How do you like your tacos?
Street style with onion, cilantro and salsa? Or maybe you're one of those people who like to pile it high with cheese and guac?
Well, how about this third option?
Multiple tacos in-between stops on a nine-mile bike ride through Boyle Heights? With a side of local history, of course. Sound like your jam? That's what Arturo Palacios offers on his L.A. Cycle Taco Tour.
"Initially, I had planned to do the route around Hollywood. But at the same time, we were thinking, we want to show people the real side of Los Angeles, not the manicured side," said Palacios when he took Take Two producers Lori Galarreta and Austin Cross for a short but flavorful tour.
So, they took the tour to the east side and kept it focused on Boyle Heights. Because of its rich history and traditions, Boyle Heights was the perfect setting for the cycling taco tour.
"Folks can learn about (the history) and the type of cuisine we're going to have on this tour from different regions of Mexico," Palacios explained.
For the special Take Two tour, we hit three spots over a shorter 4 1/2-mile route, and throughout the entire ride, Palacios talked about the city's rich and sometimes little-known history.
First stop, Zamora Brothers.
Serving the community for 48 years
Zamora Brothers is located on East Cesar Chavez Avenue, just south of the 10 and 101 freeway interchange. In the Boyle Heights community, its known for its carnitas, which is prepped in the style of Guanajuato cuisine.
"Doing my tours on bicycles, allows us to go through places that nobody else could go through," Palacios said.
Rolling with the pushback
Pairing bicycles and tacos creates a sense of going off the beaten trail to discover hidden gems.
Though, rolling through these communities and patronizing these types of taco shops has not been without pushback.
"There are people out here who are against gentrification and they are known for heckling folks," Palacios said. "I think most of them are misinformed. I like to not heckle them back but kind of argue with them and ... point out the facts to what we're doing here."
And what Palacios is trying to do is show another side of the city and communities he loves. Oftentimes he gets native-born Angelenos coming along on his tour, and many times they challenge him to teach them something they don't know about L.A.
"A lot of times, a lot Angelenos say...'I didn't know that about this community,' and that makes me feel good," said Palacios.
And when it comes to tourists and out of towners?
"They already have a perception of these areas," said Palacios, "So I like to change their perception."
Next stop, a taco truck called Monchies, which Palacios clarified, does not mean muchies, it's actually a nickname for people named Ramón.
The Monchies memela
The Monchies taco truck has been a stop on the taco tour since the beginning. Before, the tour would stop at the truck to buy tacos, but then Palacios kept noticing another very popular dish being served by the truck.
"Something that didn't even look like a taco and I had to try one for myself, and I was blown away," he said.
He was referring to the memela, or as he nicknamed it, "the pimped-out taco."
This particular memela was made in the Puebla style — Puebla being a state in Mexico where black beans are king — and as a result, this dish is jam-packed with them. Literally.
It kind of looks like a pizza, but it's got all kinds of goodies:
- Sits on a handmade tortilla
- Black beans
- House red sauce
- California chilis
- Queso fresco
Palacios said it's a crowd pleaser on the cycling tours and a favorite amongst vegetarians. (For obvious reasons.)
A spot filled with OG's
Nothing washes down tacos and memelas like some culture.
"Mariachi Plaza has been the hang out for mariachis in Boyle Heights for the last 60 years," said Palacios.
Mariachi Plaza offered the chance to talk about the culture of the mariachis, and Palacios jumped at the chance to feature it as a stop along the taco tour.
"The mariachis hanging out here, a lot of them have been hanging out here for years... the fellas you see standing about here tuning their instruments, these guys are the OG's here," Palacios.
These original mariachis are more so your father's musician, not so much cut out for today's musicscape that requires social media and self-promotion.
Biking through Los Angeles gives you a different view of the city. Things pass by slower, you see and notice more. It all feels more personal. And that's what it's all about for Palacios.
"On a bicycle, you slow down and you appreciate your community more," he said.
You can learn more about the L.A. Cycle Taco Tour here.