Metro Balderas is a well-known taqueria in Highland Park. Actually, you might as well just say “it’s a taqueria in Highland Park”. The concentration of high quality tacos that come from this sliver of land northeast of downtown Los Angeles is remarkable, from the fantastically fried fish at Via Mar Seafood to the permanently parked La Estrella lonchero. What Metro Balderas is said to do exceptionally well, though, is carnitas.
Around many kitchens, the lowly potato simply serves as a starchy filler in the absence of meat or a supporting role to meat. After all, potatoes are cheap, easy to cook and season, and readily available all over the world. But at El Atacor #11, the Cypress Park outpost of a dwindling Los Angeles Mexican food chain, the potato tacos are legendary.
Across the tacosphere, the tacos de papas at El Atacor #11 are considered bona fide members of the L.A. Mexican food discussion. They are no low-level vegetarian stand-in for a supreme carne asada or otherworldly carnitas. They themselves are the object of so much attention. Jonathan Gold, that living seal of approval for all things food in L.A., has waxed poetic about the airy tacos he found at El Atacor #11 in 2006. Just this year, L.A. Weekly listed those same tacos in one of their always-divisivetop ten lists. All this for a simple potato taco? Apparently so.