When I moved to Silver Lake in the fall of 2016, I took an all-day flight across the country from New York and made my way to this small, east Los Angeles neighborhood in the dead of night. Staying at a friend’s vacant apartment for a few weeks while I got my bearings, all I could remember of what was beyond the quiet suburban street she lived on was a big junction where my street, Griffith Park Blvd, met the main drag of Sunset. And, that I’d seen a colorful painted sign boasting very important information, something I’d noticed even late at night: Best Chilaquiles In Town. So, my first order of business for that first full day as an LA resident was making my way back to this beacon, no matter how long the walk ended up being.
All in all, the landmark taco shack was only about a mile away from my new apartment, and after ordering some of the infamous chilaquiles (with egg), I was more than happy to agree with their assertion. Granted, these were the only chilaquiles I’d had in LA so far, but still, the quality was there. As a west coast native who’d spent the last five years in New York City, where excellent Mexican food remains strangely scarce, returning to the land of casual-fast, homemade tortillas, chips, and salsa was a welcome one.
This bright blue little hut with a walk-up window, painted with colorful symbols (Mexican pop art, by Claudio Limon) and loudly touting its own wares provided my first real meal in LA, and quickly became my go-to spot for Mexican food in the area. Yes, there are plenty of other good places — and I too will always go for the sit down marg and chips situation at Casita Del Campo before checking out some drag in the basement — but this restaurant became my early favorite for purely emotional reasons. It reminds me of feeling disoriented and unsure in a new city, and finding that one local place that made a new neighborhood start to seem like home.
My most recent Tacos Delta ritual involves ordering their bacon, egg and cheese burrito with beans and rice ($8.49, tip $2 because tipping is the only way to live your life) every Saturday morning after practicing yoga. But when fitness studios shut down and I was hardcore self-quarantined for several weeks, this familiar routine necessarily fell by the wayside. Was Tacos Delta closed down during this period? Nope, the family-owned business kept right on serving their shrimp tacos, menudo (beef tripe), chilaquiles and huevos rancheros to the neighborhood as safely as they could.
But, the impact of COVID-19 did make me think about all my favorite local restaurants in a new light. Were enough people still going to order their plates of tacos and enchiladas to keep Tacos Delta afloat? Without the crowds of people packing out their back patio every day, would the family-owned business survive? There’s no way the rent on that lot is cheap, given its prime placement on the corner of Sunset and Lucille, especially in an area that continues to gentrify at an alarming rate. My first LA apartment was on a street that was primarily houses and small buildings — now, the street is littered with massive, new-build condos.
In the interim between how the pandemic changed the way Angelenos live and eat and these first re-opening stages, Tacos Delta finally joined the social media world, putting together their own Instagram account in late March. As the account began to actively post, populating their grid with photos of old press clippings, family gatherings, branded collaborations with the likes of Don Julio, and convenient shots of their full menu, it became more and more clear what a labor of love this restaurant really is.
Tacos Delta first opened all the way back in 1981, meaning they’ve been making the same delicious Mexican food out of that tiny kitchen for over forty years — longer than I’ve been alive. I felt like my affinity for Tacos Delta happened randomly, and mostly due to proximity or happenstance, but lately it seems like it was another not-so-random twist of fate. Owner/chef Sergio posts about his family, growing up himself right alongside the restaurant, and his grandmother who still insists on working in the back of house during the early mornings. It’s a welcome reminder that family-owned businesses aren’t just beloved because they’re not chain restaurants, or because the quality tends to be so much higher, but because they reflect the people who own them.
Currently, they don’t have a website, but newcomers to this cult favorite can follow along on the Instagram which is now being actively updated. If you’re trying their food for the first time, it’s hard not to insist you start with the chilaquiles, before moving on to other items on their packed menu — I have yet to try anything I didn’t adore, and lately they’ve been doing seasonal ceviche that looks divine.
Eating at Tacos Delta, particularly during the pandemic, helps ensure that a local business with four decades of history in our neighborhood stays afloat. Ordering a burrito isn’t always political, but with the devastation our local restaurants are facing, in the coming months, it could be. Please don’t settle for stopping by Chipotle down the road, and giving your money right back to another chain corporation that doesn’t invest in the community. Eat at Tacos Delta instead — it might just end up becoming your favorite ritual.
Follow Tacos Delta on Instagram here.