It’s 3:30 p.m. on a Friday, yet every inch of Tacos 1986 is packed.
The line stretches down the sidewalk, with customers inhaling faint scents of chili and lime as they await their turn. The restaurant – located on Kinross and Glendon avenues – offers a combination of flavor and authenticity to the Westwood food scene.
Visiting the restaurant is like stepping back in time. The employees greet patrons with a smile as mariachi music blasts on the radio in the background. The walls are covered in ivory paint. A vintage-style font displays the simplistic menu in vibrant pops of red. In an age of constant innovation and in a city that celebrates the unconventional, Tacos 1986 dares to take Mexican food back to its roots.
The menu options range from well-known tacos and quesadillas, spanning from $3.25 to $4.25, to Mexican-style mulitas and vampiros, which cost anywhere from $4.50 to $5. Considering each item is coated in multiple layers of sauce and filled with meat and vegetables, the prices can’t be beat.
The mushroom mulita – a dish not offered in many Los Angeles Mexican restaurants – is a crispy tortilla sandwich filled with cheese that initially resembles a pancake. Although finding the proper way to devour this new dish proved to be difficult at first, as sauce oozed from all sides of the tortilla, the first bite alone was more than worth the mess.
The mushrooms were seasoned with tangy spices, and the peppery flavor paired perfectly with the melted mozzarella. Creamy guacamole complemented the mild salsa coating practically every inch of the tortilla. To offset the onion and jalapeno zest, squirts of fresh lime added a citrusy sensation.
At first, the lack of rice and beans seemed a bit off-putting. But the omission of these all-too-common additives was actually a necessity. The diversity of dynamic flavors embedded in the mulita were given a spotlight of their own, without the overpowering presence of rice and beans.
Another item on the menu that stood out was the signature horchata. Rich and creamy, it cultivated the ideal ratio of cinnamon to milk. The drink’s sweetness was never too jarring, and taking sips throughout the meal helped to balance out the spicy mushroom taste.
The zesty vegetable can also be substituted with carne asada, chicken or adobada or added to a taco, vampiro or quesadilla. The variety of options appeals to a wide audience and caters to the student demographic because of the simplified menu. It isn’t filled with quirky concoctions or avant-garde fusions, but is instead intended to emphasize the vibrant flavors of Mexico.
Although the lack of adequate seating and cramped quarters may be an issue for some, the restaurant’s location and convenience outweigh the downsides. Tacos 1986 is the ideal spot for an afternoon snack or meal on the go.
Although a few other taco shops in Westwood already exist, Tacos 1986 sets itself apart with its authentic offerings. The bold taste and intentional sour and savory pairings, combined with its highly efficient staff and low wait time, prove this restaurant is deserving of a place on any Westwood food bucket list.