What the hell is Dante Gonzales up to now? For almost a decade, he threw underground art/music/food parties in New York and all across Europe. Then, a few years ago, he started slinging fried chicken out of a food truck in Los Angeles. Tagged with a 90's-inspired Ride Or Fry logo, the mobile eatery quickly started amassing awards and an eclectic group of followers. Eighteen months in, and the whole thing disappeared altogether. Well, if you believe Dante himself, it's all part of the plan.
Recently, Gonzales has been showing up in a few downtown kitchens, usually pushing out brunch plates with a soul food bent. That fried chicken of his is never far away. Then came a subtle announcement last week; something about a semi-permanent weekend taco pop-up, in the parking lot of a barber shop on Santa Monica Blvd., called DFC Taco. And, surprise, there's a fried chicken taco on the menu.
Well, "menu" might be a stretch. More like some chalkboard paint and three taco options—you'll have to forgive the operation if it's a little barebones. With nothing more than a prep station and a side table, plus some hot oil for frying, Gonzales is able to pump out flavors you never thought your everyday taco had in it.
The first thing you'll notice about these tacos are the tortillas. Thick, hand-patted discs of corn masa are practically overwhelmed with black sesame seeds, giving off a crunchy, poppy taste with each bite. It's already getting funky in here. Then, there are meat options. The first is a blueberry Guiness brisket, deeply browned and pulled into thin, tender bites. The operative word here is definitely 'blueberry', as the moist meat gives off a sweet, almost slightly syrupy taste. Of course, the Guiness might have had something to do with the dark brown coloring and syrup too.
As you can imagine, adding a hefty helping of sweet fruit to a braising hunk of meat can sort of mess with your senses. Toss on a simple pile of chopped lettuce, cabbage and carrots and you've got a sweet, crunchy, meaty, carb-y overload that may actually be less than the sum of its parts. This certainly isn't a stunt taco, compiled just for show, but it certainly ain't no everyday eats.
On the other hand, the fried chicken taco screams "where have you been all my life?!" It would be wrong to even call this fusion, as there really isn't a base on either side of the border that would recognize what this concoction has become. Strips of chicken breast are pounded down like a schnitzel, and then left to crisp up in Dante's proprietary batter blend of spices, good vibes and magic. The emerging breast is fried to a golden brown, and even a cursory slice reveals plenty of juice throughout the all-white interior. Thick ribbons of the fried chicken are sliced off and tossed into a waiting tortilla before being given a splash of greens and a healthy drizzle of hot sauce. Crispy and tangy and slightly spicy and all wrapped in a fresh, thick, warm tortilla? Yes, please!, says everyone ever.
Despite his sometimes meandering ideas, Dante Gonzales remains a man with a singular passion: make amazing fried chicken. On that front, he's been proving himself for years, and his new taco pop-up is no exception. It's just that not everything else works out the way he had in mind. Then again, with fried chicken this good, there's no shame in doing what you're good at.
4619 Santa Monica Blvd., Silver Lake CA (map) Open from Noon until 6 p.m., or until everything runs out.
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