Written by Kon-Tiki Taco
Tacolandia established itself in three years as the king of taco special public events. The people drawn to it identify as “fun, regardless of who you are.”
Some say that with the wealth of Los Angeles taco catering companies in Los Angeles, is not an industry, but rather a culture. Proving that true was the June 2015 “Tacolandia,” the third annual fundraiser for the El Pueblo Park Association that drew more than 4,500 people. It was a sell-out event.
What brings so many people together is that culture of the taco. Guests pay between $35 and $45 each to enter the event grounds – held in the 44-acre park surrounding the El Pueblo Historical Monument in the oldest section of downtown Los Angeles, near the Mexican marketplace on Olvera Street. For that price they get free rein on complementary tacos provided by mobile taco catering carts – provided by scores of restaurants that are essentially tacquerias, or Mexican restaurants or taco cart catering companies. Event goers purchased beverages, such as cervezas and those sold at a margarita bar.
The event also featured bands Cumbia Machin, a Columbia-inspired electro-, ecletic-style dance group; De’Anza, a Latin-alternative vocalist/vihuela player and songwriter; Thee Commons, an LA-based old-school rock and roll group with flashes of cumbia chichi and a twist of punk; Tropi Corilla, an Afro Tropical ensemble well known on the LA music scene; and ViceVersa, an East LA rock band known for its charismatic stage presence.
But without question it was the mobile taco catering firms that were the stars of the show – as they have been in two previous iterations of this event. Renowned celebu-chef Mario Batali calls it “the Oscars of street food,” a claim supported by the concurrent Vendy Awards held at Tacolandia. These identified six of the chefs and their respective establishment for the best in each of the following categories of tacos: Traditional Taco, New School (non-traditional), Street Taco, People’s Choice and Lifetime Achievement Award.
Tacolandia is hardly an isolated event in the special events landscape of Southern California. Mobile taco catering has transformed everything from film shoots and corporate events to weddings, product launches, retail store events, festivals and private affairs. The simplicity of eating a taco combines with the striking variety of menu options to make planning easier.
Tacos are almost universal in their appeal as well, with a surprise to many diners when they taste gourmet tacos for the first time (many are only familiar with the fast food restaurant style, which was largely invented in the U.S.). Ingredients that include shrimp, tilapia, grilled potatoes, Jamaican chicken, grilled tofu and carne asada – along with a host of chef-inspired herbs and spices – make the taco dining experience extraordinary.
Indeed, taco dining is a culture. But perhaps its greatest strength is the ability of tacos to bridge all kinds of diner cultures and bring them together for this broadly appealing food.