Tijuana-style street food is attracting crowds from North Hollywood to South Central to Whittier to the Inland Empire, for a Latino audience queuing up for mesquite-grilled carne asada wrapped in handmade corn tortillas with a generous spread of creamy guacamole. The latest entry is Tacos 1986, a Tijuana-style carne asada and adobada stand that’s already drawing street food fans to the corner of Highland and Lexington in Hollywood. Many of the stands have benefited from Instagrammers, from both English and Spanish language accounts, making them overnight sensations through viral videos and posts.
It wasn’t so long ago that Tacos Los Poblanos #1 and the eminent stand known as the Tire Shop Taqueria were the only outposts of a provincial style of tacos, executed by Pueblan taqueros from Izucar de Matamoros, Puebla, for Tijuanans. Now Tijuana is the height of taco fashion in LA, from the beef birria at Teddy’s Red Tacos to Tacos 1986, which just opened 3 weeks ago in Hollywood.
While some of these vendors, like Angel’s Tijuana Tacos in North Hollywood, have no connection to Tijuana, the Tacos 1986 founders have Baja in their blood. Both Victor Delgado and Jorge Alvarez were born in San Diego (Delgado was born in 1986), but grew up in Tijuana, one of the best street food cities in Mexico, with a tradition of tacos that now stretches from Los Angeles to Cabo San Lucas.
“I grew up with a certain kind of taco — my favorites were La Manzana (now known as La Unica); Tacomiendo, which served a whole cut of steak; Tacos Hipódromo; and El Yaqui in Rosarito,” said Delgado. Today the team, which also includes Paco Navarro, favors the wildly popular Tacos El Franc, but they didn’t find a place they really loved in LA.
Delgado has a background in hospitality and night life, and Alvarez was part of the opening crew for New York City’s Tijuana-style missionaries, Los Tacos No. 1, and together they set out to offer the best carne asada, adobada (the regional name for al pastor), and quesadillas. They also prepare one of the greatest northern tacos, the perrón, which contains carne asada, melted cheese, beans, and salsa on a flour tortilla, and made famous by Rosarito’s El Yaqui.
The perrón is an off menu item. “It’s our animal-style taco,” says Delgado, which had something that’s missing from some of their competitors — a high quality steak with a thicker cut. He calls it “animal-style” as a reference to In-N-Out burger’s legendary off menu special. Tacos 1986 uses chuck roll for their carne asada cooked over mesquite, which bursts with tender, well-seasoned grilled beef sporting a nice char that isn't overpowered by the creamy guacamole or the delicious mess atop a perrón.
Since this is LA, Tacos 1986 knows that serving tacos in Hollywood means having vegetarian and chicken options, despite the fact that they’re not typically found in Tijuana. Grilled chicken is a Mexicali thing, which should be Baja enough most Angelenos. Tacos 1986’s adobada tacos are very good, and the mushroom taco called hongos is as good as their best offerings at their already busy stand on in front of The Confection Co-Op on Highland.
For years, Delgado has been talking about his dream of opening a Tijuana street food stand. He discussed it with friends in his network, to the owners of Sonoratown, which is one of Delgado’s favorite taquerias in LA, and to fellow Baja taqueros at Loqui. On opening night, an eclectic mix of customers came out to support the Tacos 1986 team, followed by taco lovers mentioning them on social media and finally a home run post by former LA Dodgers star Adrián González, who posted a video on his Instagram during its first week of operation.
While other Tijuana-style taco vendors are using Instagram to drive their business, there’s another level of hype from Tacos 1986 that’s both sophisticated, organic, and accessible to a broader audience. This is the best taqueria to open recently in Hollywood, and it’s quickly becoming the new face of LA’s hottest street food trend. Avocado toast is out and creamy guacamole on carne asada is in.
Location Update: Tacos 1986 is located on the corner of Western and 6th Street in Koreatown. They’re open 7 p.m. to midnight, Tuesday to Thursday, then until 3 a.m. on weekends. Check their Instagram to confirm hours.