Founded in 2006, L.A. Taco’s unique approach to reporting on the culture and cuisine of Los Angeles has made its coverage a special treat for foodies everywhere. I recently spoke with publisher Alex Bloomingdale to learn more about L.A. Taco’s editorial process, logo design, challenges as an indie publication, and future plans.
What inspired L.A. Taco to launch as an indie publication, and how does that independence shape your coverage?
We always wanted to represent the authentic Los Angeles, to cover parts of the city that others weren’t, and to be editorially independent so we could express viewpoints outside of the mainstream. All of that meant we had to do it ourselves, without a lot of help from a larger organization. Our coverage is shaped primarily by the city we live in, and the people in our community who need a voice. While we will cover some of the same stories everyone else does, we always look to tell stories that aren’t getting the attention they deserve.
What are some of the elements that make The Rogue 99, your annual review of Angeleno restaurants, stands, and trucks, quintessentially L.A.? What did the review team learn through the process of deciding which spots made the list and which didn’t?
The Rogue 99 comes from a place of love — love for the city of Los Angeles and its restaurants. Rather than trying to make a “best of” list, the Rogue 99 tries to explain the soul of the city through food, much like L.A. TACO does as an organization.
The two main people behind the list are Katherine Spiers and Tien Nguyen; both of them are veteran food writers with a deep understanding of the city. They collaborated with others, including a group of students from the Boyle Heights Beat, a community newspaper written entirely by high school students. Part of their giving back to the community was to bring in the BHB kids and mentor them. The results were outstanding!
Tell us more about the thinking behind your site and logo design, and what you hope to communicate to your readers about your mission through that design.
As you can see on our site, the logo is really big. We want you to know where you are when you’re on our website, to establish a sense of place, so it’s not just another generic news site. Our logo is supposed to evoke signage you might see in various parts in Los Angeles, like a liquor store, taqueria, or mini-mart. Our intention is to communicate that we are 100% L.A.
What’s one big challenge you expect to face as you grow the publication? How do you see yourself approaching that challenge?
The biggest challenge for any small, independent media outlet in 2019 is financial. Thanks to our membership program, we’re able to cover some of our costs, which is amazing — our readers pay to get cool gear, discounts at some of our favorite taco spots in L.A., and support local journalism. Going forward we’ll concentrate even more on our membership program, because the freedom that comes from a direct financial relationship with our readers is extremely valuable. We are hard at work improving the membership perks, adding new gear, and marketing the program via our website and social media. If we’re able to succeed, it might open up some new avenues for other publications as well.
What can we expect next from L.A. Taco?
We have a big event coming up on May 4th, Taco Madness. It’s a free event and everyone (21+) from L.A. is invited. We’ll have the city’s best tacos, DJs, live artists, micheladas, margaritas, and more. It’s a great opportunity to sample the food from the folks you read about on our site who are spread out throughout the city, all in one place. Going forward we’re hoping to do a monthly event with an open mic component, where our contributors and readers can share stories about the city we love. Last year we did one print publication, a yearbook, and this year we’d love to do something like that more often. Since we’re powered by our members, we hope to expand our membership program significantly in 2019 so we can do all of these cool things, and continue to provide the city with excellent journalism.