Cypress Park —  Angelenos take their tacos very seriously. So it should not come as a total surprise that a group devoted to history and historic preservation honored the first-ever King Taco stand on Cypress Avenue.

King Taco #1 at 1118 Cypress Ave. was the recipient of the inaugural Heritage Business Award from the Highland Park Heritage Trust. The award honors the efforts of homeowners, business owners and residents who have preserved or improved the heritage of the communities of Northeast Los Angeles, said Anthea Raymond, program chair for the trust.

“We wanted to underscore that NELA is a place where family-based entrepreneurialism thrives and sets a standard for all of Los Angeles,” sayd Raymond. “Plus, let’s face it, tacos are the signature Los Angeles food, and King Taco helped make that awareness possible.”

The restaurant chain, which is known for its tacos al pastor and an array of other Mexican dishes and antojitos, began when the late Raul Martinez Sr. converted an ice cream truck into a taco truck. He later opened his first restaurant in the Cypress Park in 1975.

The chain eventually expanded to more than 20 locations throughout Los Angeles County and can be found at events like the Long Beach Grand Prix and USC football games.

Shortly after Martinez died in December 2013, L.A. Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold stopped by the Cypress Park King Taco to pay his respects:

“I got my usual brace of tacos al pastor moistened with the house’s vivid red salsa. And while the marinated pork was scooped out of a bin instead of carved from a rotating trompa, and the tortillas warming on the flattop came from a package, the salsa was hot, the flavors were bright and clean, and the tortillas were crisp; the very model of a delicious late-afternoon snack. To have this, the essential Los Angeles taco, as one’s legacy is not a bad thing. I raised a paper cup of horchata in Martinez’s honor.”

The award was received by a 39-year King Taco employee during ceremonies held this past weekend.

Among the others honored by the preservation group was Stephanie White and Peter Luttrell for their renovation of their Spanish Colonial revival home in Mt. Washington, Casa de Mi Sueno, and the 1933 Group for their revitalization of Highland Park Bowl, a prohibition-era bowling alley in Highland Park.

“We hope the owners will be able to leverage our recognition to create awareness of the treasures that exist in NELA,” said Raymond.

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