Despite long lines and hot sun, L.A. Taco Festival 2014 was Boyle Heights success

August 16 LA Taco Fest (Courtesy of Instagram)
Neil and I boarded the Gold Line of the Los Angeles Metro on Saturday, August 16. It was blistering hot walking to the train station that afternoon, but we were excited about spending a day listening to live music and eating a ton of good Mexican food. We were headed to the Mariachi Plaza stop in Boyle Heights to attend the Fourth Annual L.A. Taco Festival, a fundraiser organized by Jovenes Inc., a non-profit organization that provides housing and support services for homeless youth. It is the largest event in Boyle Heights, an area of East Los Angeles.

Neil and I had premium wristbands which entitled us to tequila tastings and all you can eat tacos. The price of premium wristbands was $45, or $28 for those who purchased their tickets through LivingSocial. Beer, beverages, and other snacks were not included in the wristband price, but they were available for cash purchase. There was also an option for an all-you-can-eat tacos only wristband, which cost $20.

Before attending, I read that individual tacos could be purchased for $4 and that these tacos could only be purchased with taco tickets that were sold at the registration table, which often had a long line. However, upon arriving, I saw one vendor's sign that stated some tacos were being sold for $2 a piece, cash. Although this vendor was breaking the rules, many people didn't know that, and this price discrepancy seemed to bother some of the people around Neil and me.  Maybe next year to avoid any problems with people's perception of the price, the festival could include drinks and snacks with the AYCE price. This will give people the impression that they are getting more bang for their buck, and it will also eliminate any cash handling between the vendors and the festival attendees.
Awesome meat tacos from Tacos El Gallito 
Wandering around Mariachi Plaza, I was amazed at how many people were there. The lines to obtain tacos from each vendor appeared long and daunting, and actually waiting in line probably took fifteen to thirty minutes on average. It felt even longer because of the sun. Neil and I strategized that we would get our tacos and then immediately get in another line. This kept us not hungry, but it would've been nice to be able to sit and eat instead of waiting in line in the heat. I should state though that I actually had fun chatting with people around me, but they seemed pretty grumpy about how much they had paid with how much they actually got to eat. Some of them even complained about the quality of the food, but I thought it was good overall. It goes to show that even though this was a fundraiser, most people primarily cared about their actual experience, not the cause. (Hey, it's human nature.)
Long lines waiting for tacos. Photo by Neil
Un Solo Sol had mixed vegetable and cactus tacos
When Neil and I were done eating, we headed to the beer garden where there was a booth set up for tequila tasting. I should repeat that the price of a wristband for AYCE tacos was $20, and it cost $25 more to get the tequila tasting option. Unfortunately, to get tequila, again there was another long line.  I was disappointed that after waiting in line, the tequila tasting consisted only of two half shots of Don Fermin. Although the tequila was smooth and I liked the taste, even I, an optimist, could not justify the $25 cost of those two shots. Technically, I could have got into line again, but by then, I was too tired and Neil and I decided to call it a day.   

All in all, despite some flaws, I had a great time. The food at the event was authentic, and the energy there was lively. I think next year the festival should figure out ways to cut down on the lines or increase the number of vendors. Or the festival should just get rid of the AYCE wrist band and just allow vendors to charge whatever they want. I have high hopes that the relatively new L.A. Taco Festival will improve with time, and I definitely think Los Angelenos should travel to Boyle Heights more often and see what the area has to offer. It's a hidden gem in East Los Angeles, and there's more to it that should be explored.