World Wide Tacos: Soul Food Worth the Wait
By Eddie North-Hager/ Special to LAist
Sometimes near the corner of Arlington Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr, Boulevard you’ll see them huddled outside in the dim of the fluorescent light. They aren’t there to smoke a cigarette and it’s not an Alcoholicos Anonimos meeting.
Soul food tacos are the objects they desire.
They are waiting for one of Fredrick Sennie’s World Wide Tacos. This place, also known as Best in the West Tacos and King Tacos, has more names than P-Diddy. There’s no indoor or outdoor seating and it can be 90 minutes for two tacos. At least now they will call you when your order is ready. Individuals still can’t preorder.
The regulars who forget to leave their phone number or first-timers end up waiting in the parking lot. They stare at the white ticket stub with their number on it as if it was a lottery ticket because any taco you wait an half hour for is a very valuable taco. These tacos are worth the wait. No matter how much you swear that you’ll never wait that long again for a taco, eventually you will come back. You can’t get these anywhere else.
It starts with a menu of more than 150 different tacos. Turkey pastrami. Vegetarian barbecue "chicken". Ground lamb. Vegetarian orange "duck". Belizean shrimp. Mango chicken. Vegetarian teriyaki "chicken". Grilled crab. Potatoes and cheese. The list is like three-feet tall. That’s not including the very tasty sandwiches and hamburgers and burritos.
Served in a hard shell unlike any other. It seems lightly toasted, yet it has all the taste of a traditional greasy, deep fried shell. And it rarely breaks in half. These aren’t even really what you think of Mexican tacos - they don’t have beans. Sennie calls them Soul Food tacos. They are so much more than that. They taste fresh, homemade and not nearly as heavy as traditional Los Angeles Soul Food and there isn’t an emphasis on gravy, but on sauces and spice.
From a vegetarian’s view, the selection of 70 different veggie products are spiced and cooked from scratch in the kitchen is probably the best in the city. The best in the city. From a meat-eaters point of view, many of the veggie imposter products are just as good as the real thing. That isn’t to say the meat and fish and shrimp and scallop tacos aren't great in their own right. But the texture of the tofu and the sauces he infuses into them, or whatever magic he does, is not just a rare success, it’s something that is rarely tried.
After waiting so long, you may want to eat these tacos in the car on the way home. But these are not ready made tacos, ready to go and eat in the car Pollo Loco tacos. They need instructions. They are the only tacos worth instructions.
Hold the still-wrapped taco and push down on the top of yellow wrapping paper. That pushes the fresh lettuce, onion, cilantro, tomato and cheese into the shell. Otherwise these are messy tacos. Don’t eat them while driving. Instead put them on a plate and use a fork, because that romaine lettuce, cheese, tomatoes cilantro, red onion with the house taco sauce is sliced and diced by hand. And you can taste the difference.
Still how can a taco take that long?
Though Sennie’s heard the question before, he doesn’t try to explain.
“Everything is prepared fresh and we have a small kitchen,” Sennie said. “One order can complicate everything and it can take 45 minutes.”
Not a satisfying answer. He’ll expand when he’s ready, he said. He’s trying to keep a low profile until then. And he’s not going to rush.
So, honestly, no tacos are worth waiting 90 minutes. But if you try them once, you’ll be back.
World Wide Tacos 323-291-1500
2419 W. Martin Luther King Blvd.
Leimert Park, Ca.