The odds of getting seated immediately at Spago on a Saturday night may be better than at El Taurino, Adolfo and Raul Martinez's Mexican restaurant on Hoover Street near Olympic Boulevard.
As you enter El Taurino, a line of customers, often 40 long, will be snaking its way through the colorful 13-year-old taqueria decorated with bullfighting memorabilia. Fortunately, the line moves fast.
Behind blue-tiled arches, the stainless-steel kitchen every day pumps out thousands of tacos, the most popular items on the menu at 99 cents each. The fillings are all good, especially the \o7 carnitas\f7 (deep-fried chunks of lean pork), \o7 carne asada\f7 (grilled beef steak) and \o7 al pastor\f7 (pork marinated with mild chiles and spices and cooked on a rotisserie). The tacos are topped with onions and salsa.
For larger appetites, burritos ($2.35) are the way to go. The \o7 lengua\f7 burrito is made with chopped beef tongue and onions. There is also the \o7 sesos\f7 burrito made of stewed pork brains, which are tender and have a mild flavor.
Another good option would be one of the \o7 tortas\f7 , or Mexican sandwiches. The most popular is the \o7 torta milanesa\f7 ($2.75), a thin, breaded steak stuffed into a lightly grilled roll slathered with guacamole, mayonnaise, tomatoes and onions.
An occasional special is \o7 costillas rancheros, \f7 ($6) which features two beef ribs smothered in sauteed onions with tomatoes, chiles, guacamole and beans. On weekends, El Taurino offers \o7 barbacoa\f7 Texcoco, ($5.95) a traditional dish of lamb wrapped in tropical plant leaves and steamed.
\o7 El Taurino, 1104 S. Hoover St.; open 24 hours; beer and soft drinks are served; (213) 738-9197.