-pA-m-/ - Amor y Tacos' Short Rib Tacos, w/Pickled Radish, Raspberry Salsa

                                                                    + http://instagram.com/p/p0KQrVA-vT/ - Tortas Ahogadas Ameca's Taco Ahogada

                                                                    + http://instagram.com/p/p0Qm8-g-ng/ - Petty Cash's Pork Belly Carnitas

                                                                    + http://instagram.com/p/p0Tmygg-rN/ - Carnitas El Momo's Buche Taco

                                                                    The food was the main reason I was there, and I was really happy with just about everything I had! My favorites this year were probably La Guerrerense, Eggslut, Finca Altozano, and George's at the Cove!

                                                                    I do have one big disappointment as far as the food goes, but it was with myself. Unlike last year, where I tried dishes from nearly two dozen participants, this year I only got to try 15 unique dishes from 11 participants, 20 total dishes including repeats. I got stuck in some long lines, not just for drinks, and I also didn't take advantage of the divide-and-conquer technique my friends were using to sample as many places as possible. I won't bother to list all the ones I wish I had tried. I'll just make sure I do better next year!

                                                                    To wrap up, here are some suggestions for the organizers for next year:

                                                                    * Staff the entrance to get more attendees in quicker.
                                                                    * Give Premium Admission more benefits. It doesn't have to be swag. Early admission would be a great perk!
                                                                    * Set up more drink stations! Have separate ones for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Provide water fountains to help attendees stay hydrated.

                                                                    Here are some tips for attendees of future Tacolandias:

                                                                    * Get there early! Four hours may seem like a long time, but it goes quick!
                                                                    * Take a quick walk around the entire venue when you first arrive and see what interests you. Prioritize!
                                                                    * If a line is really long, unless it's a must-try for you, come back later. The line will likely be shorter.
                                                                    * Bring a water bottle. Freeze it the night before.

                                                                    For participants, you guys all did a great job! One thing I would have loved was for each stand to have a description of the dish(es) served with the participant's name on the same sign or display. It was really hard to keep track of some of the dishes I had, because not all participants had clear signage.

                                                                    To close, I wanted to say thanks again to L.A. Weekly, Bill Esparza, and all the participants for putting on a great event with fantastic food! Tacolandia 2014 had some growing pains, but no sophomore slump! Let's make Tacolandia 2015 even better!

                                                                    Link to above participants, alphabetical:

                                                                    * Amor y Tacos - http://amorytacos.com/
                                                                    * Carnitas El Momo - http://www.carnitaselmomo.com/
                                                                    * Eggslut - http://www.eggslut.com/
                                                                    * Finca Altozano - http://fincaltozano.com/
                                                                    * George's at the Cove - http://www.georgesatthecove.com/
                                                                    * Guerrilla Tacos - http://www.guerrillatacos.com/
                                                                    * Katsuji Tanabe - https://www.facebook.com/katsujichef
                                                                    * La Guerrerense - http://www.laguerrerense.com/index_en...
                                                                    * Petty Cash Taqueria - http://pettycashtaqueria.com/
                                                                    * Tacos Kokopelli - http://kokopelli.mx/
                                                                    * Tortas Ahogadas Ameca - http://www.tortasahogadasameca.com/

                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                    24 Replies
                                                                    1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                      thanks for a great report and mouth watering photos.

                                                                      Looks like I gotta hit up La Guerrerense!

                                                                      1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                        Didn't mention this in my blog post but it was fun to go to the event with chrishei, phamschottler, and the infamous kevin. Actually, circumstances caused me to be in the area earlier, which is how I ended up getting in before them.

                                                                        Also it was great to meet carter, foodshutterbug, and PandanExpress. I also bumped into Matt Kang from Eater LA and Scoops Westside, Garrett Snyder of Tasting Table and LA Magazine, and Clarissa Wei. If I forgot anyone else let me know.

                                                                        1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                          It was nice meeting you, carter, chrishei and phamschottler! I'll have to go to the event earlier next year so I won't be in such a rush.

                                                                        2. re: TheOffalo

                                                                          Heh I can see why people would question my involvement with Tacolandia as being part of Eggslut but being a native Angeleno chef tacos have been a long part of my after work staple meals late at night. Next year's taco will be even better though.

                                                                              1. re: ns1

                                                                                Once you have dickhead the rest is easy

                                                                              2. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                My dream is to pull off a Chinese bbq pork inspired al pastor on a trompo grill.

