Tag Archives: Tacos

The Best Al Pastor Tacos in Los Angeles

One of the things we look forward to most when we visit in Los Angeles is going on a self-styled taco crawl across the city. We developed our first taco crawl – focusing specifically on our beloved al pastor tacos – in the Spring of 2022, on what was actually our first plane trip since the start of the pandemic. We crowned a winner in 2022, but we wanted to sample a few more spots before we were ready to declare a true champion. Fortunately, we returned to Los Angeles in April of 2023, allowing us to add some more contenders, and to re-test our previous winner. For the taco crawl we focused on al pastor tacos, since they are our favorite variety, and the gulf between excellent and mediocre tacos al pastor is wide.

Al pastor tacos are typically made by shaving meat from a large rotating cone stacked with marinated pork topped with a pineapple – known as a trompo – in a fashion similar to gyros. However, not all taquerias utilize this technique for al pastor, but for us it is a must, so we narrowed down our contenders to only those taquerias with a trompo. When assessing tacos we rated each on a few different parameters (admitting to some subjective preference). The parameters: 1. Trompo / Meat Quality 2. Meat Delivery Method (cut directly off the trompo vs finished on the grill) 3. Presence of pineapple 4. Tortilla quality. 5. Price 6. Other intangibles, which include general vibe and topping options. At each taqueria we ordered al pastor tacos to eat there immediately, with only the classic topping of onions and pineapple.

When deciding where to visit, we gravitated towards spots on the west side of LA, since that is where we were based. We started out by consulting “best of” lists alongside Yelp, Google Maps, and Instagram to gauge the highest-rated taquerias. But all this research notwithstanding, we were floored at how many al pastor trompos we saw simply spinning at roadside taquerias on the literal street corners. In fact, all of the tacos in our competition were street stands or food trucks. People in LA simply don’t know how good they have it. We invited our lovely hosts in LA, C and A, to come along for the taco crawl with us, and they were more than game, and helped us assess the contenders. After visiting a total of 6 spots – including a follow-up visit to our 2022 winner – we landed on a unanimous grand champion.

So, what was our favorite al pastor taco in Los Angeles? Tacos La Güera Pico (2949 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006), also our 2022 winner!

  1. The trompo at La Güera was a thing of beauty, as you can see in the photos. The pork was extremely flavorful, had a good color, and was and not fatty or gristly. Upon being sliced off the trompo, the meat was extremely thinly sliced, with some nice char. We loved the crispy texture, and one of our friends described this quite accurately as a “meat croissant” in terms of its thin, almost translucent, texture.
  2. The meat was shaved directly off the trompo into the tortilla. We consider this to be the superior delivery method, but requires some additional skill from the taquero to decide which parts of the trompo are done enough.
  3. We feel that pineapple is a must, and here it was included generously.
  4. The tacos were composed on a two small corn tortillas, not particularly memorable, but they got the job done.
  5. Each taco was $2.50, slightly more expensive than other places which charged $2, but ultimately worth the small difference.
  6. La Guera was a simple stand with a tent, and a street corner setting. One one end was the trompo, and the other, a generous toppings bar with veggies, salsa, limes, etc. However, there is not much in the way of seating, and it was cash only (or Zelle). We visited on a rainy night and simply scarfed down our tacos, so this didn’t really matter for us.

La Güera takes the al pastor trompo crown! After visiting across 2022 and 2023, La Güera was the unanimous winner amongst all 4 of the taste testers, giving us confidence in our verdict. Many of the other taquerias were nearly as delicious, and we give honorable mentions to fan favorite Leo’s (1515 S La Brea Ave., our winner prior to 2022), and Tacos Zempoal Mixe (2541 S Barrington, pictured above), an under-the-radar stand that simply caught our eye when we drove by, but was justifiably highly rated. Other contenders were: Tamix, Naomi’s, and Brother’s Cousins. Even though we have a solid winner, we feel that we only scratched the surface of the al pastor options in LA. We would encourage you all to go out on your own taco adventures, wherever you are. We are already looking forward to the 2024 edition of the LA Al Pastor Taco Crawl.

