LA Weekly‘s inaugural Tacolandia food festival took place on Sunday, June 23, 2013, in the parking lot of the Hollywood Palladium. Anticipation had been building, with curator Bill “Street Gourmet LA” Esparza giving tours to the foodielites of the various participating taquerias, cocinas, trucks, etc., in the weeks leading up to the event.
Tickets had been on sale since April, at an incredibly reasonable $20 for general admission (unlimited food), $40 for VIP (unlimited food & drink). In early June, Gilt City started selling pairs of tickets at 30% off. Within two days of the deal going live, Tacolandia was SOLD OUT! This left many procrastinators quite desperate and forlorn, if Twitter was any indication.
I was lucky enough to snag the last pair of Gilt City’s tickets; problem was I still needed one for my younger daughter. Several sites were running contests, so I entered them all and crossed my fingers. Against all odds, I managed to win two tickets from Voice Places just days before the event. Having one extra ticket (older daughter away at camp), I cajoled Chris Hei into joining us.
My family and I met up with Chris outside the Hollywood Palladium shorty after noon on Sunday. After a slight snag with getting our tickets/bracelets, we were in! I read somewhere that Tacolandia had sold 1,500 tickets, and I believed it. The festival was already hopping less than a half hour into the festivities.
I managed to sample from nearly two dozen participants. Highlights included Bistro LQ‘s rabbit liver tacos, George’s cured snapper tacos, Tacos Punta Cabras‘ scallops and sea urchin tacos, and Mariscos La Guerrerense‘s fish/scallop & sea urchin/clam tostaditos. Truth is that I enjoyed nearly everything that I had, including a vegetarian tostada from SOL Cocina topped with goat cheese and peanuts. Simple but delicious (this coming from a meat lover).
Lest one thinks it was all rainbows and unicorns (mmm, tacos de unicornio–ahem!), there were some disappointments. The weather was sunny and hot, which is definitely better than raining and cold, but the place needed more umbrellas for shade. The live mariachi band that was to start performing at 3 PM only took the stage at 4 PM when we were just getting ready to leave. Also, I saw buckets of ice in front of most booths and was hoping they contained bottled waters, but alas they did not.
Probably the biggest disappointment was that many participants ran out of food as early as 3 PM (or earlier). Also, some of the participants still didn’t have their dishes ready when the festival started, or even within the first half hour. Unfortunately, due to these two issues, I missed out on a few tacos that I really wanted to try, including Loteria Grill‘s taco bilingue (beef and pork lengua together) and Mision 19‘s tripa y ubre de res (tripe and cow udder). However, I was lucky enough to score a pork femur “taco” from Chichen Itza, so there’s that.
Getting back to what was great, aside from the food, I got to meet Bill Esparza, who was a very gracious host. I also got to chat briefly with Clarissa Wei, and I’m very much looking forward to her appearance on the “Hidden Los Angeles” episode of Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods America, airing July 1, 2013.
But I’ve talked around the food long enough, so without further ado, and in rough alphabetical order, the tacos…
We left after nearly 4 hours of stuffing ourselves silly. Believe it or not, I tried more than what I showed above; I had a few pictures that didn’t turn out great, for Leo’s Taco Truck‘s al pastor tacos, Chichen Itza’s lechon tacos, pastries from La Monarca, and more. We really enjoyed ourselves at this inaugural Tacolandia. Can’t wait until next year!
Thank you to Bill Esparza, for curating an awesome list of partipants, and for pointing me at Gilt City in my most desperate hour! Thank you to Voice Places for giving me the ticket I needed for my daughter, and allowing me to have my “sidekick” (his word, not mine) Chris tag along too. Thank you to LA Weekly for putting on a tremendous festival, and pulling it off, as far as I could tell, mostly without a hitch. Thank you to Jarritos for providing refreshing Mexican sodas all afternoon!
Last but not least, a big THANK YOU to all the participants, who came from near and far, and fed us their most fantastic grub! Salud!