The House of “Ashigaru”
Spending the pandemic near my California hometown, nothing brought me more stabilizing comfort than the crown jewel of SoCal cuisine: Mexican food. The choices are unlimited, but it’s been a time for old classics. During the early months, with freeway traffic wiped clean, my wife and I would whip up the 710 to La Azteca and Mariscos Jalisco, both favorites of late food critic Jonathan Gold.
La Azteca’s astounding tortillas would make any burrito divine, but we opt for the shockingly tasty, criminally underrated chicken burrito (no, not the fabled chile relleno burrito; sacrilege!). At Mariscos Jalisco, it’s ceviche and, of course, the tacos de camaron – piping hot, crispy shrimp tacos served with avocado that is somehow perfectly ripe year-round.
But mostly, we’d just go to my favorite restaurant – El Farolito, in the town of Placentia, just ten minutes from my childhood home. I’ve eaten at El Farolito for 25 years, and haven’t looked at the menu for 24 and a half of them. I already know what I want: Mama’s plate with a beef taco and beef taquitos. And the chips and salsa, by some margin the best I’ve ever had.
I like to think we helped each other survive.
David Kenji Chang is a writer and comedian who currently lives and works in New York and Southern California.