LOS ANGELES — Street tacos have become synonymous with Los Angeles. One vendor is putting its own unique spin on street food.
As the owners of Loritos Grill, Shirlie Velloso and Kevin Ortiz work on a large grill that produces smoke that can be seen for blocks.
The star of the stand is the chicken that is marinated for 48 hours in a special blend. Ortiz won’t share it.
“I can give you an idea. Salt and pepper,” he said with a laugh.
At Loritos, food is grilled to order right in front of you. The charcoal is the most important part.
“That’s the key, honestly. You can have your secret spiciness and add whatever you like to it. But the charcoal, it’s just what we want to do, a little smokiness,” said Ortiz.
If you drive around Los Angeles, you're used to seeing street vendors on various corners with lines down the block. Many serve traditional Mexican tacos. Ortiz is from Guatemala and Velloso from El Salvador, so it was important to serve their home cuisine.
“Bringing Latin America to people here in California to try is just what I wanted to bring. We wanted to be a little different, honestly,” said Ortiz.
So yes, they have al pastor and carne asada tacos along with the chicken, but it’s unique to them.
“You don’t just get that normal taste you are used to with al pastor. You get the smokiness and the sweetness of the marinade in a perfect taco,” said Velloso.
From a perfect taco to a perfect chile relleno burrito, it’s hard to go wrong. Velloso and Ortiz were both sous chefs in restaurants with years of experience.
Last year, while Velloso was on maternity leave, Ortiz found himself without work because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He thought it was time to start their own concept, which they’ve dreamed of for years. A tent in Melrose Hill was the easiest option.
“As secure as you feel in a high-volume restaurant, you really aren’t secure. I went to culinary school. I worked so hard to be in the position I was at. I was like, ‘No way.’ Finally, we took the jump. It was honestly all his will power. And I was like, ‘I guess you were right,’” said Velloso with a laugh.
While they cook alfresco, Ortiz’s mom is at home helping create recipes. Everything is homemade from the popular salsas to the rice and beans.
“She wakes up at like four, five in the morning and preps everything. That’s her. She preps and cleans, while we are out here doing our sales,” said Ortiz.
If you want to try a bit if everything, the chicken platter offers a selection, even with the Mexican sausage.
“Buy one meal, but it has several different ideas to create when they eat their food,” explained Ortiz.
They hope to open a food truck soon, but for now, stop by the corner of Western and Barton Avenue in Melrose Hill for a massive plate from Loritos Grill.