Los Angeles: Handmade Tortillas on the Sunset Strip at Pinches Tacos
Even on the Sunset Strip, Pinches Tacos stands out. Maybe it's the Barbie pink paint job, or the constant reality TV filming. Maybe it's the name, a not-so-subtle nod to the dirty side of Mexican street slang. Whatever the answer, Pinches Tacos isn't the place your eye is likely to miss, even if the tacos are somewhat unmemorable.
Currently, the Pinches Tacos mini-chain offers additional locations in Culver City, Santa Monica and... Homewood, Alabama?! Apparently so. The three Anaya brothers, guided by their father, opened Pinches Tacos with the simple hopes of providing updated Mexican fare without reinventing the tortilla press. Since then, their corner lot (with free parking!) has become a mainstay on the Sunset Strip, attracting stars of all stripes to enjoy tacos, burritos and tortas in the shadow of the adjacent Chateau Marmont.
On the hand-written menu board sits a nice selection of Pinches' namesake tacos. More importantly, just behind the counter is a telltale tortilla press, turning made-to-order masa balls into deliciously crisp, fresh tortillas. The filling options range from a deep brown chocolate chicken mole to the more traditional asada (Angus beef, of course). Along the way, grilled cactus, lengua and a few fishier concoctions come up as well.
At around $2.50 each, the tacos are well-portioned inside the thin tortillas. They also come fully dressed and ready for a night at the Roxy, with glowing salsa rojas and healthy handfuls of cilantro and onion. The only taco really worth giving your number to is the carne asada, with deep, almost smoky flavors inside each incredibly moist piece. There isn’t a ton of sear on the large, beefy chunks, and if you closed your eyes you might just swear you were eating pot roast on a tortilla. It's not quite that fall-apart moist, but it certainly isn't far off.
Otherwise, the chicken mole uses a thankful amount of restraint, not relying too heavily on the richness of the chocolate mole sauce to overwhelm the other flavors. The vegetarian taco is a welcome option for anyone giving up meat for Lent, with grilled ribbons of bell pepper, onion and slices of squash piled underneath the thin housemade coleslaw that's usually reserved for the shrimp or fish tacos.
The carnitas, on the other hand, shouldn't even be allowed into the club. Bland cubes of dry pork put little more than a taste of grit in your mouth, and aren't helped much by a few pale tomato chunks on top. Maybe the carne asada and carnitas people need to start sharing recipes, or at least cooking techniques.
Pinches Tacos is a reasonable alternative for anyone looking to save a couple of bucks along this notoriously spendy stretch of Sunset Blvd. But with Pink Taco slated to open just across the street in a few months, there's suddenly a new contender in the neon-pink-taqueria-with-a-suggestive-name category. With the menu they've got now, it's a battle that Pinches may not win.
8200 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90046 (map); 323-650-0614