MY FAVORITE TACO: B-REAL ON CARNITAS, KOREAN BARBECUE, AND COMIDA CUBANA
By Hadley Tomicki (source : L.A. TACO)
It’s hard to believe it’s been over 30 years since we first got hooked on B Real’s singular flow and Southeast L.A.-repping rhymes from the first line of “Pigs.” Since then, B continues to stay ahead of his time, whether through his work as a producer and solo artist, fronting Cypress Hill and numerous super-groups, or while producing BReal.tv, making video games, hosting Bong Appetit, and running his own chain of dispensaries called Dr. Greenthumb’s. In fact, we’re convinced weed still wouldn’t be legal if not for Cypress getting ganja leaves on the walls and CD cases of every fan in America, from the streets to the suburbs.
We were honored to get a little time to chop it up with B about the food he loves, growing up in Los Angeles, his churro-inspired edibles, and the whole reason we’re here today: B Real’s favorite taco.
HI B. YOU COME FROM A FAMILY WITH BOTH CUBAN AND MEXICAN HERITAGE. WHAT KIND OF FOOD DID YOU GROW UP ON AT HOME?
“My mother was Cuban but came to the United States in 1968 and eventually ended up here in Los Angeles, where there are obviously more Mexicans than Cubans. So she adapted, y’know. I grew up eating both Cuban and Mexican dishes. For instance, enchiladas was a big thing in our house.
And then on the flip side, more like Cuban food. You know, rabo encendido, pollo asado, or arroz congri. And occasionally my mother would make other Mexican dishes she’d learned. One of my older sisters would make tamales… like banging! Pozole, sometimes we’d have a pot. And also, chicken mole.
I had two favorite dishes of my mom’s: her chicken enchiladas with the red sauce and her rabo encendido. Both were completely different in terms of flavor, but delicious.”
YOU GREW UP IN MANY DIFFERENT PARTS OF L.A. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE TACO?
“One of my favorite taco spots I grew up going to, my father would take me to it when we were younger—and it’s definitely been owned by a family, it’s like a little hole-in-the-wall spot. It’s called Sergio’s Tacos in the City of Commerce, on Atlantic.
It has some of the best tacos in California, and to me, in the world. And the burritos as well. That was one that I frequented, and still go there now and then when I have the chance, cuz it’s a little further than where I live now. But every now and then, we pilgrimage down to that little spot.
They just have some of the best tacos and burritos and stuff like that. It’s not a big place, like when you go to a Mexican restaurant and it’s not necessarily a taqueria, it’s right in the middle. This spot has been there forever. You know, generations of the kids have grown up and passed it down to their kids. It’s just one of those spots.
WHAT’S YOUR ORDER THERE?
“It could be anything. All their tacos hit. Like their carnitas tacos. I don’t do pork too much, but if I’m going to Sergio’s, I’ll definitely have it there. But their carne asada tacos are on the 1. I’m telling you, some of the best in Los Angeles. I’ve had some great fucking tacos, but not as good as those carne asada or carnitas. All their tacos are pretty much bomb, but go for the carne asada.”
DID YOU GROW UP VISITING FAMILY IN MEXICO?
“Now and then. I’d head out there with one of my older sisters. She got married and a lot of her husband’s family was still in Mexico towards Tijuana, Ensenada, and all that. So every now and then, we’d go visit with his family. And we used to have a lot of family down there. We would go to México and make our yearly visits when I was very young. My father’s side is originally from two places, Chihuahua and Durango. As of late, I only get down there when we’ve got work.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY STRONG FOOD MEMORIES CONNECTED TO THOSE VISITS?
“One time we were in Monterrey City, México, to play. The promoters and the Sony reps there wanted to take us to a straight up authentic Mexican restaurant. You know, like, different from what we experience here. At the time, in Southern Cali, there weren’t really too many places that served enchiladas with mole on them. At that time, it was just red or green sauce. And this particular place had chicken enchiladas with mole, which is more traditional down there. Back then you didn’t see that at too many high-end restaurants. Because enchiladas wasn’t considered like fine-dining cuisine, it was more of the rancher/farmer kind of thing because it was cheap to make it. But this place had the chicken mole enchiladas and that shit blew my mind, ‘cuz I’d never had it before. I will always remember how that was just different across the palate. It was awesome.”
YOU’VE ALSO TRAVELED THE WORLD. DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE CUISINE FROM THE REST OF THE GLOBE?
“Two different styles of barbecue: Brazilian barbecue and Korean barbecue. Man, aside from Mexican food and Cuban food, those are my other two go-to’s. Korean barbecue and Brazilian barbecue are fuckin’ on the 1. For real.
WHERE DO YOU GO OUT TO EAT IN L.A. THESE DAYS? ANY PLACES THAT ARE CLOSE TO YOUR HEART?
“One of my favorite spots, that I don’t get to go to as much as I used to, is Casa Vega in the Valley. Their Mexican food is pretty goddamned good. All their dishes are pretty damn good. That is like a go-to spot we used to frequent a lot back in the days. But I live a little further away than when we were going there almost every other night. But the food is great, the drinks are strong, and the vibe is really good there.”
WHEN YOU WERE COLLABORATING ON THE INSANE CHURRO COOKIE EDIBLE WITH BIG PETE’S, WERE YOU CONSCIOUSLY TAPPING INTO A FLAVOR YOU GREW UP WITH?
“Yeah, I mean it felt like a natural thing to do. As a young Latino, we grew up on that shit. So when it came time to discuss what kind of edibles we were going to do in this collaboration, that flavor was one of the things on the table.
It wasn’t going to be chocolate chip or oatmeal or other shit that was already out there heavy. Like, okay, ‘Is my Dr. Green Thumbs X Big Pete’s oatmeal cookie better than so-and-so’s?’
We decided, let’s put out something that’s not out there, that’s more authentic to who we are, who I am, what my squad is. A lot of us are Latino and grew up off of that. So, churro just felt like the natural way to go. And once we put it out there, people were just loving it, ‘cuz there wasn’t another one like that. And Big Pete’s, not for nothing, they make some of the best cookies no matter what flavor it is. So they did an extremely great job on that.”