By Kevin Wilkerson, PubClub.com Food Blogger
Go around Los Angeles, Orange County or San Diego, and you can’t help but notice the number of taco shops and Mexican restaurants. They are as frequent as fast food places in other places.
Additionally, nearly every mainstream restaurant or restaurant/bar has tacos on their menu. To a visitor, it can be overwhelming.
But there is a reason tacos are such as quintessential Southern California food. It has to do with another big part of Southern California culture: surfiing.
For decades, Southern California surfers have headed south of the border to catch the waves of Baja, California. They traveled to breaks from Rosarita to Ensenada, stopping at remote locations where there were few food choices. After emerging from the waves, they were greeted by local Mexicans who grilled up fish tacos to sell them.
Those fish tacos were soooo good that when the surfers returned home, they began asking local places to make them. And a Southern California food phenomenon was born.
Restaurants began to serve fish tacos and expanded to include other types served in Mexico: pollo, carne asada, carnitas, shrimp and so forth. Trends developed – the hottest one in San Diego now are the Al Pastor tacos, which is marinated pork cooked on a vertical spit – and places serving the tasty treat popped up like toast out of a toaster.
This gave rise to something that is as much of a part of the Southern Califronia landscape as ocean waves: the taco stand.
A simple, small restaurant, taco stands pretty much serve, well, tacos. Oh, they have burritos, too, but people line up for blocks to get taocs. Some stands don’t have indoor seating so people sit on small patios or get ’em to go, to eat their food. If you want to know where to find good tacos, look no further than the lines outside of the taco stands.
So the next time you have a great taco in Southern California, give a thanks to those early taco pioneers, the surfers, who were in the search for killer waves and wound up creating a cultural culinary treat.