I’ve been reading the restaurant reviews in the Los Angeles times for many years. When Irene Verbilia wrote them they caused saliva to drool from my mouth. When Jonathan Gold wrote them I didn’t go to many of the restaurants he wrote about because they were too far away, but I liked reading about Asian food. Out of habit, when I read a review, if it sounds interesting I try out the restaurant –If it’s not too far away.

Recently the restaurants that I’ve been reading about in the LA Times are not what I expect when I get there. I was sucked in again a few weeks ago when I read about Teddy’s Red Tacos near the Washington street pier.  This is a small chain of taco spots, but I’ve only been to the one on Washington Boulevard.

Let me say that my kids and I love tacos.  We love Tacos Por Favor on Olympic.  We like

the tacos at Lares on Pico, and at Gilberts near SM college and at El Cholo on Wilshire. But there is more to eating tacos than the taco itself.  There are other considerations to look for if you want a good taco experience: the hot sauce, the salsa bar, and the ambiance.  A good review prepares you for those items as well as the quality of the food.

Teddy’s Red Tacos fails the test, and so did the review.

Ambiance is one factor.  The ambiance at Teddy’s Tacos is disappointing.  It doesn’t look particularly clean.  The high communal tables and hard chairs are not comfortable.  Both the back door and the front door were open, and a cold breeze blew through the seating area.

The tacos are not bad.  The “dipped” tortilla is quite tasty, and the quality of the meat is OK, although a bit flat.  But there is only one red sauce on the table, in a plastic squeeze bottle, and it’s too hot for some but not nearly hot enough for me.

And there is no salsa bar.  The salsa bar at Tacos Por Favor has at least 4 different sauces (there are five at El Cholo, but no bar), sliced jalapeno peppers, and delicious marinated carrots! Next is the menu. When I want a taco, I want some choices.  Do I feel like chicken, beef, or seafood?  The menu at Teddy’s is really small.  And there is NO BEER! So, after a taco, two of us decided to order the “beef birria.”

Now good Birria is magic.  It’s a soupy stew made from goat meat and bones.  The Birria at Monte Alban on Santa Monica Blvd is the best in town.  I’ve never seen it made with beef before.  And I hope never to see it again.  It looked and tasted more like vegetable soup.  Maybe there was some beef in it, but I didn’t see any, and it was bland.  The three of us each had a taco.  Two of us had the soup.  The two of us who had the soup were pretty sick the next day.  My daughter, the most intelligent amongst the three of us, didn’t have the soup and didn’t get sick.

So goes the life of a restaurant reviewer.  It’s not as exciting as some people think.  And it’s more dangerous than you might expect.  But I like danger and so I’m going to keep reviewing.

Merv Hecht

Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after law.  In 1988, he began writing restaurant reviews and books.  His latest book is “The Instant Wine Connoisseur” and it is available on Amazon.  Or you might like his attempt at humor in “Great Cases I Lost.”  He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and beverages, including wines, internationally.  Please send your comments to: mervynhecht@yahoo.com.

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