Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tinga: Flavors that sing ... but do the prices zing?

Flat-iron steak tacos at Tinga

Tinga has been open on La Brea near 2nd for nearly a year, but many people still haven't noticed the tiny storefront with two tables outside near the larger Cafe Midi. Inspired by the approach of Santa Barbara's La Super Rica, husband and wife team Chris and Jerry Baker didn't replicate the menu, but brought handmade tortillas and the same careful approach to spicing found at the venerable stand. Instead of a scruffy patio, Tinga is tucked into a narrow space with a long communal wood table, blackboard menu wall and industrial feel.
chicken tacos with salsa verde, Tinga
I wanted to be able to say that Tinga's $8.50 taco plate was too expensive or that their compostable plates and utensils were too precious. But after recently eating at an old-school Mexican restaurant with even higher prices, rancid chips and watery salsa, I'd gladly give up on the chance to get a $10 jamaica margarita in exhange for real taste in my food. Actually Loteria's tacos are the same price, and Tinga's tacos are even bigger and meatier. In fact, I almost wish the Pechuga lemon-brined chicken breast tacos or the flat-iron steak tacos were chopped into smaller pieces instead of served in large slices. The taco toppings are dynamite, like addictive salsa verde on the chicken tacos or dog-snout salsa and pickled onions on the steak tacos. For easier eating, try the slow-cooked cochinita pibil pork tacos, which truly are spicy-spicy as the menu advises. The menu has expanded since the August 2010 opening, adding tortas and burritos to tacos and quesadillas. Don't look for elaborate dishes -- this is simple street food, but made with the highest attention to flavor and quality. In addition to the crispy, fresh chips that come with the tacos, don't miss the Elote especial -- a tangy-sweet-spicy combo of roasted corn, lime and poblano chile. There's plenty of other choices for vegetarians, like potato tacos and a mushroom quesadilla that intrigues even a devoted pibil-hound. Aguas like jamaica and watermelon lemonade are strong and not overly-sweetened, while dulce de leche-laden alfajore cookie is just the thing for dessert.
Sure, street tacos are great. But when even Baja Fresh charges $6 for two tacos, it's only logical to pay a dollar or two more for something you'll still be thinking about several days later.
Tinga Buena
142 S. La Brea
(now open every day till 9 pm, Sundays to 7 pm)

 Tinga Buena on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

the tacos prices didn't get me as much as the burritos - i think they have them going for something like $15!

haven't had tried the burrito (yet), but i agree that the tacos are quite good

Anonymous said...

The burritos were in the $11=12 range and are excellent, as is all the food at Tinga. I want to keep this place a neighborhood secret.

Susan said...

Tinga's been on our to-do list for so long; thanks for the reminder!

Slots said...

Nice looking tacos...tasty I am sure.

Steve said...

You clearly hit Tinga on a good day. Living just a few blocks away and always lured by the spiciness, the quality has proven maddeningly inconsistent. On the days that it sings, it's fantastic. But recent employee and managerial turnover has proven detrimental to the continuity of its quality. Based on your assessment, it appears that things have stabilized. Perhaps I'll walk over later on.

sana said...

nice work man i just visit your blog its really very good keep it up


Jen said...

These tacos look amazing!!!

Liz said...

Hope everyone in LA is getting pumped for Extreme Chef tonight at 7 PST on Food Network!

Anonymous said...

I really want to love Tinga. The food is great but their policy of forcing you to buy 2 tacos of the same type is silly. Every other taco place in LA seems to manage the ability to let you order single tacos. Tinga claims it is a food stocking issue.