$5 Meal: Viva Tacos La Estrella

Sep 21, 2009
Tacos al pastor at Viva Tacos La Estrella

Tacos al pastor at Viva Tacos La Estrella

Avoiding the drab mini-mall at Foothill and Altadena? Your sad loss, pobrecito. This sun-bleached corner is home to the splendid Tacos La Estrella, a cousin to La Estrella at 502 N. Fair Oaks (outdoor dining only) and La Estrella Tacos #3 in Highland Park (liquor license), both good distractions when further west.

Open 24 hours, this La Estrella is East Pas’s destination for dining after the Hollywood Bowl, a late movie or any time you’re hungry. It’s counter service only, and all foods are served in styrofoam or on paper plates, so Al Gore hasn’t stopped by. Yet. The electric-blue linoleum floor conjures the Pacific Ocean and cools away some of the noise from that infernal big screen TV in the corner. Late at night the TV usually broadcasts telenovellas or Spanish-language news, not so mind-numbing as the clattering, oxygen-sucking daytime judge shows that are stupid and loud. Just like those girls in junior high you couldn’t wait to get away from. Those girls are reincarnated in judge shows that blast in the corner at restaurants all over the country. But I digress.

The vegetarian burrito ($3.75) is big and fat and juicy, and the hearty breakfast burrito ($3.75) will induce a nap before your work day even begins. But tacos ($1.10) are the most-ordered items on the menu. The beef lengua is moist and tender, and no, it doesn’t taste you back. Al carbon is the most popular, according to the counter girl, but I live for the roasted, then barbecued al pastor with a fiery red salsa that lingers on lips and in the back of the throat long after you’ve licked up each slightly oily chunk of meat.

The guacamole is made fresh daily, with slabs of avocado floating in pale, IMO-esque sauce. A squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of salt gooses it, but that’s not the diner’s job. So spend your guac allowance on an extra taco. And unless you want a good laugh, avoid the nachos. They’re shellacked in orange–creamsicle-colored cheese food that looks and — I’m just guessing here — tastes like Flubber.

My lunch of choice: two tacos al pastor ($2.20), two Diet Cokes ($2) plus tax = $4.61. Make it three tacos ($3.30) and a medium horchata or a Jarritos or a Mexican Coke, and you’re still under $5.

Viva Tacos La Estrella, 2525 E. Foothill Blvd., East Pasadena, 626.584.9815. B, L & D 24 hours daily. No booze. Cash only. $

Ozzy Osbourne & the Three Stooges, together at last! At least in the toy-grabber game at Viva Tacos La Estrella

Ozzy Osbourne & the Three Stooges, together at last! At least in the toy-grabber game at Viva Tacos La Estrella



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