Downtown Long Beach residents waited months, then nearly a year for the Long Beach Taco Co. to open. The first projected date of summer 2018 came and went. Then there was talk of a grand opening before the New Year, but nothing. Finally, in late February, happiness came to the corner of First Street and Linden Avenue.
Owner Armando Velazquez (who also runs Placentia’s popular Salt & Ash restaurant) and his team were transparent with the process, regularly posting construction videos and teasing menu additions on their Instagram page, as well as thanking neighbors for being patient while they got things just right. Every so often, they’d post a photo of an upcoming taco creation, successfully keeping the buzz going.
Now open for only a few weeks, Long Beach Taco Co. is regularly packed. It has pretty stretched hours for a taco place—Sunday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and until 1:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays—so if you ever get a chilaquiles craving at sunrise, this is your spot.
It’s a casual, lively restaurant, sometimes bordering on loud, and it can get especially crowded on Tuesdays (naturally), when Long Beach Taco Co. shells out asada, carnitas and pastor street tacos for two bucks apiece. There’s also a pretty decent happy hour Sundays through Thursdays, when all beer and wine is $2 off (it doesn’t serve hard liquor presently) and a pair of its signature tacos costs just $5.
It offers ceviche and fresh oysters as appetizers, but the star dish is the queso fundido. Your choice of either chorizo or soyrizo (opt for the soy version, the cheese is enough of an oil bomb) served over a bubbling dish of molten queso, plated alongside a giant flour tortilla to rip apart and envelop the cheesy goodness.
As the name suggests, tacos are the main attraction here, with a dozen varieties available on small, homemade corn tortillas. At $4 each, it’s better to opt for the daily special of three-for-$10 and settle in to eat your way through the menu.
For vegetarians, there’s a flight of meatless options that includes the rajas con crema, roasted poblanos paired with corn, cheese, beans and sour cream. The calabacitas is a veg-heavy choice, with zucchini, carrots, onions, beans, herbaceous epazote and crunchy tortilla strips. The O.G. taco—just beans, guac and queso fresco—was flavorful but in need of some texture.
On the meaty side, the Ensenada fish taco came with pillow-light fried white fish and the standard trifecta of cabbage, tart pico and smooth crema. The pastor was smoky and sweet, with tender, long-marinated pork topped with cilantro, guacamole and pieces of golden pineapple. The mole taco, a large mound of shredded chicken in a thinned-out version of an otherwise unctuous sauce, was topped with fuchsia-colored pickled onions and just a sprinkle of queso fresco.
Before committing to an eating plan, though, don’t forget to skim over Long Beach Taco Co.’s tiny dessert section. There are only a few selections, but go for the churros. Yes, it is $8, but it is enough for six people. Well, three realistically. . . . Fine, I could eat it all myself. With a perfectly crispy exterior and chewy interior, each churro is filled with silky cajeta, a thick Mexican caramel sauce.The plate is finished with whipped cream and strawberries at the peak of ripeness.
While people may complain $4 for a single small taco is steep (Yelp unfortunately remains a veritable dumping group for anyone with anything to complain about), these are thoughtfully crafted with high-quality ingredients and balanced flavors. It’s not a cheap taco, and it’s not supposed to be.
Long Beach Taco Co., 442 E. First St., Long Beach, (562) 912-4455; longbeachtacocompany.com.