Finding a delicious gem of a restaurant in Los Angeles can be difficult among the city’s hundreds of dining options. Each week, Daily Bruin A&E will help students narrow down their search by reviewing restaurants located along main boulevards near UCLA.
The flashy pink-and-turquoise-striped hub known as Tacos Tu Madre refreshes the otherwise uniform strip of beige eateries along Westwood Boulevard.
Despite the restaurant’s vibrant skull-adorned decor and hip, casual aesthetic, its title food – tacos – lack zest both literally and figuratively. The combination of small, ordinary tacos and higher prices makes Tacos Tu Madre a second-choice taco stop.
In addition to three small tables and chairs around its order window, Tacos Tu Madre‘s small, indoor dining area fits around 20 people. A black-and-white-striped ceiling contrasts with the restaurant’s geometric floor tiles and brightly colored stools, giving customers something to observe while they wait for their orders.
The restaurant’s interior, with sugar skull napkin holders and taco luchador drawings, displays the same quirky art as its exterior.
The restaurant’s vibe does not stop at its art and furniture but extends to its music as well. Tacos Tu Madre’s playlist includes Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie,” Marc Anthony’s “Ahora Quien” and remixes of hit songs like Calvin Harris’ “Blame,” which all contribute to the taco shop’s environment.
Tacos Tu Madre centers its menu around its tacos which range in flavors from classic asada to Korean BBQ. For about four extra bucks, each taco option is also available in the form of a burrito, which includes brown rice, beans and jack cheese, or a bowl, in which brown rice, kale or a mix of both act as a substitute for corn tortillas.
While the restaurant focuses both on its appearance and its food, the former is more memorable.
When it comes to tacos, fancy or experimental may not always be good. Classics remain classic for a reason. Of the four tacos I tried, my favorites are the $2.75 crispy fish taco and the $2 asada taco.
A crispy cod filet, cabbage slaw, crema, pico de gallo and red onions make up the first taco. The dish also includes a sweet and spicy sauce that compliments the crispiness of the fish and the slaw.
The asada taco consists of small, flavorful cubes of beef, red pepper aioli and chili lime queso fresco. The charred flavor of the beef, the texture of the queso fresco and the fresh pico de gallo create a dynamic, flavorful taco.
Though more complex, the third and fourth tacos are not as impressive as the joint’s simpler tacos. The fancier tacos fit well with the shop’s eclectic decor and make for a great Instagram post, but the artsy appearance comes at a price. The small plates of tacos each cost nearly $2 more than the basic tacos.
The Korean BBQ taco is a combination of sweet bits of marinated bulgogi (beef), mild kimchi, pickled red peppers, cabbage and avocado. Since the corn tortilla was already soft, placing the kimchi under all the other ingredients resulted in a soggy tortilla from excessive kimchi juice. As a result, this hybrid of Mexican and Korean cuisine, both of which are delicious on their own, was bland.
The priciest taco on the menu, selling for $4.75, is the Ahi Tuna taco. Unlike the rest of the taco options, the dish looks more like a tostada with tossed cubes of ahi tuna and a citrus ponzu sauce. Avocado, sesame seeds and seaweed flakes also garnish the fried corn tortilla. The crispy tortilla is a suitable vehicle for the soft ahi tuna, as its textural juxtaposition accentuates the tenderness of the fish. Unfortunately, the ahi tuna had a dull color and fishy aftertaste to it, suggesting a lack of freshness.
The highlight of the meals was not Tacos Tu Madre’s tacos but rather its churro dessert. The restaurant’s decadent red velvet churros are comprised of four pieces of fried red velvet batter, rolled in cinnamon sugar and surrounded by dollops of cream cheese frosting – all for the price of $4.
Tacos Tu Madre is hip and quirky, as demonstrated by its colorful Día de los Muertos-themed decor, eccentric music and adventurous tacos.
However, paying $19.50 for four unmemorable, petite tacos and an order of outstanding red velvet churros, makes this taco stop a mediocre solution for one’s taco fix.