*Originally published on LA Times Food’s Daily Digest Foodblog on September, 25 2013
Name of restaurant: Carnitas El Veneno. A weekend-only, nighttime food truck.
Concept: An old school taco truck from the neighborhood’s carnitas restaurant. It is only open on weekend nights in East Los Angeles, and specializes in Tijuana-style juicy carne asada tacos grilled with mesquite wood.
What dish represents the restaurant, and why? The Tijuana-style tacos de carne asada. A few things make these unique in the hazy world of East L.A. street tacos. First, their signature Tijuana trademarked cone design, wrapped tightly in wax paper not unlike an overstuffed Greek gyro or spicy tuna hand roll. This specific method of wrapping each taco is the only way these crisped-up pair of chewy tortillas can hold the excess of chopped, subtly smoky, juicy beef and Tijuana’s signature scoop of mashed up avocado — not the usual runny taqueria guacamole sauce. This is a delicate taco.
Runners-up: Tacos de lengua doused in the restaurant’s Veneno spicy salsa. Their beef tongue is boiled for hours and then a heaping portion is briefly seared on the plancha right before taco-ing it up. It’s drizzled with a toasty salsa that accentuates lengua’s slightly offal, yet meaty texture and flavor.
Who’s at the next table? A very dedicated and loving wife who drove out on a Saturday night just to order 10 takeout tacos de asada con todo for her lucky husband, who stayed at home to watch the fight.
Appropriate for: The well-read taco enthusiast who abides by L.A.’s taco lifestyle and knows all about Baja California’s bountiful fresh food culture, but for one reason or another hasn’t made the trek down south yet.
Uh-oh: Both the salsas can be fiery. If you are sensitive, opt for poquita salsa nada mas (just a little bit) or just opt out. Also, the creamy guacamole paste is purposely unseasoned and benefits from a strong squeeze of lime.
Service: It’s a small operation that’s only been open for about six months. If there are a few people in front of you, be patient.
What are you drinking? Many aguas frescas are available inside the restaurant.
Info: 514 S. Indiana St., Los Angeles. (323) 264-4762. Open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 6 p.m. to midnight