Sunday, November 16, 2008

Meals Fit for a King...or a Super Giro

I love my neighborhood for its diversity of cuisine. I sit smack in the middle of enormous Korean, Thai, Central American and Filipino populations. Within five blocks, I can walk to tons of pupuserias (including the best pupuseria in LA), Korean BBQs, and countless other spots. But the one thing my neighborhood is lacking is great tacos, tortas and other Mexican staples.

We have some of the best Oaxacan food around, which is great, but sometimes, you just want a great taco or torta stuffed with the carnitas and al pastor in the style of the western states of Jalisco and Michoacan.

What I really should do is finally get serious about East LA and do some Whittier Boulevard or Huntington Park exploration, but I haven't yet, so I get really excited when I get somewhere where there is a King Taco, and recently, I've added the popular Gallo Giro to my list.

El Gallo Giro [GUY-oh HE-ro] is a 20 year old chain which now has multiple locations, mostly in eastern LA, but also Long Beach, Van Nuys and Santa Ana. They do traditional Mexican fare: tacos, tortas, fabulous aguas frescas and pastries.

King Taco is in many ways a similar institution, dating back to the '70s and serving tacos and burritos to a crowd of hardcore taco fans from its outlets across LA County. In Long Beach there is a King Taco nearly a block away from a Gallo Giro, so I was able to try both and do a little compare and contrast. Being a porketarian, I concentrated on the al pastor and carnitas.

Al Pastor

The Gallo Giro al pastor was nicely spiced, but the King Taco pastor blew it away. The spicing on the KT pastor was above and beyond. Not only chili, but great seasoning with almost a bit of sweetness to it.


If KT wins the al pastor award, Gallo Giro takes it for carnitas. Their carnitas were crisp and oh, so juicy, if a bit on the fatty side. The KT carnitas were fairly standard.


Both establishments serve excellent salsas. The red salsa at KT was spicier and I think the KT green was my favorite, but Gallo Giro's salsa were also quite good.

El Gallo Giro has great aquas frescas (loved the pineapple) and a panaderia, though I didn't try any baked goods.

El Gallo Giro also has daily specials, including the family pack: meat, rice, beans, tortillas and a liter soda for $15. Now, during a recession, that deal makes El Gallo a true hero.

So whether your a King or a Hero, there's good stuff (and pork) all around.

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