On the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Solana, just west of Pine Avenue, is a little orange-painted gem of a taco joint. The sign still advertises the location’s previous business, but back in November, this tiny restaurant opened as Real Fresh Tacos. There are a few parking spaces dedicated to the taquería, located just past a large flag emblazoned with the word birria, and the dining area, a covered patio with a handful of booths, offers some respite from the gritty hustle of PCH. There’s an order window and a pick-up window, and that’s about it. It’s a simple, no-frills setup—which is fine because food this good doesn’t need the distraction of romanticized Mexican décor.
First-timers should stand back and take in the assortment of menus tacked to the walls, framing the order/pick-up windows. Most of them are just sheets of paper with items hand-scrawled in Spanish. Take your time and read them all, or risk missing some of the specials, scattered across five separate pages. Lining the ceiling, there’s even some timeworn photos of such disparate items as pastrami fries and cheeseburgers left up from restaurants past. But those can be skipped because this place is for tacos, tortas, enchiladas and sopes.
The tacos, which come an ample four per order, are the classic double-tortilla-cradling-meat-cilantro-and-onions deal. Choices of protein range from all the usual staples (asada, carnitas, pollo, pastor, chorizo) to meats less seen in these parts (lengua, cabeza). Chicharron is also an option. The al pastor here—long-simmered pork served in tender shreds and colored dark with chiles, spices and sweet citrus—was so flavorful that the accompanying teeny-tiny tubs of hot sauce (a fiery rojo or bright verde) remained largely ignored.
The top pick here, however, is Real Fresh Taco’s enchiladas, which may be among the best in the city. Your choice of meat is encased in a folded-over (not rolled) corn tortilla and smothered in a blazingly hot black-and-crimson enchilada sauce. The carne asada option gets you a healthy portion of generously marinated, tender beef enchiladas, plus a side of refried beans, golden-colored rice, and a little salad composed of shredded lettuce, tomatoes, pickled onions and a snowing of salty cotija cheese, all topped by a charred whole jalapeño. But what makes this dish a favorite is its sauce: addictively spicy enough to break a sweat, but rounded out by the smoky, toasted sweetness of peppers and spices.
Open daily at 8 a.m., Real Fresh Tacos also offers breakfast selections that include eggs in several different forms (the huevos rancheros will be my next purchased item here), including massive breakfast burritos bursting with eggs, cheese and three different meats. There’s also tocino salchicha and even a pancake plate for those craving something sweeter.
Real Fresh Tacos admittedly doesn’t look like much from the street, but the flavors this small, family-run establishment serves up are as vibrant as its tangerine-colored exterior. The meats are slow-cooked, the tortillas are supple, and the sauces are thoughtfully complex. In a city where modern fusion restaurants seem to pop up every other day, a new down-home authentic Mexican eatery feels, well, real fresh.
Real Fresh Tacos, 112 W. Pacific Coast Hwy., Long Beach, (562) 513-3323.