Tacomiendo – Culver City, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Los Angeles is home to arguably the largest Hispanic community in the US. With the immigration comes authentic culinary traditions and that means, dear readers, that we Angelenos are blessed to have some of the most incredible Mexican food in the country. The best taco in LA is a contentious topic, as is the best burger in LA, but many will agree that Tacomiendo, a humble little storefront in Del Rey / Mar Vista, serves up some of the best.

Carne Asada and Lengua Tacos al Carbon

Carne Asada and Lengua Tacos al Carbon

Situated right at the bustling intersection of Culver and Inglewood Boulevards, Tacomiendo blends into its ordinary strip mall; blink and you just might miss it. Parking is a free-for-all but if you manage to snag one of the coveted spaces (or park in the neighborhood streets and walk), enter the doors to find a shoebox-sized venue boasting about 8 or 9 tables. Turn right and you’ll find a large poster of the menu and just below it, a friendly cashier waiting to take your order.

A Trio of Tacos with Horchata

A Trio of Tacos with Horchata

If you’re lucky, look just past her and you might see someone making fresh corn tortillas by hand, one of Tacomiendo’s claims to fame. The menu can be overwhelming with options varying from plates to tortas to burritos to quesadillas to burgers and even smoothies. We, however, always stick to the tacos al carbon — street-style tacos with a corn tortilla base, piled high with meats, and served plain. You are left to your own devices in terms of toppings, which is great because Tacomiendo has an awesome salsa bar.

Tacos Pescado

Tacos Pescado

Martin is a big fan of tried-and-true, so he will order two or three tacos pescado, depending on how hungry he is. Fillets of white fish, grilled to order and generously flaked onto the corn tortillas, these are way better (in our humble opinions) than the battered and fried Baja style fish tacos ubiquitous in so-called California cuisine. The fish is always well seasoned with a smoky hint of char on the edges. Perfect for pairing with fresh pico de gallo, a squeeze of lime, and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro. Salsa verde is another good option.

Tacos. (From left to right: Carnitas, Lengua, and Pescado)

Tacos. (From left to right: Carnitas, Lengua, and Pescado)

I’ve bounced around my menu selections. The carnitas, succulent and meaty option with juicy cubes of braised pork, taste great topped with chopped onions, chopped cilantro, and roasted ancho chili salsa roja. The carne asada tacos are a safe choice with the grilled marinated beef lending itself well to a combination of pico de gallo and salsa roja.

Tacos - Lengua and Carne Asada

Tacos – Lengua and Carne Asada

My favorite, however, is the lengua (tongue). Slow cooked and braised until each bite is melt-in-your-mouth tender, I was in awe the first time I tried the lengua here. It was among the best preparation of lengua I’d ever had. It takes all of my willpower not to pick out each bit of lengua to eat on its own, no tortilla, no toppings, nothing. But, I must resist, because nestled in the corn tortilla and slathered with cilantro, lime, and salsa roja, the lengua taco becomes something absolutely magical.

Another trio of tacos, this time with cantaloupe agua fresca

Another trio of tacos, this time with cantaloupe agua fresca

Martin will splurge his daily caloric intake on the medio litro (half liter) of “Mexican coke” — Coca Cola produced with cane sugar and not a drop of high fructose corn syrup. Some people can’t taste the difference but we have a strong preference for the legit stuff. Meanwhile, I’ll be happily slurping down one of the many agua fresca options. Fresh cantaloupe juice and watermelon juice abound in the summertime, while horchata is a favorite that’s served year-round. Go for the large… it’s so good, you’ll still want more!

If you’re in the mood for Mexican, I recommend swinging by Tacomiendo. Some people say it doesn’t have the right ambiance for a date night (what with the plastic tablecloths and all), but I’d say it’s the perfect place for an adventurous, food-loving date to uncover a new hole-in-the-wall. Just remember to bring cash (they accept credit cards but I think it’s a $10 minimum and since the food is so cheap, you may not quite reach it!).

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Check out Tacomiendo: tacomiendo.net

4502 Inglewood Blvd
Culver City, CA 90230

See their Yelp reviews here!

