Taco Zone is like a fairy tale establishment, a mobile castle dedicated to tacos. It’s in a parking lot, it gathers taco lovers from all over the city, the kitchen is maybe the size of a small bathroom, and it is pretty much open whenever the taco kings and queens say it can be taco time. It’s an Echo Park staple that every Angeleno must visit: Taco Zone is Los Angeles tacos.
For those unfamiliar, the Zone is a little semi-permanent food truck on the East side of Alvarado Street before Glendale. It’s at the edge of a Von’s parking lot, which they have modified to be their very low maintenance dining room. When you arrive, there is always a line. It may be big or small but there is a line. Don’t let this deter you from some taco eating because it really does not take that long to get through the line–and the women working the kitchen are some speedy, speedy ladies.
We pulled up to the Zone at 1AM-ish on a Friday night and were surprised to see not that many people there. I have been by the Zone and almost went to the Zone several times. It is with that that I admit this visit was my first time actually *eating* at Taco Zone. I don’t know how and I don’t know why but I had never actually Zoned before a few weeks ago. Shame, shame, shame: I understand…but I cannot be alone! There have to be more than just me. Right? Right???
The truck itself is a stickered silver hitched truck with a small glass window for you to order from and another window for you to peek into the kitchen. There is a bar of strange and good dressings like your basic salsa and a thin guacamole like cilantro sauce that people hoard. The Zone has your normal selection of tacos–carnitas, chorizo, chicken–with a few interesting additions like lengua (cow tongue) and cabeza (cow head/face/brains/yum). In addition to tacos, the Zone also can make anything into quesadillas or burritos. You order from a small woman at the window, a woman who may or may not speak English but can get your order regardless of if you speak Spanish or not. (That being said, it is encouraged to order in Spanish.)
When I approached the front of the line, I remembered what I was told by every one in the world who has been to Taco Zone: order the lengua and the cabeza!!!! With tongue and face in mind, I walked up and doubtlessly blurted out, “Two lengua and two cabeza tacos, please!” to the little lady. Unfortunately, they had (SOMEHOW!!!) ran out of the specialty by this hour. With no idea what to do and having noticed a man with sand dollar sized quesadillas, I blurted out something that I believe was chorizo, chicken, carnitas, and something else that spanned two tacos and two quesadillas. My two taco brofriends both ordered in a similar fashion. We waited in the wings patiently for our 1AM feast.
It was a feast, too. The tacos are typical taco size; however, the sand dollar quesadillas I saw were an illusion because the quesadillas are HUGE…and we had six of them!! As you can see above, we had a bounty of Zone treats. We dug in very quickly after a very short conversation about how much food we accidentally ordered. Our chat ended before we quite literally bit at each other’s hands to get to our food. Everything is incredibly basic at the Zone: the tacos are just spiced meat on a small tortilla and the quesadillas are the same but within a thick bed of cheese. I would by lying if I said that I remembered how everything tasted exactly so I will say that the food speaks for itself and is extremely good. It is strongly suggested that you use the thin guacamole sauce to bath your tacos in, too.
We were (obviously) unable to finish our feast and called it quits around 1:30AM. We packed up our extra quesadillas and headed back West. By the time we left, the Last Call crowd was gathering and a big, big, big line was forming. Had we showed up then, we still would have tackled the Zone’s tacos because they are perfect. They are what tacos should be: simple, spiced, quick, and tasty. Taco Zone is excellent.
Please note: two, three, and four day year old Taco Zone quesadillas are just as good as fresh-from-the-grill Taco Zone quesadillas. I didn’t want my week of leftover Zone quesadillas for lunch to end. I miss those days.