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Superior Al Pastor at Taqueria Chingón

You may know by now, if you a frequent reader of the blog, that we are always on the hunt for the best tacos al pastor, near and far. And in Chicago, we may have found a new top contender in Taqueria Chingón (2234 N Western Ave Chicago, IL 60647). Taqueria Chingón is a counter-serve pickup or takeout spot, and we particularly liked their nice outdoor space, especially in these Covid-stricken times. We arrived on a weekday right after they opened at noon, and there was already a small line forming, a good sign of things to come.

The menu at Taqueria Chingón is limited: tacos, appetizers (quesadillas, ceviche), plus a few sides (nopal, frijoles) and desserts (churros, flan). For tacos, there is a full range, from the classic beef asada and chorizo alongside some more esoteric options like duck carnitas and vegetarian al pastor, made with mushrooms. All of the tacos are $4-6 dollars, which is a little steep for tacos, but hear us out, for a change, it is actually worth it!

The al pastor tacos ($5) are a thing of beauty, and they contain all of the factors we think one needs in a perfect taco. First, the homemade tortillas are pliable, and thick enough to handle the fillings, but not too chewy. Second, to creat the tacos, juicy pork is shaved right off of a spit (trompo) with a nice charred bark. Usually, al pastor tacos are pre-cut from a trompo and finished on a flattop, or never on a trompo to start with, but we think it makes all the difference. Finally, the taco has to have some pineapple on top, alongside the traditional onion and cilantro topping. A good al pastor taco is more than the sum of its parts, and Taqueria Chingón certainly delivered on every part. We enjoyed these tacos so much that we even went back to get another. Not wanting to give the other tacos on the menu short shrift, we also tried the cochinita pibil: stewed Yucatecan pork, which was spicy and flavorful.

Overall, Taqueria Chingón was a stunner, and everything we tried was at the highest level. It reminded us of taquerias in Mexico City: high marks for both style and substance, which was the goal of the owners. Taqueria Chingón is definitely going into our Chicago taqueria rotation and we recommend you visit if you get the chance.

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El Rey del Taco: Our Favorite North Clark Street Haunt

Mexico FlagWhen we used to live on the north side of Chicago we tried ton of a taquerias up and down North Clark street in Rogers Park (you can read about some on our Taco Crawl post). We did find a favorite though: the bombastically-named El Rey Del TacoKing of the Taco (7138 N Clark St). We were first intrigued by two unique non-food-related facts – that it is open 24 hours and has a parking lot – both major bonuses and rarities. The menu at El Rey Del Taco, like other places in the area, is overwhelmingly huge, and you can get seafood platters, soups, burritos, huaraches, tortas and the like, but what we always come here for are the tacos, which never disappoint. The tacos come in at a very reasonable $2.25 apiece, and if you dine in, are served on a real plate with lime wedges, grilled green onions and blackened hot peppers. The little corn tortillas for the tacos are good, and the tacos are dressed simply with cilantro and onion (how it should be!).

We have tried the tilapia, al pastor, steak and chorizo tacos, and while they are all good, our two favorite varieties are the al pastor and the steak. The al pastor is well-charred and spiced, and comes with slices of seared pineapple, which is a must for the whole al pastor experience. Though this is not our favorite al pastor in the city, it is a great option on the north side. So do they have a trompo? Well, sometimes. We have indeed seen the trompo in action on a few occasions (see below), but have gone back other times to see no trompo in sight.


These is something at El Rey del Taco for everyone, at all times of the day, including an extensive breakfast menu. If you want to pop in after work, it is also a perfect place for happy hour, with margaritas, beer and horchata on offer (and don’t miss flan for dessert). We have even had meetings here, and they are nice about letting you linger for as longs as you want. We have seen some complaints about their delivery, but we have only ever eaten in, and have never waited too long (though you get free chips and salsa while you wait), and received friendly service. Now that we don’t live there anymore, you can take over and make El Rey del Taco your new north side taco haunt!

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Taqueria Azteca Poncitlan for tacos in Chicago

Mexico FlagEvery time we are back in Chicago we are in the mood for tacos! We take music classes on Armitage, so when we are in the area we usually stop at El Azteca aka Taqueria Azteca Poncitlan (4158 W Armitage Ave.) for some tacos. A caveat: there are about 4 different signs indicating different names for this place some say Taqueria Poncitlan, others say El Azteca. Our hunch is El Azteca moved into the space formerly occupied by Poncitlan (the sign says it has been there since 1987), and didn’t change the main sign… but who knows! You’ll know when you are there. The inside is cute, if a little cheesy – with brightly painted carved tables and chairs and carved wall art.

