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Cult-status Tacos 1986 opens its first restaurant next week in Downtown L.A.

Tacos 1986 restaurant opening in Downtown Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

If Jorge “Joy” Alvarez-Tostado wants you to know one thing, it’s that he’s “the greatest taquero of all time, period.” If there’s one thing Victor Delgado wants you to know, it’s that the pair are opening their first restaurant next week.

Tacos 1986 and its owners’ rise to the top of the L.A. taco pyramid is nothing short of meteoric. The perfect storm of product, skill, showmanship and hustle, the outfit slinging Tijuana-style tacos swept the city within eight months of its first appearances. Since November, the tacos—slathered in avocado and folded into freshly pressed corn tortillas—made their way from renegade taco cart to weekly pop-ups at events such as Smorgasburg, received a glowing review from L.A. Times critic Bill Addison, then expanded to a catering operation and made a wildly successful Coachella appearance. Now, as of next week—ideally Monday—they’ll get their very own restaurant in a compact red-and-white storefront along Spring Street in Downtown L.A. 

 

Alvarez-Tostado’s signature kissy faces and taquero swagger are in fine form at the new location
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

 

“The end goal was always to have a brick-and-mortar store,” says Delgado, the operation’s founder. “The only problem was that investors and people who could support me didn’t understand the concept: They didn’t understand why there was no beer, no burritos on the menu, and they couldn’t feel comfortable about it. That led to us starting it ourselves.”

Delgado first tapped childhood acquaintance Alvarez-Tostado to consult on the cart and the recipes, and they launched their business with two hired employees on a Saturday night in Hollywood and took in a grand total of $16. “We saw the parking lot and posted up,” he says.

A few shutdowns, relocations and thousands of customers later, and Tacos 1986 now employs more than 20 workers slinging some of the best tacos in L.A. Eventually, Delgado shares, they hope to have at least 30 or 40 on the team just to work the new storefront—even as he says this, a hopeful approaches on the street to inquire about dropping off a resumé.

Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

If the taqueros’ unprecedented rise is any indication, they’re going to need all the staff they can get. The restaurant, currently in soft-open mode, swells with locals and curious neighbors who fill out the counter-service spot’s standing-room–only space.

There’ll be a small patio counter as well, and from the open view into the kitchen you’ll be able to see Tacos 1986’s adobada, the best-seller, twirling on an enormous trompo (for reference, the rotisserie-esque trompo the team brings to Smorgasburg each week stacks 60 to 70 pounds of the marinated pork; here, Delgado estimates it’s carrying 170 to 180 pounds). The brick-and-mortar will offer late-night, too, with weekend hours eventually extending until 3 or 4am. 

To those all over town counting on local residencies for their Tacos 1986 fix, the outfit promises that they’ll still be at their usual weekly haunts, in addition to the new restaurant: Smorgasburg in the Arts District every Sunday from 10am to 4pm; Santa Monica on Thursdays from 5 to 10pm at the Bungalow during KCRW’s summer night-market series; and Tuesday nights in West Hollywood at Doheny Room from 7pm to midnight—as well as catering and private events. 

“We believe we have a team right now that can manage [the residencies],” says Alvarez-Tostado. “Our biggest focus right now is the store. And to never close, ever.”

 

Delgado, left, with Alvarez-Tostado
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

 

 

Alvarez-Tostado manning the 170-pound trompo
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

 

Tacos 1986 opens next week, most likely Monday, at 609 S Spring St. The shop will open at 11am daily, running until 11pm or midnight, with eventual late-night hours extending until as late (or early) as 4am.

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