In the past few days there has been a slight change in most Angelenos. You may have noticed more joggers on the street than usual, decked out in the latest activewear. Or you may have noticed the long line at In-N-Out has shifted towards the Subway across the street. You may have even heard the buzz about so-called “energy bracelets” that harness the body’s natural magnetic field to improve balance (if you believe that then I’ve got a case of snake oil to sell you). Yes, this is the time of year in which everyone obsesses about forming new healthy and productive habits they’ve been neglecting in the past year. Though thankfully by February the status quo has returned: the only joggers are fitness freaks, the In-N-Out drive-thru line spans a city block, and people have stopped buying useless bracelets in favor of other useless things. Certainly I am guilty of these idiosyncrasies as well, which is why this year I aimed for a much simpler and enjoyable goal. Being a taco enthusiast, I enjoying visiting a good taco truck a couple times a week. I am fortunate enough to live very close to what is arguably the best taco truck on the Westside, Tacos Leo, whose deliciousness has been described in length by many people. The problem is Tacos Leo’s al pastor trompo, a vertical spit of marinated pork from which tender bits of porky goodness are sliced, only operates on weekends, leaving me sans the good stuff Monday through Friday. Thus leading to my goal of the new year: find more trompos.
Lately I have found myself visiting the oft-overlooked taco stand on Pico Blvd., Tacos El Compita. I say overlooked because not only does Tacos El Compita lie almost equi-distance from El Chato and the aforementioned Tacos Leo, which are hugely popular in their own right, but there is also the taco truck El Compita in Watts (no relation), which is famous for its fried tacos dorados de barbacoa. Located in an residential stretch of Mid-City, a drive past Tacos El Compita in the daytime would look completely unremarkable, if not downright dilapidated. However, those wise enough to visit after 7pm on the weekdays will find something completely different. The interior of the restaurant shuts down completely except for the cashier, leaving the stainless steel kitchen bare and deserted. Just outside, a small grill table is set up where the menu has been reduced to two items: al pastor and carne asada tacos. Two taqueros alternate between grilling meats, warming tortillas and preparing the condiments all from a table which measures no more than 3 feet by 5 feet. I ordered two of each style, and watched as the men went to work slicing the pork from the spit and chopping the carne asada as it was pulled from the grill. The gentleman manning the spit operated with intense concentration, shaving the dripping meat with his curved knife as if he was a barber giving a hot shave. He scooped them into tortillas and dressed them a su gusta before presenting them to me. These were exceptional tacos, robust in both size and flavor. The al pastor was covered in a spicy salsa roja like none I’ve had before. It was as thick as barbecue sauce, intensely hot and mildly sweet, reminiscent of Kansas City as much as it was Central Mexico. The al pastor was tender and slightly charred on its edges served with a few slices of pineapple from atop of the trompo. Both tacos were also topped with a chunky guacamole salsa that was more substantial than what you commonly find at most taco trucks. Despite standing in the cold winter air, few things can compare to watching your tacos being cooked to order outside and then having them handed to you as the meat is still sizzling. As for which I prefer, Tacos Leo or El Compita? It’s a close call, but with Leo’s during the weekends and Compita on the weekdays I might not have to make a decision at all.
Tacos El Compita
4477 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019