LIFESTYLE

'Chapo tacos' and other narco-inspired foods selling like hot cakes in L.A. eatery

Forget about wearing a fancy shirt just like his. In Los Angeles, fans of the world's most powerful drug trafficker are now having a bite of “El Chapo.”

Well, of a taco named after the captured Sinaloa cartel boss, that is.

A small Mexican food restaurant in Southeast L.A. is getting a lot of buzz since its opening four months ago thanks to a variety of plates named after Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán.

Flanked between a liquor store and a bodega, Los Tacos Desvelados (The Insomniac Tacos) caters to residents of Maywood, a small city of predominantly Latino population where many work in factories at nearby Vernon and Commerce.

Just like it happened with the L.A. store Barabas, that sells the now famous shirts "Chapo," interest in the small Mexican eatery has grown after the recapture in Sinaloa of Guzmán in January.

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The most sought after dish, said restaurant owner Fabricio Ramirez, is “La Fuga” and it is of course in reference to El Chapo’s epic escape from a maximum-security prison in Mexico City last July.

“You can’t leave it out when you order,” he adds. “It’s a combination of roast beef with onions, rice, beans, sausage, avocados and cheese and tortillas.”

“I love it,” said Amalia Romero, who enjoyed a Fuga burrito with her daughter Alicia recently.

“It’s fun to be here and this food is really good,” she told Fox News Latino.

To those of lighter appetite the eatery offers “El Chapito Guzmán,” a modest taco made of two small tortillas.

As they chew, admirers or not, diners at Los Tacos Desvelados are hardly able to escape the drug lord’s stare as he looks on from the various posters hanging on the walls or peeks out from a small altar built in his honor.

But the Sinaloa narco is not the only notorious “outlaw” honored at the eatery. How about an Al Capone taco, with handmade tortillas? Or would you prefer a Pablo Escobar burrito?

There are also dishes named after other legendary but less known kingpins, like El Rayo de Sinaloa, and dangerous ladies such as La Reina del Pacifico (Sandra Avila Beltrán) and the fictional character of the Telemundo telenovela “La Reina del Sur” (The Queen of the South).

Beaming with pride, Ramirez said the colorful menu and witty decoration in his establishment always make his clients smile.

“We wanted to do a different concept, and thanks to God we are so happy because we’ve nailed it,” he added.

On a small table with the “taqueria” logo printed on top, Ceci Perez delighted recently in the “La Reina del Sur” quesadilla in front of her.

“The taste is different here. Reminds me of homemade food back home in Mexico,” she said.

Contributing to the fun atmosphere, there are several walls artfully painted in a graffiti style with writings that mirror Mexican humor and playfulness found in narcocorridos and other regional Mexican music.

“If life gives you lemons, put them in your taquitos,” reads one.

“With that we get a little smile from [new customers], and for us that is a good thing,” said Ramirez, a former musician who also produces musical events in Los Angeles.

“It's not like coming into a place and saying: “Give me some tacos”. No, you come in here and say: “Give me an Al Capone or four Guzman Chapitos and a Pablo Escobar. This is different.”

The small altar to El Chapo in a corner of the restaurant was actually the idea of some of his clients, he said.

“The day of Guzman’s recapture the place was packed full of people, and  this lady came to me and said: ‘I’ll give you something to place an altar’, and I thought it was a good idea.”

Ramirez said the lady came back with a photo and a small white table, and that from then on, clients have started bringing photos, candles and other objects related to the Mexican kingpin.

“El Chapo Guzman can be an angel for some and a devil for others,” he reflected. “Maybe he has done harm in some way but he has also helped other families a lot.”

Some clients have suggested he changes the name of the “La Fuga” plate to “The Capture,” after the drug lord’s recapture a few months back, but Ramirez thinks otherwise.

“We are waiting for the third escape,” he said.

Marcia Facundo is a freelance journalist who currently reports from Los Angeles, California. She has worked for El Nuevo Herald and as Hispanic Affairs Correspondent for the BBC World Service.

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