In the same vein of never judging a book by its cover, never judge a restaurant by its façade. From Sunset Boulevard, Diablo Taco looks pompous and cold among Silver Lake’s gritty strip malls, rusty food trucks, and of course, the Los Angeles relic that is Los Globos. What used to be La Parilla, a family-style Mexican restaurant that had been a neighborhood staple for decades, is now a stark, black building that looks more like a Hot Topic than a new-wave taco shop. Tacos are a sincere food. They are eaten by hand and gloriously messy. The fillings drip down your chin and ultimately onto your pants, but you don’t mind because carnitas are delicious. Why would any Angeleno opt to get their taco fix from a trendy restaurant rather than the stand on the corner? Red duck mole, braised pork belly and bison chili, for instance.
Scrawled on large chalkboards, Diablo’s menu offers unique spins on Mexican favorites. Their “Urban Tacos,” which run between $2 and $6 each, utilize the basic construction of a taco to create unique and exciting flavor experiences. The employees behind the counter are kind and eager to assist in placing your order — they are fully aware that decisions here can be tough. The red duck mole, a thick, tangy and slightly spicy interpretation of the Mexican comfort sauce is an excellent decision, as is the braised pork belly; tender meat topped with crunchy sweet corn creates the perfect combination of flavor and texture. The beef cheek taco is rich, flavorful and topped with pickled onions to cut the heaviness of the protein. Crispy rockfish holds its own on the meat-centric menu, garnished with cilantro cream and lime-marinated cabbage. Other options include hen of the woods mushroom, maple fried chicken and a selection of dynamic taco specials. Wash them down with a selection of craft beers, sangria or a michelada.
But it doesn’t stop at tacos. The “Knife and Fork” section offers shareable dishes, specifically the carne asada nachos, which come in a pho-sized bowl with no lack of cheese, jalapenos and bacon refried beans. Other highlights are the grilled sweet corn, which can be requested off the cob, and the Diablo Dog, a bacon-wrapped Kobe beef hot dog topped with bison chili. They also offer salads, but moving right along to dessert …
Churros, approximately six to a basket, are served with both caramel-bacon and chocolate dipping sauces, and are on par with the legendary churros of San Pedro’s Ports O’ Call Village. Then, the paletas — homemade popsicles in seasonal flavors like avocado dipped in coconut milk and passion fruit make for a refreshing end to a heavy meal.
Diablo succeeds in the budding world of designer tacos without the hollow vibe. The dark, goth-club exterior is a false representation of this casual and warm place, which is perfect for group meals. Not only for the abundant seating, but the walk-up ordering system squashes the irritating task of splitting the check. If there were a parking lot and maybe a mural painted over the dreary façade, Diablo would warrant another star or two.
Eat this:Braised pork belly, red duck mole and rockfish tacos. Three tacos per person make a substantial meal.
Drink this: Sangria by pitcher or carafe.
Sit Here: Seat yourself at the community pub table and make some friends.
Park: There is a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it parking lot about half a block away, right next to El Siete Mares. There’s also street parking, which is scarce, and valet parking on weekend nights.
Conversation Piece: According to the Real Academia Española, a royal institution that regulates the Spanish language, the original sense of the word “taco” is a “plug” or “wad” used to fill a hole.