To Truly Understand Long Beach, Eat Tacos Past Midnight at El Sauz

Welcome to Local Gems, our monthly restaurant column presented by White Claw, the official hard seltzer of L.A. TACO. Each month we’ll honor neighborhood institutions that make delicious food and have stood the test of time all over Los Angeles. Read, order, share, and don’t be afraid to rep your own hood’s local gem in the comments.

On any night on one of the busier sections of Anaheim Boulevard in Little Cambodia sits a bonafide Long Beach neighborhood gem: El Sauz.

Beyond the tacos, the draw of El Sauz is the vibe. While the restaurant space originally was part of a local diner chain back in the day, the taquería now serves the increasing Latino population that inhabits the surrounding areas. These days, you’ll often see customers made up of families who flock to their traditional sit-down area to enjoy a meal together during the day. However, once the sun begins to set and the clock strikes 5 PM, when the El Sauz taco window springs to life, does the real magic happen. 

Taking in the parking lot scene at El Sauz is like admiring a painting at a museum. It’s not uncommon to see members of the local law enforcement rubbing elbows with leather-and-stud clad punks who might be coming out of a show at nearby Supply and Demand looking for sustenance. Or maybe it’s the group of foos who are between a squat next to members of your favorite indie jazz-soul trio just fresh off practice and everyone in between. El Sauz welcomes all.

We here at L.A. Taco aren’t strangers to the wonders that is El Sauz. Our love affair begins with their tripas. Our resident Foo-tographer Erwin Recinos grew up in the area in the 90s and 2000s and gave the rest of the newsroom a heads up. His favorite taco and the ones to always order are tripas, bien dorado, which is the magic word of taco dreams. 

The window at El Sauz.
The window at El Sauz. Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. TACO.
Tacos and salsa at El Sauz.
Tacos and salsa at El Sauz. Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. TACO.

The beef offal is sliced super thin and is ribbon-like in texture, so they get as crispy as possible. The tripas are piled high on doubled-up griddled tortillas, and they are quite possibly Long Beach’s best late-hours eats in the city. 

Speaking with long-time manager Armando Ruiz, the recipe itself comes from Jalisco and the tripas. Of course, that’s not all. They also got suadero (confit brisket) on deck that is also hard to find. Its delicious fatty juicy cuts hit the spot. Buche, another offal cut, is also another popular option amongst the locals, which is wonderfully tender and chewy. 

Tacos at El Sauz.
Tacos at El Sauz and those magical caramelized onions. Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. TACO.
Tacos and salsas at El Sauz.
Tacos and salsas at El Sauz. Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. TACO.

Alas, every order comes accompanied by sweet and savory caramelized onion that acts as a calling card of sorts, just to remind you exactly where you are.

Ruiz, a native of Guadalajara, tells L.A. TACO that he has been working in taco stands since he was 11 years old. He would like to kindly remind us that to enjoy a taco in its proper form, it has to be on the street and consumed almost immediately. “If you’re closer to the street, the taco will taste better,” Armando exclaims with a big smile on his face. 

Ruiz also recommends customers who visit his restaurant order only a couple of tacos at a time, over say…ordering five tacos at a time. Because then, you run the risk of having your tacos get cold. Instead, order one to two tacos, eat immediately, and then jump back in line and order a few more if you’re still hungry. 

Tacos at El Sauz.
Tacos at El Sauz. Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. TACO.
Tacos at El Sauz.
Tacos at El Sauz. Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. TACO.

Good advice for those of us who find ourselves enchanted by the ambiance of the green neon sign as it glistens and gives the surroundings its unique hue. You’ve arrived, and you’re with 20 to 30 of your newest friends who are all here united by an unwavering love for Long Beach and tacos.

1616 E Anaheim St, Long Beach, CA 90813. 

Tacos El Sauz is open until 3 AM every night.

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