Vamonos Tacos opens in Culver City
By Katie Lulla
Upon walking through the doors of Vamonos Tacos, guests are greeted by the smell of the flavorful mesquite smoke and craveable homemade tacos. Chef Luciano Ramirez and owner Marcelo Ahn have given Culver City a little piece of Mexico by creating a genuine taqueria.
“When you try to do too much, you lose authenticity,” Ramirez said. “The way we offer a taco is the way a taco has been made from day one.”
When the pandemic occurred, Ahn closed his previous restaurant, The Wallace, and opened a more fun and casual restaurant.
Initially, he wanted to follow his success with a steakhouse, but soon found a passion for true Mexican food.
“I didn’t know I was going to do Mexican food until about October of last year,” Ahn said.
“After about two months of traveling [to Mexico], I fell in love with the food. I was puzzled because I actually did not eat a lot of Mexican food in California, and I came to realize that I did not enjoy eating it here, but I did in Mexico.”
After a few solo trips to Mexico, Ahn persuaded Ramirez to visit Baja and taste tacos from Tijuana to Ensenada. There, the two learned a few tips to create a truly Mexican taco.
Ramirez said he believed he was using the wrong maseca. He had white tortillas and thought he needed to find yellow ones.
He saw Tijuana cooks using fresh maseca and soaking the corn overnight in an alkaline solution before grinding it. “It explained everything,” Ramirez said.
The technique Ramirez discovered is called nixtamalization, a process dating back to the 13th century that brings out the corn’s natural oils and is a great source of vitamins.
Unlike factory-made tacos, these are fresh and delicious, he said.
After finding a base for the tacos, the pair searched for a way to cook the meat authentically. They decided to follow tradition and chose a mesquite grill over a charbroiler.
“People do notice when you serve [mesquite grilled meat] on tacos,” Ramirez said. “They can taste it and it has the charred flavor that makes it authentic.”
One of the most popular tacos is the Birria, a brisket stew cooked for three hours in consommé broth and braised with guajillo and chile ancho. The stew is then poured into a taco to reflect the Tijuana adaptation. The runner-up is the carne asada, which is grilled on mesquite and seasoned with salt only. This puts the flavor of the meat front and center instead of masking it with a sauce.
To make Vamonos Tacos as close to the original Mexican taco, they used the same type of meat.
“When I visited several taquerias in [Mexico], I was looking at the meat because it goes from raw to the charcoal, as they grill it right in front of you, and I recognized the meat as sirloin,” Ahn said. “Most of the restaurants in California are using flank, for some reason, but we decided to use sirloin just like the people in Mexico do.”
Led by Ricardo Martinez, the expansive drink menu focuses on fresh ingredients and quality alcohol.
In the past few weeks, more than 80% of the drinks ordered have been margaritas.
Although the best seller depends on the day, the top four flavors are the traditional lime, strawberry, cucumber jalapeno, and pineapple. Just like the tacos, original margaritas are made from scratch.
“We’re trying to be as authentic as possible, a lot of people have changed stuff that’s been done for hundreds of years,” Ahn said.
“I feel like it would be cheating if I put my own twist on food that’s been done for so long.”
Vamonos Tacos is located at 3833 Main St., Culver City.
For more information, call 310-202-6400 or visit vamonos-tacos.com