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La Loma: Authentic tacos in Akron

Mexico FlagThe main thing we miss about moving away from Chicago is proliferation of taquerias there – you could pretty much throw a stone and hit a taqueria on every corner. Sadly, we had pretty much given up on the taqueria-style Mexican food in the area, but we found a shining beacon of hope in the unlikeliest of places – Akron. It’s true – La Loma Taqueria (459 Darrow Rd, Akron, OH 44305) in Akron makes some of the best al pastor this side of Clark street. La Loma is located in a nondescript strip mall on the outskirts of Akron, a pretty unlikely location for crazy delicious and authentic tacos.

LaLoma - Copy

What led us to La Loma were reports of a trompo in this location – the gyro-esque spit that is required to make a proper al pastor taco. Surely enough, when we entered the taqueria we were greeted by the fully loaded trompo! In terms of tacos La Loma delivers on value and variety. At a very reasonable $1.50 each, it is feasible to try all of the meat options: carne asada, barbacoa, chorizo, chicken or tongue. We tried both al pastor and chorizo, our go-to taqueria order. Other options available with the same meats include burritos, tortas on homemade telera bread, quesadilla, flautas, sopes and tamales. LaLomaPastor - Copy

The tacos were the real deal – served on small, fresh corn tortillas, they were topped with the requisite onion and cilantro. Plus, there was a healthy slice of fresh pineapple – the holy grail of al pastor tacos – which is sometimes left off at other taquerias. The pork was spicy and the outside was well-charred, like we prefer. As a plus, there is even an impeccably clean store attached to the taqueria selling a variety of Mexican and other Latin American foods and sundries. We snagged some dried guajillo peppers and Mexican cinnamon sticks, staples we needed for recipe production. La Loma’s one flaw is that it is located a bit of a drive from where we live. However, we know we will be back when the inevitable, insatiable taco craving hits.

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Tacos and buzz at Big Star in Chicago

Mexico FlagBig Star (1531 N. Damen Chicago, IL ) is the type of place that gets a lot of hype, but unlike most places with this much buzz, the food is good too! We have been to Big Star several times now, and it really is a fun place to hang out with friends, grab some tacos and drinks, and just kick back. Though you can sit inside, the main draw at Big Star in warm weather is the sunny patio, which often leads to several-hour waits. We first managed to get into Big Star late on a summer Wednesday, and though we were skeptical at first, we really enjoyed the tacos. Be sure to bring your cash though, since they do not accept credit cards.BigStar

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A new place for Tacos: Authentaco [closed]

Mexico FlagOne bit of Chicago lore is that on the intersection of Ashland and Division nearly every storefront in sight is a La Pasadita taqueria. It’s true, there used to be 3 Pasaditas within a 1 block radius, but a little while ago, one of them closed, and reopened later as Authentaco [closed] (1141 N Ashland Ave). Upon entering you can rest assured that it is not just a reincarnation of La Pasadita. The whole restaurant is about the size of a postage stamp (“restaurant” is a very loose term), it is a basically just a stand up counter, a massive flat top, and a cash register. There are no seats, and no credit cards. However, this is a taqueria with a difference, the motto of the restaurant is “farm-to-taco” so the emphasis is on fresh ingredients and flavors.


So how it works, is you choose the meat, and then how you would like it served – as a taco, torta, quesadilla or plate.  As for meat, there are basic options like carne asada, chorizo and pork al pastor, but also more unique options sweet potato al pastor. Aside from sweet potatoes, there are ample veggie options, including squash blossoms and nopal (cactus), which is nice for the veggie crowd. We also appreciated the appearance of the huitlacoche, our favorite corn fungus, which we got in quesadilla form. For tacos, we picked the pork al pastor (our go-to to test out a new taqueria). While we waited for our tacos, we sipped on a tasty horchata.AuthentacoPastorThe huitlacoche quesadilla was excellent, with delicious melty cheese, and was stuffed to the brim with huitlacoche. The al pastor was good, but there was too much soupy sauce, and the meat wasn’t really charred like al pastor is supposed to be. The tacos were over $3 each, but the size is a little bigger than at the typical taco joint, and we probably only needed 2 apiece, rather than 3. However, the real stars were the tortillas. The tortillas are made to order and pressed and griddled right before your eyes. They are exemplary, and completely made the meal. Definitely go to Authentaco for the huitlacoche and stay for the tortillas – and bring your vegetarian friends.


