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Clocked Out: $3 jackfruit tacos, massive meat-mimicry burritos and more comfort food

I took something of a meatless Mexican food tour from Lakewood to Whittier to Costa Mesa and back to Long Beach. Here are some of the best tacos, burritos, bowls, etc. that I tried along the way.

Clocked Out: $3 jackfruit tacos, massive meat-mimicry burritos and more comfort food
Str8 Up Tacos in Lakewood is the place to be on a Tuesday. From left to right: Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and the crispy potato tacos. Photo by Kat Schuster

Good mourning, Long Beach. It’s nearly been a month since I lost my job at The Post.

Since then, I’ve kept myself busier than ever — wielding my haphazardly painted “Rescind layoffs!” sign at numerous rallies; wearing red on Thursdays; keeping the journalism Twitterverse informed, and over the past two weeks, furiously editing stories for the Watchdog.

It turns out though, I am painstakingly human after all. The labor warrior’s bulletproof shield of adrenalin has indeed failed me a time or two. One day, I was just straight up not having a good time, so, naturally, I went to Str8 Up Tacos.

On Tuesday morning, I plopped down at the Lakewood taco shop and stuffed my damn face.

Three dollar potato, fried cauliflower and Brussels sprouts tacos AND an $11.50 shredded jackfruit breakfast bowl with tots, fluffy eggs and cheese? Yes, to all of that. Breakfast of (f)unemployed champs.

I thought to myself — “This is the f****** best, I feel better, let’s do this again.”

Clocked Out: Beating the 'weekday scaries' with nature and snacks

Kat Schuster • Apr 10, 2024

Remember me? I’m the Long Beach Post’s former editor; the one who authored the weekly newsletter Off the Clock. It was filled with wacky how-to’s, neighborhood itineraries, bad puns, lists of happy hour deals and more cool stuff to check out in and around the LBC.

Read full story →

As I said last week, losing a job I loved dearly, so suddenly, was a bit like coping with a nasty, duplicitous, blindsided breakup. So, a little comfort food was in order.

Lately, I’ve been craving the seven hells out of some quality plant-based Mexican food. Why? Well here’s this rather banal statement: “I love vegan Mexican food.” OK.

The real reason? Over the last several years, a certain few family-run Southern California eateries have been able to absolutely nail the meat mimicry game in their authentic Mexican recipes. Str8 Up Tacos is one of them.

(In case you weren’t previously a subscriber of my old newsletter, Off the Clock, you should know that I became a vegetarian (sans sushi) almost two years ago.)

Here are the joints I hit on my meatless tacos-etc. tour this week.

Vegan by El Zamorano

3011 Harbor Blvd. #A, Costa Mesa
By the time I remembered to snap a photo, we had eaten most of what we ordered (sorry). This is the beer-battered portobello mushroom “fish” taco. Photo by Kat Schuster

I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to leave Long Beach for this one. But once you bite into their battered “fish” taco, you’ll know it was worth the 30-minute trek.

What I tried:

  • Fish taco ($4.50) - Battered portobello mushroom topped with cabbage, pico de gallo, red salsa and chipotle crema.
  • Al pastor taco ($4.50) - Vegan al pastor on a handmade corn tortilla topped with onion, cilantro, pineapple and red salsa.
  • Cauliflower burrito ($16.50) - Rice, beans, cauliflower, onion, cilantro and red salsa.

Yeah OK, I understand that $16.50 feels…exorbitant for such a simple set of ingredients. The burrito itself was massive, probably as big as my whole head. But hear me out, if you have more self-restraint than I do, you could break this one into two meals or split it with a buddy. I’m not sure what they did to this cauliflower, but I inhaled the entire burrito in less time than I could spare to find out.

Cena Vegan

456 Elm Ave. K-7 Long Beach; 13002 Philadelphia St., Whittier

Although my mom is a strict carnivore with a perpetual eyebrow cocked at “weird vegan food,” she loved Cena Vegan’s barbacoa nacho boat when I first took her to their stall within Whittier Brewing Co.’s plaza. And how could you not?

This was before Carmen Santillan and her husband Mike Simms brought their blessed Cena Vegan to Partake Collective in Long Beach, yet I still tend to drop by WBC for a quick taco or burrito bowl when I’m visiting my mom in Whittier.

What I munched on recently:

  • Barbacoa burrito bowl ($14) - Plant-based barbacoa (psst, the secret is in their house-made seitan), rice, beans, pico de gallo, guacamole, chipotle cashew cream and salsa.

Str8 Up Tacos

20900 Pioneer Blvd., Lakewood
The fluffiest egg and shredded jackfruit breakfast bowl at Str8 Up Tacos. Photo by Kat Schuster

In the interest of saving the best for last, we finally reach Str8 Up Tacos, where you will straight up have a good time, bro.

That was a reference to that one cringy YouTube series from 2019, IYKYK.

Anyway, if you’re a veggie-head like me, this is a great place to bring your carnivorous friends along since they have actual meat here too. On Taco Tuesday, you can choose any of their 13 tacos at $3 a pop. Nine of them are vegetarian.

They also serve breakfast, adult beverages (housemade micheladas!!), vegan pozole and more.

Here’s what we ordered Tuesday morning:

  • Jackfruit taco with onions and cilantro.
  • Brussels sprouts tacos with mole, sweet and sour habanero, spicy aioli and cilantro.
  • Cauliflower taco with cabbage, pickled onions, cilantro and spicy aioli.
  • Crispy potato taco with cabbage, pickled onions, cilantro, spicy aioli, cotija cheese.
  • Chickpea elote taco with cabbage, pickled onions, cilantro, spicy aioli and cotija cheese.
  • Breakfast bowl ($11.50) with eggs, jackfruit, tater tots and cheddar cheese.

Obviously, I ATE this week. Here’s to hoping that you’ll try some of these places around Long Beach, Lakewood, Whittier or Costa Mesa.

Do you have any other good vegan/vegetarian Mexican eateries or pop-ups I should add to my crave list? Tell me your secrets. Email me: kat@lbwatchdog.com.

What is this?

Clocked Out is a weekly slice-of-life newsletter/column by Long Beach Watchdog editor Kat Schuster. Sometimes she writes about vegan tacos, other times she’ll carve out a detailed day-long itinerary to help you explore different neighborhoods in LB and beyond.
Schuster was laid off from the Long Beach Post on March 22 along with eight of her colleagues. Since then, three of the Post’s remaining reporters remain on strike in solidarity with their coworkers, who were hastily laid off in the middle of a unionization campaign and after raising dire workplace concerns.
Subscribe to the Watchdog today to help Schuster, her laid-off colleagues and the three striking reporters stay in the fight to keep reporting the stories you can’t find anywhere else.

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