Taco Tuesday: Norteño tacos at Loqui
Northern-style tacos with grilled meat and flour tortillas are the coming uptown thing in the Los Angeles taco universe. Expect to hear a lot more from us in the next several weeks on Sonoratown, Sonoritas and especially Salazar, whose chef Esdras Ochoa may have jump-started the norteño trend at his Tacos Mexicali Taco & Co. just north of downtown a few years ago. Expect the occasional name-drop of Burritos La Palma, whose wonderful flour tortillas are occasionally available at Grand Central Market downtown (and at Smorgasburg) if El Monte is out of your usual orbit.
But today, we are at Loqui, a fast-casual taqueria whose owners include Cameron Wallace, formerly of the revered San Francisco bakery Tartine. Loqui is located in the new Platform complex, a mixed-use project next to the Culver City transit station on the new Expo line. The Platform is the kind of mall where you are never more than a few steps from fresh-pressed juice or a vest made from mature free-range bison leather. There are excellent cortados at Blue Bottle. You are across the street from Cannibal, a butcher shop with a fashionable whiff of the abatoir about it.
Loqui, which feels a little like Chipotle before it became corporate, occupies a narrow mall storefront with a few tables in front and a patio in the rear. You can get a Mexican IPA or a glass of Baja wine if that’s your jam. Chips and guacamole – definitely the chips and guacamole.
But mostly there are tacos on flour tortillas – flour tortillas that tend to be tender and flaky instead of thin and muscular like the flour tortillas you find in Sonora and Arizona, but not bad. The interiors of the tacos are glazed with cheese, beans, and an almost homeopathic dab of guacamole. The carne asada used to be the thing here — it tasted as if it had contacted fire at some point in its recent past — but there is pork instead now, also grilled chicken if you are not up to the red meat thing, and sautéed-mushroom tacos too.
If you order a molcajete hoping to encounter something like the monstrous concoctions at places like La Parrilla and El Chamizal, scorching-hot stone mortars filled with lobsters, grilled cactus and shrimp, you may be vaguely disappointed. It’s more like the Loqui equivalent of a Chipotle burrito bowl, served with a couple of those tortillas, although it’s pretty good for that.
Then you can decide whether to finish your mall adventure with a train ride downtown, a cone from Van Leeuwen or a hard hour at Soul Cycle. You can’t say that the New Urbanism doesn’t offer at least some options.
Loqui, 8850 Washington Blvd., Culver City, eatloqui.com
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