Location4141 South Centinela Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
Chef Evan Kleiman is the longtime host of KCRW’s “Good Food,” the author of seven cookbooks on Italian food, and a guest lecturer at UCLA.
Paco’s Tacos is one of those places that go all out for every single holiday. Whether it’s Halloween or Fourth of July, they hang loads of plastic objects and paper figures from the ceiling—and that’s on top of the strange underwater theme that the restaurant sports year-round. It looks like it should be a tiki bar—there’s even an enormous aquarium—but it’s an old-school Mexican restaurant complete with those rattan-and-leather barrel chairs that move and squeak underneath you.
You should go just for the decor, but my food move here is the combination plate. I’m a Californian, and I grew up eating Mexican food before it was regionalized, personalized, and cooked by the young and hip. Sometimes you just need old school. For me, a great hard-shell taco, an enchilada, and super-lardy beans served with equally lardy handmade flour and corn tortillas on the side are the best things ever. I eat the hard shell first, while it’s still crispy, and then move onto the amorphous blob on my plate and wrap it up to make little tacos. And don’t forget those fantastic pickled carrots and onions to add some sharpness.
You’ll probably have to wait for your table, but the waiting area is possibly the biggest in Los Angeles. There are two long benches and a steady supply of chips and salsa. Plus, they bring you drinks, so you don’t mind waiting among all the regular happy people all around you. It’s an excellent, not hip experience.