Tacos, and their various toppings, salsas and shells, comprise a touchy, yet important topic to a number of local residents. Where do your taco loyalties lie?
The Santa Clarita Valley has a number of hot spots for tacos, and the loyalties are often drawn fast and hard regarding which place brings the most bang for your buck when it comes to the cheese, meat and salsa creation.
There are some spots in the Santa Clarita Valley that have especially endeared themselves to the hearts of local residents, as well as new ones that just landed on the local taco scene in a big way. Here are snapshots of some of them:
La Cocina and LaCo Taco
Saugus residents will defend one of their flagship businesses, La Cocina — and now LaCo Taco in the Valencia Commerce Center — to the end, according to their regular customers and owner.
“La Cocina is a neighborhood place,” said Edgar Lopez, whose family has run the three businesses plus their new LaCo Taco location, for years. We’re dedicated to our community; we’re dedicated to our neighborhood.”
For years, La Cocina has been a tentpole in the community, Lopez says, because everyone knows that what comes in is what goes out; from start to finish the ingredients and dishes are all homemade and made fresh.
Their tacos, Lopez said, are no different than the rest of the menu in that the people making them have been practicing their craft for years and no matter the location you go to, the taco quality will remain the same.
“Everything is just back-to-back, boom, boom, boom,” said Lopez. “You’ll see the group of guys at the new location making the same homemade guacamole, salsa and everything…once the shredded beef is working, they’ll shred it up, marinade it and start doing the tacos and taquitos.”
La Cocina’s latest endeavor, LaCo Taco, located at 28910 Avenue Penn in Valencia, is designed to allow for individual meals for people wanting the restaurant’s familiar food but on the go. It also is designed to help cater for those large gatherings that may require some hundred or so tacos.
“We’re providing something better than what a food truck is doing, because it’s just a kitchen dedicated to giving the best to your employees,” said Lopez. “If you’re running a ship that has 60 or 100 employees, and you want to treat them to lunch, a couple crispy hard shell tacos with rice, beans, chips and salsa…that goes a long way.”
At LaCo Taco, one can order what they’re calling “custom boxes” that come fit with their famous tacos and ingredients, as well as the warm tortillas, and trimmings to allow people to mix and match and design their own style.
“We have taco boxes that are being delivered to people’s homes,” said Lopez. “No one does this. We’re the first and only ones to do this.”
Guanatos Tacos, located in the old Foster Freeze location at 21525 Soledad Canyon Road, may be the new kid on the block when it comes to the local taco scene. However, they made a splash from the moment they first stepped foot onto the playground and that is likely due to the dipping of their tortillas into their signature red salsa.
Vanessa Thay, manager of Guanatos Tacos, said their signature red tacos come semi-crispy and are easily one of their most popular items on the menu.
“Not a lot of people like spicy things, so we decided to make it not spicy,” said Thay, when referring to the red-sauce-drenched tacos. “But for those who like spicy stuff, we give them (the spicy salsa) on the side.”
Additionally, on the side, people can choose between the restaurant’s green salsa or red salsa, marinated onions, radishes, lime and marinated jalapeno.
The restaurant also allows people to decide if they want the toppings on the side, and they offer people a spicy habanero purple onion, or rice and beans on the side that are extra.
Thay said the tortillas at Guanatos Tacos are all handmade, and each one can take a few minutes to prep in order to ensure that the steak, marinated pork or other meat is wrapped with absolute freshness.
Guanatos Tacos is also one of the few places of its kind that offers a drive-thru for taco-seeking customers. They opened up less than a few months ago, but according to Thay, the Guanatos Tacos line went “outside the door and around” and the drive-thru was backed up to the Soledad Canyon traffic signal.
Dario’s Mexican Restaurant
Unless you’re specifically looking for it, or know your way to its front door with your eyes blindfolded, Dario’s Mexican Restaurant might sneak by you while you drive past it at 24523 Newhall Avenue.
However, to Newhall residents, entering the restaurant under the sign bearing its name — in the same parking lot as a gas station and liquor store — means having a hearty Mexican meal and drinks to tell your friends about.
Julia Reyna, manager at Darios, says much like the aforementioned places, the ingredients for their dishes are either homemade or brought in fresh.
“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the hard-shell tacos everybody’s talking about,” said Reyna, when asked why people enjoy Dario’s tacos so much. “Those come with either shredded beef or shredded chicken, lettuce, cheese and tomato salsa.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s actually the meat and ingredients that come with it,” said Reyna, when asked why the tacos seem to be so special.
According to Reyna, the Darios chef, Abraham, has been at the restaurant for a number of decades and his seasonings on the meat are unique to his experience. Additionally, all salsa is made in-house, and people reportedly take the salsa and lather their hard-shell tacos.
Dario’s tacos, according to Reyna, pair well with their Cadillac margarita, which is made up of 1800 tequila, sweet and sour mix, triple sec, and Grand Marnier on the side.