- a Moving Grooving Taco Feast with LA Cycle Tours
There’s nothing radical about feasting on tacos in LA. They are the most ubiquitous street food in town. What is radical, in this land of stars and cars (and more cars), is to feast on tacos via a bike tour. In East LA.
Ditching four wheels for two, we search out a taco feast traveling to a part of town not found in the average tourist guidebook. We go to a community where, allegedly, 21 active gangs are known to operate per www.streetgangs.com. Fear not, fellow whettos. There is Art. Art Palacios, tour leader and owner of LA Cycle Tours, designed this ride himself and personally guides us through a neighborhood which, I am soon to discover, is vibrant in history, culture and cuisine.
We leave the tourists and their Zagat guides back on Olvera Street and pedal away down Caesar Chavez Avenue. Under Art’s care, we fine dine our way savoring tacos of all varieties. Often made with fresh, homemade tortillas, we uncover tacos filled with everything from chicarron, chorizo, camaron, cochinita pibil, mole poblano, carne asada, and more. Being a white girl from central Illinois, many of these names I can barely pronounce. Graciously, Art passes no judgment. He seems to understand translation takes a backseat when taste buds take over.
As for a personal favorite, I’m torn between the chorizo and the camaron (shrimp), although I’d be remiss not to give special mention to the chicarron. And then there are the sauces. Also homemade, each restaurant and taco truck features a signature sauce. Red sauce, green sauce, black sauce, and mole sauce too, with spices ranging from mild to “mouth on fire,” all here for the dipping and pouring.
For every variety of taco we experience an equal amount of culture. Art guides us through everything from open markets to cemeteries to shrines to the Virgin Mary. Best of all, we see it all through his lens, with his humble, sincere, and sometimes comedic insights. As we ride past the shuttered (and haunted!) Linda Vista Hospital on our right he tells us of a rave he attended on the top floor. Without skipping a beat, he’s pointing to a Victorian home on the left, which would be worth millions if it were anywhere else but here.
It’s “a taco tour,” so tasty tacos I expect. History, I do not. Between taco stops Art teaches us (while maneuvering effortlessly through traffic) that in the 1930’s Boyle Heights was a predominantly Jewish community. Case in point, we ride up to a boarded up synagogue. Art then directs our eyes to the signs of older businesses, with names like “Brooklyn Tires.” Brooklyn? East LA? Jewish? Hispanic? A part of Los Angeles history unfolds before my eyes. Even the famous water man of LA himself, William Mulholland, lived here for at least 25 years of his life.
A moveable feast sampling sumptuous tacos with LA Cycle Tours is definitely a ride outside the ordinary. I'm hoping finding future local radical feasts will be as easy as, well, riding a bike. Come join us for the next radical feast!
Art offers taco tours and more cultural off the beaten path rides through Los Angeles and can be found at www.lacycletours.com.