We Joined ‘The Dan Patrick Show’ on a Search for L.A.’s Best Taco
What do sports nuts know about Mexican food? Quite a lot.
Driving a black rented Nissan down the 101 near Downtown just before noon on a weekday, Andrew Perloff is on his way to Guisados, a trendy eatery in Echo Park. In the backseat is Paul Pabst. The A/C is on, the radio is off and the talk is all about tacos.
Pabst and Perloff are “Danettes,” co-hosts of the popular Dan Patrick Show, a nationally syndicated radio show that’s simulcast live on NBC Sports every weekday. The show is based in Connecticut, but this week they hit the road for five days of shows in Los Angeles. Pabst and Perloff used the opportunity to do a taco tour of the city, producing short segments at each stop that will air on the show.
The duo has done this before. In Houston for the Super Bowl, they produced a BBQ tour series that the show’s listeners and watchers, for lack of better words, ate up. “I don’t want to turn left into some chain restaurant and waste a meal in a great food city,” Pabst says. So he frequently sends out tweets to his 128,000 followers on Twitter and asks for recommendations. The responses never stop.
Lil help. Like the BBQ tour of Houston…next up..a TACO tour of LA. Send me the best taco spots/stands/trucks/ in the LA area. Go. @dpshow
— Paul Pabst (@PaulPabst) April 17, 2017
Already experts in sports, Pabst and Perloff have leveraged their platform to become go-to guys for restaurant recommendations. “We are normal dudes, not Anthony Bourdain or Bobby Flay,” Pabst says. “I can’t tell you what tarragon does or what cilantro does. But I can tell you what tastes good and help you find a fun place to eat.”
The Dan Patrick Show’s L.A. Taco Tour consisted of five spots over a succession of days. Los Angeles Rams quarterback Sean Mannion, friend of the show, joined for the first two stops. Dan Patrick did not attend, though he thinks he knows his cohorts’ motivation. “I think the whole thing’s a ploy to get me to pay for their tacos,” says Patrick. “It’s pretty smart, really.”
Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, here’s the tour …
Leo’s Tacos Truck
Location: Mid-City on South La Brea
The Scene: A truck parked in a defunct gas station parking lot at the corner of a busy intersection. Says Pabst: “This is the perfect place to pull up a piece of concrete and hang with the bros.”
Essential Order: Tacos al Pastor. Pork sliced straight off the spit into a warm tortilla, with a chunk of pineapple for good measure.
The Pro Take: “I like the pineapple,” says Mannion. “I didn’t know what it was at first. Nice surprise.”
The Outtake: After adding unlabeled red salsa to his taco, Perloff takes a bite and begins to panic. “Wow, that’s spicy! Timeout. We have a situation here. (Turns to Mannion.) You’re an NFL player — where’s the water boy?”
La Isla Bonita
Location: Venice on Rose Avenue
The Scene: Five blocks from the Pacific, a truck parked on a sunny street full of flip-flop-clad locals.
Essential Order: The Ceviche Tostada. Marinated mix of shrimp, octopus and crab spread over a crispy tortilla with lime and avocado. But be careful, warns Pabst: “It is not easy to eat and not look like a mess.”
The Pro Take: “I don’t know why anyone would ever prepare shrimp another way,” says Perloff. “This is fantastic. So fresh tasting.”
The Outtake: Mannion nearly drops his tostada but balances the paper plate just in time to avoid a sloppy ceviche situation. Perloff: “That’s professional athleticism right there.”
Location: Boyle Heights on Olympic Ave
The Scene: A truck parked adjacent to a building with ample indoor seating and bathrooms, veritable luxuries in food-truck land.
Essential Order: Tacos Dorados de Camarones. It’s a hot fried shrimp taco, covered in cool avocado and salsa, and has the stamp of approval of every food expert in America. Perloff, after one bite: “I don’t know why we don’t deep fry all tacos.”
The Pro Take: Pabst looked a little forlorn while eating and explained: “When I eat amazing food like this, I get a bit of Food Lover’s Depression. I’m already missing it mid-bite. Can’t wait to come back.”
The Outtake: The balancing act at food trucks is tricky, as Perloff struggled to hold his food while grabbing a beverage. Pabst: “You could use another arm, and another mouth.”
Location: Echo Park on Sunset
The Scene: Down the hill from Dodger Stadium is a brick-and-mortar with a small parking lot, indoor/outdoor seating and an omnipresent line of patrons trailing out the front door and down the sidewalk.
Essential Order: The Mini Taco Sampler. Mix and match six tacos with homestyle braised fillings on fresh, made-to-order tortillas.
The Pro Take: The braised meats are what built Guisados into a SoCal star, but Pabst found the secret standout: “It’s the tortillas. They’re soft without being too doughy. I’d say more but I really want to get back to eating.”
The Outtake: Perloff, with an empty tray, eyeballing the last bite on Pabst’s plate: “I’ll give you $100 for that taco.” Responds Pabst: “Absolutely not.”
Location: Santa Monica on Broadway at 26th
The Scene: Parked along the street, adjacent to a small, sun-drenched park — so bring a blanket for picnic-style snacking on short-rib tacos.
Essential Order: Sweet Chili Chicken Quesadilla. Kogi made its bones on fusion and no dish better shows it off than this sweet-heat mashup.
The Pro Take: “I loved everything here — it was so unique,” Perloff says. “Paying a little extra to add kimchi to the tacos is the secret.”
The Outtake: Pabst showed up in a white shirt, a rookie move for this veteran eater. “Of course I got something on me,” he says. “But you can’t hide it, you just have to own it.”
Dominic Bonvissuto, a freelance writer based in Long Beach, Calif., enjoys short walks to the neighborhood taco stand. He’s considering rebranding his men’s lifestyle site, Jeans & Ties, to a Mexican food journal called Beans & Limes.