I’m a fan of Mexican food and in the area of Chicago where I live there are a lot of places where I can indulge my craving for a good taco or burrito.
But on a recent trip to visit my brother and his new bride in Los Angeles, he took me to a place that blows away any Mexican restaurant I’ve ever eaten at in Chicago.
Mexicali Taco & Co., located at 702 N. Figueroa St., in downtown Los Angeles, started out as a taco truck in a vacant lot, but this past February it expanded into an attractive, if spartan, storefront restaurant across the street from an adult high school.
The food was incredible. The menu is small — offering less than a dozen items — but each was prepared lovingly and tasted incredibly fresh and delicious.
My brother is a passionate fan of the place and even had them cater his recent backyard wedding reception from their taco truck, so I asked him to order for me. I wasn’t disappointed because he ordered everything on the menu.
Everything we tasted was wonderful, but the standout was the chicken vampiro, which is a perfectly crisp quesadilla made with a soft, lush Mexican cheese and garlic sauce. I also enjoyed the carne asada cachetada, which is a tostada topped with beef, Mexican cheese and an aoli chipotle sauce.
But it doesn’t end there because diners are invited to customize their selections with a wide variety of homemade salsas and crisp fresh toppings. It’s like I died and went to Mexican food heaven!
Even though we went during the lunchtime rush and there was a long line of people waiting to order, the counterworkers were efficient in moving the line quickly and the kitchen had our food ready in just a few moments. There’s even a walk-up window where people walking past the restaurant on the sidewalk can order food to eat on the street.
The prices were extremely reasonable — $2.25 for the finest taco you will ever eat and $3.75 for the vampiro. The most expensive thing on the menu was the nachos, and it was only $6.
Despite its humble beginnings as a food truck, Mexicali Taco & Co. is no roach coach turned Mexican restaurant. The people who created this menu and prepare this food really know what they are doing and the entire experience — from the brightly colored dining room to the “old school” bottles of Coca Cola made with real cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup to the cheerfulness of the employees — made it simply an unexpected treat.
Apparently, a group called LA Taco runs an annual “Best of” contest, and Mexicali Taco & Co. has won the top prize in the past. I’m not surprised because the food was great and the quality of the experience was superb.
So if you find yourself in Los Angeles at lunchtime — or even late night, the kitchen’s open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays — check out this treasure of a taco joint. I can’t wait to go back there!