OC Food Critic Thinks Taco Trucks Are Unworthy
An Orange County restaurant critic did the unthinkable: he dared to leave taco trucks off a list of the best tacos.
Food critic Brad A. Johnson—the only food critic to win both the James Beard Award and a Cordon Bleu World Food Media Award, according to his bio—went on a "quest" for the best tacos in Orange County, ultimately choosing ten favorites. While he leaves the door open to changing up his favorites and notes that taco preference is "highly subjective and personal," he did have one rather odd requirement.
"This year, I'm not including any trucks or places that otherwise don't provide a comfortable place to sit—at a proper table, with at the very least a covered awning—where I can enjoy the tacos while they're still hot."
Wait, wait, wait. We're going to have a list of the best tacos in any part of SoCal and leave off taco trucks, the delicious bastions of flavor that line our sunny streets?
Johnson's list then goes on to describe the spots, kicking it off with Carnitas Los Reyes in Orange, where he says you might have to wait for one of those coveted tables because they're often slammed at lunchtime. It's a Santa Ana-heavy list, and it does have some drool-worthy taco pics.
However, as with any attempt to categorize and rank tacos, there's some controversy. Namely, Johnson drew the ire of Gustavo Arellano—author of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America and OC Weekly's ¡Ask a Mexican!—who penned an editorial about how not cool he is with Johnson's "insulting as hell" list.
He speculates on why Johnson would deny the taco trucks:
Probably the Reg's retrograde audience complained to Johnson about including supposed roach coaches, so Brad felt the heat; if so, he's a coward. Maybe Brad feels loncheras just don't have what it takes to take on restaurants; if so, he's a pendejo. Or, if you take his excuse at its face value, maybe Brad feels street food isn't worthy of his consideration because it makes the eater have to sit on curbs, milk crates, or eat standing up. If so, Johnson's a retre-PENDEJO.
Oh, boy. Over here, we love our tacos so much that we made two lists: best tacos, as well as best tacos from trucks. You will see from the comments in either list that our choices are also hotly contested. This is what happens, we suppose, when you try to apply a superlative to the food of the Gods.