Friday, August 18, 2006

El Taquito Mexicano 2 vs. La Estrella - The Asada Showdown

My first experience on the taco scene was in 2000 when my friend Marshall convinced me that the place for tacos was down the street by his house in Altadena. The place was called El Taquito Mexicano 2, a quaint yellow building on Fair Oaks Ave, just north of Old Town Pasadena and the 210 fwy.

My first bites into their 99 cents pastor and asada tacos were tear-dropping sensational. And at that moment, I was forever hooked on great al pastors and carne asadas. Later that night I dragged my brother over to El Taquito Mexicano 2's taco truck that they park south of their shop in front of Nishikawa Auto Service.

A couple weeks ago, I was back at the place that initially started this taco craze in my life while I was in Pasadena running some errands ( Bevmo shopping for wine). The little taco shop is still the same way I remembered it, yellow, quaint, and homey. The shop unlike it's taco truck at night is run by women. While ordering at the cashier in the back, I noticed how their kitchen looked just like my mama's -- messy and unorganized. It's quite amazing watching three ladies maneuver through the kitchen, the food, and each other. They definitely have the maternal hands that know how to feed society. I heart women cooks!

One thing I really love about ETQ2, both shop and truck is that their salsa roja is HOT, non-gringo HOT, just the way I like it. I usually love their pastors more than their tacos at ETM2. But this time, the asadas were the star. Scents of smokey pepper, citrus, and garlic, their moist and tender asadas were ON POINT! The asadas were nothing but nice cuts of meat, beautifully and perfectly charred. My pastors however tasted overly stewed. One thing about ETM2 is that some days they are great, and other days the stuff is just ok.

While eating at ETM2, I couldn't help but notice the long line over at La Estrella, ETM2's rival taco joint across the street. Marshall used to always say that La Estrella was the place people went for asadas. Hmm...asadas that can possibly rock ETM2's asadas??? Minutes after finishing up at ETM2's, I ran the kitty-corner over to La Estrella because it was time for an ASADA SHOWDOWN.

One look at La Estrella's asada was a quick disappointment. My feelings didn't change either after I took a bite into their overly chopped asada meat. Don't get me wrong, the meat was flavorful, a bit more tangy than peppery. However, without structure, it just tasted like tasty ground beef to me. It also didn't help that La Estrella's salsa was pretty weak compared to rival ETM2's.

With both taco joints being at 99 cents a taco, I've gotto say that my carne asada choice for the day goes out to El Taquito Mexicano 2.

El Taquito Mexicano #2: 1
La Estrella: 0

Let me know if you ever have an ETM2/La Estrella Al Pastor Challenge. You know I'm down.

El Taquito Mexicano #2 (shop)
467 N Fair Oaks Ave
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 577-3918

La Estrella
500 N Fair Oaks Ave
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 792-8559

El Taquito Mexicano #2 (truck)
510 S Fair Oaks Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105
*parked at night


Bandini said...

Jeni rockin the LA taco scene :)
very nice

I hear el taquito mexicano is one of the best taco trucks in LA. I need to get out ot pasadena and try ETM2 and la estrella.

was that line as long as it looks at ETM2?

do you know if the tacos are the same at the truck and the hut?

Jeni said...

Hey Bandini...if you make to La Estrella, try their shrimp tacos. I heard they're the bomb. I called to see if La Estrella (Fair Oaks) was connected to La Estrella (Highland Park)...she said "non", but I'm not sure if she understood what I was asking.

Yes, the lines at ETM2 are usually that long...both during the week and weekend. The tacos made at the hut taste like tacos made by mamas, because they are made by mamas. I find the tacos made by ETM2's all male truck crew to be better. I definitely enjoy the pastors at the truck a lot more. Just depends whether or not you want to eat at a homey lunch counter during the day or on the hood of your car in front of an auto shop at night.

Passionate Eater said...

Haha, I really like your "showdown" idea! I'm glad to see that your site is up and running after the Blogger Beta fiasco!

Chubbypanda said...


I love you're blog. It's got such an elegant feel to it. It makes me wish I wasn't such a wuss about driving, so I could venture out from behind the Orange Curtain to eat at some of the great places you write about. Please keep it up!

- Chubbypanda

PS. When you have a spare sec, please check out my new food blog. I've only been at it for a little while, and I'd appreciate all the feedback I can get.

reenie said...

Great post! I love and crave the ETM2 truck but I never knew there was a mama restaurant. Now I don't have to wait for the sun to go down to get my al pastor fix. Thanks for the info! Can't wait to go check it out!

Jeni said...

Passionate Eater...sigh...I'm back to the regular blogger. I couldnt find my stuff on the beta one. I'm just glad I didn't lose any posts! Anyways, how are you doing girl??? D and I are hoping to make it up there again in the fall. Hope we can hang out again!

Welcome to the food blogging world Chubby panda! I hope your experience with the blog will allow you to enjoy life so much more via food! Hey my Vietnamese mom and I venture out to Westminster at least once a month, you have no excuse to not venture out to LA. Good food should have no boundries! haha.

Reenie...I hope you can make it to the ETM2 shop one day. It's so cute! A great place for a nice taco lunch!

Janice said...

Hi Jeni!
Thanks for visiting my site! You've got some amazing photos on yours. Do you live near Silver Lake Wine? I haven't been there yet, but it sounds awesome. And those tacos *drool* =) I might have to travel to Pasadena to experience them soon!

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Hi J, love the photos of the tacos garnished with a touch of photoshop. I wanna go, take me!

Jeni said...

Hey Janice...keep up the good postings! Yea, I live in Silver Lake and my boyfriend and I usually go to their Blue Monday tastings. You should come and check it out. Sundays are the best! And get some tacos too. There are a lot of great taco trucks on the westside...check out The Great Taco Hunt for a great list of tacos in LA.

Dylan...a garnish of contrast on photos for cheap eats gives the place an edge. I heart photoshop! Let's go to ETM2 the next time we're out there ok!

Kelli said...

I wish I would have known about this while I still lived in Pasadena! I can't wait to try them out next time I'm back. Thanks for the info.

Jeni said...

You're welcome Kelli. I'm glad to do my taco duties!

Anonymous said...

Never knew there were so many people in this world that lived for tacos as I do. I have been a loyal ETM2 paitron for about 15 years. I tried La Estrella once just to see what all the hype was about...I was thoroughly disappointed BUT also relieved to know that I was right all along...ETM2 is the best taco truck and I have sent probably a third of Southern Californians to try it out..although I can honestly say that I'm not too crazy about the hut either- your site is wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Hands down best asada and red sauce in the world. I am out of state now, but anytime I go back to Pasadena, I go to ETMN2 at least 3x. Been eating there since '88.


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