About the Event

Presented by The Vendy Awards, Tacolandia is a 1-day event that took place on June 11th from 3-8p.m. at El Pueblo de Los Angeles in Downtown Los Angeles. Its purpose is to select the best tacos in the city from 100 top taco vendors curated by the World’s First Tacorazzo, Bill Esparza. I was asked to be a judge for this year’s competition by Gustavo Arellano (the one holding the Vendy Cup in the above photo), Editor-in-Chief of the OC Weekly, as well as the author of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America.

Upon reporting, I was told I’d be part of the Best in Taco Innovation judging team. Myself & a fellow judge were tasked with tasting 20 different restaurants & the ways in which they were bringing tacos into the 21st century with innovative sauces (e.g. pistachio salsa verde from Puesto) or multi-cultural hybrids (e.g. yuzu crema on fatty pork belly from RBTA or lemograss carne asada from Rakken). The taco that stood out, head & shoulders, amongst our group was Balam of Lynwood. Obviously I have a predisposition to all things Lynwood, but thankfully I wasn’t the only one judging. Its coconut shrimp taco in a hibiscus-cured jicama ‘tortilla’ was both a worthy winner, & a very easy choice for our entire group of judges.

All in all, the experience was an incredibly rewarding one. It’s an honor to be entrusted with the responsibility of choosing the best tacos in Los Angeles, especially for a guy who was once told he’d never smell or taste again. The entire day was a blessing, the best tacos were chosen with diligence, & I can’t wait to do it again next year! (Provided I’m asked back, of course.)

Except for #3 below by Natalie, all photos © by my amazing fellow judge Jessica Rosales of HBO Latino & the L.A. Dodgers. (Follow her on Twitter &/or Instagram.)

Key for photos: (1) Jessica’s Taco Assortment: I tried 31 tacos myself on the day, including many of these pictured; (2) Best in Taco Innovation Winner: Balam of Lynwood! (3) Vendy Cup Winner for Best Street Taco: Burritos La Palma.