Part One: That Dingy Truck
Two years ago I was walking in the LA neighborhood known as Silver Lake on my way to my third-favorite coffee shop when I noticed a rather dingy, Dodger-blue food truck parked out front. Written in black paint across the side of this rather dingy, Dodger-blue food truck was the name Guerrilla Tacos. Being a neophyte food writer (and, frankly, pretty hungry, having skipped breakfast) I perused the menu, immediately noticing that this rather dingy (did I mention it was Dodger blue?) food truck was not dishing out run-of-the mill fare.
There were Sweet Potato tacos with almond chili and feta cheese; Wild Boar tacos diced with thick cut bacon; plus a Chanterelle Mushroom quesadilla served with an over-medium egg and a bed of fresh arugula. The squid tacos were already sold out. It didn’t matter. I was already in line, cash in hand. Aiming to kill my hanger pains, I ordered it all. After eating what I had ordered, I stood up, got back into line, and ordered it all again.
My new favorite taco truck had been discovered. Not that I was alone in heaping praise of this dingy truck — in fact I was behind the curve here. LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold had already given it his blessing. Guerrilla Tacos even made his list of Top 20 restaurants in the city. (Lemme remind you that homeboy once won a Pulitzer.) The whole experience felt like a dream; a five-star restaurant on wheels. A dizzying experience. Remember that scene in Demolition Man when Sly Stallone goes to the Taco Bell in the future and it’s all fancy and whatnot. Felt exactly like that.
Writing this article is causing some sort of taco flashback. So, before I hit save and close my wide-ruled notebook, lemme give you a little backstory on Guerrilla Tacos — aka The Best Taco Spot in The Country.
Part Two: The Chef Behind it All
For close to five years Wes Avila had been operating Guerrilla Tacos either out of that truck or as a pop-up taqueria, usually deep in the Arts District, but always on the look-out for the fuzz. Now he has a place to call his own. In the Arts District. Everything’s legit now. The cops can’t bother him anymore.
Success hasn’t spoiled Avila. Most of the menu’s greatest hits have remained. But Avila isn’t resting on his laurels. In fact, one gets the sense that his pinnacle is still ahead of him. Lucky for us, lucky for our stomachs.
When I say Avila is serving up the best tacos in Los Angeles, a city that’s not short on delicious Mexican cuisine, it’s a little like saying that not only do I think LeBron is better than Michael (I do), but that when compared to LeBron, everyone else seems to be playing a different sport. Avila has changed the way I think about tacos. And I think about tacos a lot. Perhaps the more apt comparison is what people must’ve thought when they first laid eyes on a Picasso. Or saw KISS in concert. It’s that revolutionary.
Here’s the skinny on Avila: After giving up a promising career as a forklift driver, Avila paid his dues in a handful of kitchens around the city before he came up with the (then) novel idea of serving culinary-inspired street food. He borrowed a few Jacksons from family & friends, bought a cheap tent, found an inconspicuous spot downtown and the rest is what this whole article is about. Avila’s tacos are complex, yet unpretentious. There’s a cabinet clearing vibe to his creations. He will literally make a taco out of any ingredient. Why not a Fried Oyster taco? Or a Cauliflower taco with burnt tomato chiles and medjool dates? This is how genius works, folks. Where most see a blank canvas, Pablo saw the Weeping Woman.
Part Three: Graffiti & Oysters
The counter says it all: LA Don’t Play. Designed by Do Good Work, the interior of Guerrilla Tacos keeps those early street dwelling days alive — one wall is adorned with graffiti, another is exposed brick. In one corner is a stencil of Jonathan Gold. A permeant seat.
At the bar you can order a salty margarita or craft beer. Wine is also available. Avila plans to expand the menu, which already include newbies taquitos, tostadas and albondigas soup. With his own spin on those classic dishes, of course — like a Ahi Poke Tuna Tostada. A recent Instagram post showed fresh Shigoku Oysters. Good Lord. Just take ALL my money.
Guerrilla Tacos is story of a local boy making good. A story of not settling for the obvious, for taking chances, and, frankly, elevating simple street fare into something unforgettable.