Stuff tortillas with chicken adobo, and get ready to do a happy dance.
Wes Avila thinks of a taco as a blank canvas.
If so, his Guerrilla Tacos is the Matisse of taco trucks.
Who knew a taco could have such vivacious personality? But in his imaginative hands, it comes awash in vivid colors, flavors and textures that dance with verve on the palate.
It’s no surprise that Guerrilla Tacos of Los Angeles was named “Best Taco Truck” by LA Weekly, and singled out by the great critic Jonathan Gold as one of the best things to eat in Los Angeles.
A former forklift driver, Avila went to culinary school in Pasadena, before going to work in such esteemed kitchens L’Auberge Carmel and Le Comptoir in Los Angeles. He even did a stint in Paris under Alain Ducasse.
In 2012, with his life savings of $300, he started Guerilla Tacos out of a humble push cart. It wasn’t long before word of mouth spread, and Gold’s review put him on everyone’s radar.
A couple of years ago, my husband and I chased down his truck one afternoon just in time to snag a sushi-grade hamachi tostada that was bright tasting and adorned with micro beet leaves. He makes everything from scratch, and sources locally and sustainably.
He makes no claims that his is authentic Mexican food. Instead, it’s much more personal.
How pretty is this lemon cake from Sycamore Kitchen?
Sure, they serve lunch, but I was there for the baked goods. But of course.
Husband and wife owners Quinn and Karen Hatfield cooked for a spell in San Francisco, before departing for Los Angeles to open Hatfield’s. In 2012, they also opened the Sycamore Kitchen, an urban cafe and bakery with a large outdoor patio.
Karen is a long-time pastry chef, so it’s no surprise that the pastries excel here.
How good are they?
Let’s start with the buttercup ($3.50), the renamed version of a kougin-amann. It’s buttery alright. It’s also the closest kouign-amann I’ve found to that of Belinda Leong’s of B. Patisserie in San Francisco and John Shelsta’s of Howie’s Artisan Pizzeria in Redwood City (he trained with Leong). It’s golden and crisp, with airy layers that are just a smidge heavier in texture than Leong’s and Shelsta’s versions. It’s a dream to nibble on.
The buttercup (kouign-amann).
Yup, this is a babka.
Then there are the cookies. At first glance, they look incredibly flat and thin — almost as if they were a mistake. But take a bite of the rice crispy cookie ($2.50) and the oatmeal toffee cookie ($2.25) and you know they were baked with purpose. The thinness means they are somehow crisp and chewy through and through. Brilliant.