When taqueros José Morales Jr. and Sr. opened their taco cart (la carreta) in a Compton tire shop five years ago, it was a weekend gig for the two of them, especially José Sr, a veteran taquero trained in Mazatlán. The goal was to make extra money and to share the goodness of Mazatlán-style tacos to carne asada-loving Angelenos.
At the time they only operated on Sundays, garnering a following on social media, and becoming well known for their carne asada tacos. But José Morales Jr. always saw being a full-time taquero as a risky career move because of the constant harassment by the health department and other challenges (Morales Sr. has since retired). Morales Jr. preferred to work a steady nine-to-five job at a linen factory, while selling imported food products from Sinaloa like callo de hacha, chile chiltepín, and shrimp on side. Then in April, Morales Jr. was fired from his job at the linen factory due to the pandemic.
Fearing that he wouldn’t be hired back, Morales Jr. decided five weeks ago to get a food truck to serve his family’s chorreadas, vampiros, tacos de carne asada, and papas locas (baked potatoes filled with taco ingredients) from Friday to Sunday at an industrial part of northern Long Beach. By opening Tacos La Carreta as a regular food truck, Morales Jr. dove into the life of a full-time taquero. The Tacos La Carreta truck is parked on the northernmost edge of Long Beach, one block from Paramount, a city that prohibits food trucks and street vendors. “I live in Paramount, and if I need more product, we can make a run to the house, plus they [City of Paramount] can’t hassle me here,” says Morales Jr.
Mazatlán-style carne asada is known all over Sinaloa for chorreadas, which are usually thick, sope-style tacos smeared with a syrupy caramel-colored lard called asiento, then topped with melted cheese, grilled steak, and condiments. La Carreta’s chorreadas are made with a pair of corn tortillas rather than the traditional sope-style tortillas, but they’re still a fatty mess of lard and melted cheese covered in steak, balanced by acidic pico de gallo and other salsas.
Morales Jr. also serves quesadillas with folded flour tortillas, grilled sirloin, and melted cheese while vampiros, which are found through Sinaloa, are popular for crispy tortillas toasted on the comal. They’re layered with melted cheese, steak, and Mazatlán’s standard dressing of creamy salsa de aguacate, mild salsa roja, pico de gallo, and finely grated cabbage. The meat, upgraded to beefier sirloin steak, has lots of smoke flavor from a mesquite grill. In fact, carne asada is the only protein option, which is true to the types of old school stands, taquerias, and carts his father worked on in Mazatlán.
Even with just five weeks of business, diners are catching on to La Carreta. One customer says, “I’m from Colima and never had this type of carne asada before, but I’ll be back, I mean, we’re practically from the same region,” as he walks away with extra tacos to go. To complete the experience, La Carreta even sells the sweet vanilla Sinaloan soda Tonicol, and makes their agua de cebada (barley water) from La India Verdeña, a barley water mix produced in El Verde, Sinaloa.
Though Morales Jr. lost his job due to the pandemic, one silver lining is that Angelenos will get the chance to try one of LA’s best taco traditions. With current hours of Friday to Sunday, starting in the mid-afternoons, Morales Jr. is even thinking expanding to more days if all goes well. Follow La Carreta’s Instagram for more updates.
Tacos La Carreta. 3401 E. 69th St., Long Beach, (562) 377-2819