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El Tarasco (the original)

316 Rosecrans
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266 | Map
(310) 545-4241

The proverbial hole in the wall, this location is the original El Tarasco that has grown to about eight restaurants throughout the South Bay. We’re talking the essentials for eating here: a crowded kitchen, a counter and around 15 stools to plop yourself down on. Open late to handle those middle of the night cravings, this place doesn’t follow the “no shirts, no shoes, no service” rules. If you have a heartbeat, you can get served great food here.

I love carnitas and I consider them to be the litmus test of any Mexican restaurant. I gotta tell you, El Tarasco has got it going on. Walk by the place at 8:00 any morning and the scent of carnitas cooking will send you into a pork fueled frenzy. Cooked low and slow and then pulled apart into mind blowing pieces of carnivorous delight, a plate of perfectly prepared carnitas, a pile of fresh pico de gallo, rice, beans and soft hot tortillas will run you about $7. You’d pay twice as much anywhere else and it wouldn’t be half as good.

Their chile rellenos are not the standard stuff you’d expect. No deep-frying here. Instead you get a huge pablano chili, stuffed with cheese and then engulfed in a light scrambled egg jacket. Then they smother it with a ranchero sauce (not the usual relleno sauce) and more melted cheese. It’s a tangy, gooey, saucy concoction that I’ve been pounding down since I discovered this place almost 10 years ago.

The list goes on and on and so does the legend of El Tarasco—a jewel of a place in the South Bay. It’s all good here and it seems half the world knows because it’s always busy. But then, what would you expect from a place like this?



Related: Mexican | Los Angeles South Bay | Lenn Grabiner

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Lenn Grabiner