Los Angeles: Mediocre Tacos are Still a Party at The Mission Cantina
It's no accident that these Los Angeles taco reviews hit your monitor on Tuesday afternoons. There's something in the alliterative name "Taco Tuesday" that everyone can quietly get behind, as if there have always been tacos on Tuesday because that's just the way things are done. Mexican food is such a part of American culture now, we gave it a day of the week. And places like The Mission Cantina on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood help to make that day a party.
Granted, The Mission Cantina hasn't been around long enough to ignite the flame of Taco Tuesday, but they're certainly keeping the torch lit these days. Ironic, considering how dark the interior is once you tuck in through the iron gates and menacing red door. Inside the party is going full blast, which isn't altogether rare for a Hollywood spot with a wall full of mezcal and tequila. But this is Tuesday evening, when the beer will set you back less than a fiver and the tacos on special are scarcely bigger than a couple of fifty-cent pieces, which is exactly how much they cost.
Slip into an open table and flag down a hurried waitress. If you're lucky, they'll reposition some salsa squirt bottles and send a table caddie of pico de gallo, pink pickled onions, some pre-diced white onions and cilantro and a small jar of jalapenos. If you don't receive a little caddie directly, be prepared to start haggling with your neighbors; the tacos come unadorned, and in several cases they could really use the help.
Ordering your $1 tacos is as simple as saying "one of everything." The Taco Tuesday options are limited to chicken, verduras (a medley of zucchini, corn and two different peppers), carne asada and a slow-smoked pork that must have fallen off the back of a North Carolina BBQ truck. On the upside, all of the tortillas are hand-patted, with the thickness and uneven edges that happily make for tasty, imperfect tacos. However, that's about as authentico as it gets a The Mission Cantina.
The carne asada would be a hit for anyone looking to make a quiet transition from pot roast to tacos. The tender beef is juicy and dark, with a nice crust at the corners but none of the salty, marinated flavors you should expect from a quality asada. One bite in (and with only half a bite left of the tiny tacos), you might start to think they just slowly roasted a bunch of chuck in a Dutch oven. Similarly, the slow-smoked pork is a sweet, slightly tangy concoction that would get you eyeballed (or worse) in certain parts of town. Thankfully, the vinegary pickled onions help to cut away a lot of the hickory and sugar.
The simple chicken taco is the best of the middling bunch. The loosely chopped bits of white meat are smoky and tender, benefiting greatly from a zesty dash of seasoning. With some pico de gallo and a healthy squirt of the 'the red stuff' (as it was referred to at a neighboring table) the chicken taco might not stand up to a stronger stable of other options at a different cantina, but at The Mission Cantina it's the big taco on campus.
All that being said, this is Taco Tuesday. It's a far cry from the Dorito taco being shilled your way in 30-second airtime increments, but taco plates like this wouldn't last long in East LA. As a Hollywood spot with cheap Tuesday beers, dark corners and $1 tacos for a night, The Mission Cantina might just win you over yet. That is, unless you're looking for actual tacos.
Got a favorite Taco Tuesday deal?