Zesty Tequila Lime Chicken

Main Dishes, Recipes

For the title of this post, I had contemplated making a pun on Tequila Mockingbird (To Kill a Mockingbird… get it, get it?), but as our primary modification to Ina Garten’s recipe was to add three types of citrus zest, zesty it is! That’s right folks – lime, lemon, and orange zest all play a huge role in making this marinade really sing. That and some good tequila. No need to break out the top shelf Patron or Don Julio – your favorite low-to-mid-tier gold will do. We recommend aiming for a $20-30 bottle; we used Sauza Commemorativo, a gorgeous amber-hued añejo tequila aged 18 months in oak barrels.

Zesty Tequila Lime Chicken

Zesty Tequila Lime Chicken

NomNomCat Tips:

#1: You really don’t want to skimp on the marinating time, so be sure to plan well in advance! This recipe recommends overnight marination; I managed to get in 24 hours by prepping this meal as I was cooking the night before’s dinner. If you do need to multitask a bit, you can marinade frozen chicken pieces so that they defrost and absorb flavor at the same time (thus saving time from waiting for the chicken to thaw first). Again, it must sit at least overnight and if using frozen, be sure to rinse off any ice crystals before dropping the chicken into the marinade.

#2: If ever a recipe really depended on a microplane, this would be one of them. Don’t have a microplane? Use the finest side of your box grater. Don’t have a box grater either? Time to get one. Just kidding, sorta. You could skip the zest (Ina Garten did in the original recipe and I’m sure hers comes out just fine), or do it the old fashioned way – take a vegetable peeler and try to get as thin a slice of the peel as possible. Use a paring knife to scrape off or cut away any pith (the bitter white part). Then just finely mince the peels and voila – zest!

Microplane - very important, though not mandatory

Microplane – very important, though not mandatory

#3: I have both grilled and baked these chicken thighs, and I’ve found that both methods are good in their own ways. I like the ease of sticking them in the oven and forgetting about them for 45 minutes, at which time I can serve and eat. Baking would also be a great way to bring back a bit of summer when the weather starts getting too cold for grilling. If you do decide to grill these, about 10-15 minutes per side would be the ballpark. Grilling is a delicate balance between making sure they are sufficiently cooked (165 degree internal temperature) and that they don’t dry out. You may want to make extra marinade to reserve for basting.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup tequila

1 cup fresh squeezed lime and lemon juice (approximately 3 limes and 2 lemons)

1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (approximately 1 medium orange)

The zest of all citrus fruits above

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (you can add more to kick it up a notch!)

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

4 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on (or about 1 pound of chicken, your choice of cut)

Lots of Citrus Zest

Lots of Citrus Zest

Prep the citrus. I’m a slow zester, so it took me a while to put this marinade together. Be prepared – the kitchen is going to smell amazingly fragrant as the peels start to release the aromatic citrus oils.

Measuring Out the Citrus Juices

Measuring Out the Citrus Juices

Combine the marinade ingredients. Taste if you dare. It should pack a punch.

Marinating in a Plastic Bag

Marinating in a Plastic Bag

Clean the chicken thighs and place them into a plastic gallon-sized zip-top bag or glass container. Pour the marinade over the chicken and squish around to get the chicken really coated. If using the zip-top bag, let as much air out as possible to ensure maximum chicken-to-marinade contact. If using a glass container, create an airtight seal using plastic wrap or its lid. Refrigerate overnight.

Ready for the Oven

Ready for the Oven

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees or heat up the grill. Gently shake the chicken as you remove it from the marinade. Lay on a foil-lined sheet pan for baking at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, or arrange on an oiled grill and cook for 10-15 minutes per side, depending on the size of your pieces of chicken.

After 45 minutes of baking

After 45 minutes of baking

Serve with fresh flour or corn tortillas, salsa, lime wedges, chopped cilantro, and diced onion. I liked using a bright, chunky pico de gallo for texture and flavor contrast.

Dinner is Served!

Dinner is Served!

Though the weather has been gloomy here in LA, we’re not quite ready to let go of summer yet! Celebrate with one last summery hurrah by serving up these street-style tacos filled with juicy, flavorful tequila lime chicken. Or bookmark us for next summer’s barbecues – just remember to come back and let us know how it goes!

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