Okay, so a taqueria in a parking lot on the unglamorous corner of Villa and Lake isn’t actually elegant, but if you used to go to El Taquito Mexicano’s original home (as I did frequently), you’ll be impressed with the gentrification. The old place on Fair Oaks — across the street from La Estrella’s outdoor taqueria— was a cheerful little yellow building on the outside, but the interior gave new meaning to the word “dingy.” It recently closed, and the operation consolidated at this newer offshoot, which is triple the size, with comfortable booths, plenty of parking, and even a fetching little palapa table outside.
As for the food, it remains my favorite taqueria-style cooking in town. The sopes are fat and tender. The chicken used in the tacos, sopes and burritos is unspeakably succulent. The carne asada is neither fatty nor dry. The weekend menudo brings in a lot of hungry, just-possibly hung over working men. Only the carnitas, which is the drier style, has let me down.
Also note that for night owls, there is but one taco truck in central Pasadena: the El Taquito Mexicano one in the Nishikawa parking lot at 510 S. Fair Oaks. It’s open most nights until 1 or 2 a.m. (1 a.m. in sleepy Pasadena is like 5 a.m. in other cities), and it always has a crowd. It’s not quite at the level of the best in Highland Park and East L.A., but it’s damn fine anyway.
El Taquito Mexicano, 490 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena, 626.356.9411, eltaquitomexicano.com. B, L & D daily. No booze. MC, V. $