LA Taquero Ricky Piña Is Seeking to Promote His Well-known Fish Taco Truck
Ricky Piña is tired. Since March 2009, when he opened his makeshift taco booth made from recycled furniture, Piña has tossed some of the best fish tacos in LA. Shortly after it opened, he was named the Fish Taco King of LA by the Taco Task Force, a group of food bloggers searching for the best tacos in town. From then on, Ricky’s Fish Tacos was Piña’s life. The posts written by the group of bloggers enabled the Ensenada-born Taquero to sell tacos all day and quit his job with the Parisian florists. Piña is one of the original LA taco stars when Twitter was the main social media tool in the food community. Known to his customers as a perfectionist devoted to his family recipe, he ensures that every taco he serves has its flavor. Things got easier to handle when he opened a food truck in 2013, but that perfectionism has taken a personal toll, only compounded by the ongoing pandemic.
“I realize now that this can’t be a one-man show and I just can’t do it anymore.”
“I’ve only had three weeks off to visit some islands in the past 11 years, and I had to close the truck every time,” says Piña. He was concerned that staff would take the recipe elsewhere, and so the timeless, charming taquero, often seen with his trademark tan fedora, just couldn’t let go enough to allow someone else to prepare the batter. Ricky’s Fish Tacos has remained profitable during the nine-month embargo, but the weekly routine of shopping and prep on Mondays and Tuesdays, served Wednesday through the weekend year after year, has exposed the kinks in this proud taquero’s armor. “The pandemic has made the great people in your life better and the bad ones worse,” says Piña, who has suffered from isolation and depression and feels abandoned by his fellow human beings. The pandemic has strained relationships, ended marriages, broken partnerships and caused depression to rise worldwide, and what happened to Piña is no different.
“People think I’m crazy for leaving while things are going well, but I feel like I don’t really belong here anymore, and [I] I want to go back to Ensenada forever, ”says Piña. Even so, he wants Ricky’s fish tacos to live on, and he hopes someone will carry on his legacy. He is looking for someone to buy the truck, the prescriptions and three months of advice, or for advice that lasts until the operator is confident enough to go out on the road independently. The only catch: the new owner has to keep the name. Ricky’s Fish Tacos is an icon in LA at this point, as is the Hollywood Sign and the Sunset Strip, as Piña was the city’s first notable taquero, centered on the Baja region of Mexico, and its truck is a mobile landmark (an oxymoron, but fitting). .
In 2008, when Chef Roy Choi’s Kogi Truck launched a thousand vinyl-wrapped city ships serving everything from Korean tacos to grilled cheese sandwiches to banh mi, chef food trucks tweeted their locations hours before parking. That social media attention has put the spotlight on LA loncheras or the traditional Mexican food trucks. The photo-centric app Instagram would later help Mexican, Latin American, and Latin American food trucks gain traction again. But in 2009, Ricky’s Fish Tacos along with a few other spots like Mariscos Jalisco and Mexicali Taco & Co. caught the attention of bloggers. For those looking for some serious, traditional Mexican fish tacos, it was Ricky’s or Bust. Loyal customers wanted the real deal, that is, fish and prawns in a beer-topped mixture of El Rosal flour, then fried in lard brought in from Baja California. The toppings required were shredded cabbage, sour cream, salsas, and pico de gallo, all piled on top of a corn tortilla. And the tacos were always served with a smile that was more difficult to maintain in 2020.
Ricky’s problems have increased over the years, including unreliable employees, aggressive neighbors, and isolation in his police station as food trucks stop driving during the pandemic. We built an already weak relationship with a silent business partner that dragged on over the course of 2020. “I now realize that this can’t be a one-man show and that I just can’t do it anymore,” says Piña. At 52, he wants to return to Baja California and open a street stall near the wine country serving Mexican-American food. “I have a family down there that I haven’t seen in years, and I want to reconnect and retire – at least half retired,” says Piña. “Here [in Sun Valley] I live alone, I am alone with the inspector and no longer feel safe. Business has made relationships difficult. ”
In the meantime, Piña will continue at its 5 stop adjacent to the motorway, how long this is currently uncertain. Be sure to check his twitter, which he updates before every service. Piña plans to return to Baja California late next year to have time to find the right buyer who really wants to become a part of this taquero’s story and prepare them to make the tacos the way they did. “I’ve met so many great people over the years and I love my customers. Hopefully they’ll come by and see me in Mexico, ”says Piña.
Ricky’s Fish Tacos is looking for a true taco lover to continue this LA story. This is the silver lining for another victim of America’s failed response to the pandemic. We’ll only have Ricky a few hours south, and if you ask nicely, I’m sure he’ll make you a fish taco at his restaurant in Baja California. Outside the menu, of course.
Ricky’s Fish Taco. 3061 Riverside Dr. Atwater. (323) 395-6233
Ricky’s Fish Taco Farley Elliott
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