Left Coast Taco is nestled in a sleepy plaza on Oakwood Avenue in East Aurora, a block removed from a bustling stretch of Main Street. Identified by a simple sign reading "TACOS" along the top of the building, the tiny takeout-friendly restaurant is actually tough to miss.
Run by the operators of 42 North Brewing Company's in-house restaurant, Root's Kitchen, Left Coast has already refined several tasty offerings within its first two weeks of business, carving its own niche apart from Mighty Taco, a longtime favorite of East Aurora eaters, a mile away.
Modeled after San Diego-style Mexican fare, Left Coast sits in the old location of Pizza del Aureo's, which has moved to a more spacious spot in the same plaza. Two tables with four seats apiece are the lone places to sit down inside Chelsea and Nathan Root's new shop, encouraging customers to grab-and-go.
Here's a peek at three choices enjoyed upon a visit to Left Coast Taco (603 Oakwood Ave., East Aurora).
*Al pastor torta (featured image), $10, guajillo and pineapple pork on a grilled roll
Tortas aren't easy sandwiches to craft because several areas can lead to ruin. Left Coast's al pastor excelled because none of the ingredients dried out; the crusty roll was buttered and grilled well without becoming too unwieldy, while the grilled pineapple - which caramelized nicely - played a starring role alongside the fresh flavors of the pico de gallo.
While the pork was flavorful, it was a little low in quantity. Regardless, this was unanimously the favorite item of the visit.
*Chicken (pollo asado) and steak (carne asada) tacos, $3.50 apiece.
Sometimes it's best not to overthink an order. Left Coast does its staples well, as both the citrus-marinated chicken and marinated steak tacos were robust in flavor, with a nice smoky char, without either of the proteins dried out. On an empty stomach, it wouldn't be hard to plow through three or four of these.
Tacos come with the option of either corn or flour tortillas - Nathan Root encouraged the corn - which held together well considering there were two for each taco. Gently chewy with a little corn flavor, the shells were a little better than store-bought tortillas.
At Left Coast's counter sits chopped onions, red and green salsas and cilantro, which can be added to the customer's preference. Root encouraged a liberal use of cilantro.
*Rolled tacos, $6.50, corn tortillas stuffed with shredded chicken, deep-fried and dressed with guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream and cheese.
An early best-seller according to Andrew Galarneau's report, the rolled tacos are pleasant if you're not bothered by heavily deep-fried tortillas. They do boast a great crunch, and the mix of ingredients in the container can produce a lot of different bites. It's certainly not a boring choice, but just be wary of the dominance of the deep-fried flavor.
*Cali Fries, $8 without meat, $10 with, fries, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, pico and cilantro.
For those who've spent a few hours at Rookie's, Bar Bill or Wallenwein's, the Cali Fries might offer a second wind - or at least placate the munchies. The heaping container has a foundation of crispy fries (fried almost as aggressively as the rolled-taco shells), a massive serving of guacamole (has some chunks, which is good) and then the typical trimmings.
The go-to San Diego route is to top with carne asada, which - given the earlier praise - is a smart idea.
Given its size, the Cali Fries are shareable and, if eaten late-night, will definitely go fast. Bear in mind that Left Coast is open only until 11 p.m. right now, though.
*Death tacos, $5.25, spicy braised pork, cheese, folded and fried.
The Mexican version of a samosa or pastelillo, these crispy pockets are easy to eat and a top-notch comfort food. But, we were hoping for much more heat. They're called "death" tacos, after all, yet they were pretty tame. Here's to hoping the pork matches the item's name next time.
*Baja Fish Taco, $4.50, beer-battered fish, cabbage, crema, cheese, pico, chili garlic hot sauce.
The Roots deserve credit here because the fish tasted fresh, was flaky in texture and not skimpy in portion. The beer-batter was tasteful, too, unlike 90 percent of Buffalo's fish fries. Ask for a heavier hand of the chili garlic hot sauce, and you might be in for a treat.
A jackfruit taco option is the primary vegetarian choice, although the Cali Fries, when made without meat, would suffice, too.
Info: Left Coast Taco, 603 Oakwood Ave., East Aurora. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Closed Sunday, Monday. Phone: 805-7724.