                                                                                1. re: Johnny L

                                                                                  Always loved a Chinese roast pork sandwich on garlic bread w sweet n sour sauce. Was called the emporer.

                                                                                  1. re: Johnny L

                                                                                    How about a flock of Peking duck on a trompo?

                                                                                2. re: Johnny L

                                                                                  I have to admit, I was obligingly dragging my heels in the Eggslut line b/c I was told you're a CHer.

                                                                                  The pay off was your Braised/fried Nueskes Bacon with fried quail egg, roasted garlic ricotta, salsa roja, pickled potato taco -- it was quite good! (no, I'm not being a k-a) See pic below.

                                                                                  As for the criticism of your eligibility, I respectfully don't agree because one of my favorite French restaurants, Bistro LQ participated a 2nd year in a row eventhough they don't sell tacos either. I enjoyed Bistro LQ's Guinea Fowl with cherries taco as well. (see pic below)

                                                                                   
                                                                                   
                                                                                  1. re: FoodShutterbug

                                                                                    Oh, I loved that bacon!

                                                                                    Eggslut's offering fit the (already broad) definition of a taco and was delicious. I have absolutely no problem with that.

                                                                                    1. re: FoodShutterbug

                                                                                      Thanks would have loved to chat but I was too busy making sure things were perfect this year. Hopefully next year I have more time to relax and socialize during the event.

                                                                                      1. re: Johnny L

                                                                                        @Johnny L - I did a literal shout out to you when you were at the grill under the scorching sun. Your hands-on approach with taco prep definitely shined through. Looking forward to next year's ES taco!

                                                                                        1. re: FoodShutterbug

                                                                                          He also told me to shut up from the grill lol.

                                                                                    2. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                      Great summary, Offalo! Thanks! Will I be shot if I say that I actually preferred last year's event? I think it has to do with the lower number of attendees to this year's. However, what I did like better about this year's was that there was more shade and more places to sit. I found that I didn't eat half as much as I did last year; I probably only tried 10-12 tacos or so. Could be the company I was in. Too many people with too many opinions. My favorites were Guerrilla; EggSlut - breakfast taco!; and the one with the crema (cannot remember who it came from) - from your pics above, the third row down, last one. OH! Also the pineapple one from George's. I could eat 12 of those! It was a fun event and great venue (taking the Gold Line was a plus!). See you next year!

                                                                                      1. re: WildSwede

                                                                                        WildSwede, thanks! Did you try to meet up at a Eggslut at 4:30? FoodShutterbug and Carter showed up there around then.

                                                                                        The pic you're talking about is Tortas Ahogadas Ameca's Taco Ahogada. However, Don Chente's looked very similar. BTW kevin probably DID eat a dozen of those pineapple tostadas from George's.

                                                                                        You know to be honest I would have a hard time deciding which year I liked better. I got to try more last year, my family was with me, I was more hydrated, but this year it was nice to have the shade, to know more what to expect (though that didn't help me get to eat more this year). There's definitely pros and cons to each yeah.

                                                                                        1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                          Hi Off. I didn't know about the meeting time until Prof Salt came and found me when we were waiting to get in and said CHers were meeting somewhere at 4:30. I didn't get what he said and then kinda forgot about it until I ran into him again later. By then, it was too late. I would have met up if I knew what was going on. I was also with 6 non-Chers so... next year!
                                                                                          Thanks for clarifying the pic. I wish I were a picture-taker. I never seem to have enough hands for it!
                                                                                          You are right about the pros and cons. I definitely got to try everything last year and this year only about 1/5 of them. Oh well, either way, definitely worth it!

                                                                                          1. re: WildSwede

                                                                                            I was in line at Eggslut at 4:30 PM with my tuna shirt and FoodShutterbug and carter found me (I had met carter earlier) but no one else came up and identified themselves as hounds. Oh well. Next year! Woulda been nice to meet Professor Salt too (Yo, Teach, where's your report?).

                                                                                      2. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                        Belated props on your Tacolandia report! Just curious, did you come across any news about the judging results?

                                                                                        1. re: FoodShutterbug

                                                                                          I saw that Jalisco won a trophy, I think for the Vendy awards. Not sure how many awards were given out.

                                                                                          1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                            @TheOffalo - thanks for the info. Was curious since I've been seeing a few award results for the LA Street Food Fest via IG posts.