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Our Favorite Tacos Al Pastor in Chicago: Taqueria Los Barrilitos

Mexico FlagAfter our trip to Mexico City, we became obsessed with finding the best tacos al pastor in Chicago. We found some excellent tacos al pastor at Xoco – but there were some downsides – it is only available once a week, and was a little pricey. We wanted somewhere we could get a cheaper tacos every day of the week to satisfy our true al pastor cravings. One name that kept coming up on our radar was Taqueria Los Barrilitos (3518 West 25th Street, Chicago, IL), so we knew we had to visit.

Los Barrilitos

Los Barrilitos

We rolled up to Los Barrilitos on a cold night just before Christmas, and before we committed to dining, M peeked in the window to make sure there was a trompo piled high with marinated pork. There was! We had been burned before by places that were rumored to have a trompo, but did not in reality. Score a point for Los Barrilitos! We were excited the place was festooned up brightly for Christmas, lights, decorated tree and all (even the cactus had bows for Christmas). There was no menu: you just chose from a small selection of tacos including steak, al pastor and tripe. The trompo looked pretty amazing, so we went with only the al pastor tacos ($1.75) each and a horchata rice drink.

Al Pastor at Los Barrilitos

Al Pastor at Los Barrilitos

The tacos were brought out pretty quickly by a kind waitress, along with pickled habaneros and two salsas. The tacos were bigger than we expected, and came on warm corn tortillas with the traditional onion and cilantro toppings. The al pastor was a standout, with a great color, flavor and a nice char. It definitely reminded me of some of our favorites from Mexico City. Our only knock against them was that there was no pineapple, part of the intrinsic al pastor experience.

Trompo at Los Barrilitos

Trompo at Los Barrilitos

We polished off our tacos pretty quickly and the cook even let us take a few pictures of the trompo on our way out. He actually seemed kind of humored that we took such an interest in the trompo. We left Los Barrilitos in a better mood than after most meals of 2014. These tacos al pastor are the real deal, and for the right price! Please visit Los Barrilitos ASAP (for both the al pastor and for the festive cactus).

Cactus with Bows at Los Barrilitos

Cactus with bows at Los Barrilitos, our spirit plant


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Your New Wednesday Plans: Tacos al Pastor at Xoco

Mexico FlagSo you don’t have plans for Wednesday night? Ok, now you do. You plan is to go get tacos al pastor at Xoco (449 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL)! Every Wednesday after 5 PM, Xoco’s main draw is the al pastor, made from layers of seasoned pork, topped with pineapple carved right off of a trompo (a giant meat cone – much like the one used to make gyros) Mexico City style. When we went to al pastor day at Xoco, Rick Bayless was even there to monitor and maintain the trompo. Nice – that’s quality assured!

Al Pastor at Xoco

Al Pastor Trompo (partially in hiding) at Xoco

It is $11 for 3 tacos on corn tortillas, which come in a basket with a small side of a spicy chipotle salsa. We thought the price was a little steep, but we figured we were paying for quality – and we were – everything was delicious! The al pastor meat was flavorful and had a deep red color with a nice crispy crust, just how we like it. Each taco was also topped with a crispy slaw (non-traditional) and slices of pineapple (traditional). Xoco’s was probably the best rendition of al pastor we had in the city so far, though it made us mostly want to go to Mexico City. The corn tortillas were a little cold, which was our only knock against the dish.

Tacos Al Pastor at Xoco

Tacos Al Pastor at Xoco

We plan on making a visit to Xoco’s Tacos al pastor a Wednesday night tradition. A trompo is the key to delicious tacos al pastor, and they are relatively rare, so finding one is a great thing. We have word that the al pastor tacos will be available at Xoco until March, so make a visit while you still can.

Tacos Al Pastor at Xoco

Tacos Al Pastor 3 for $11

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Eating through the Rogers Park Taco Crawl

We have long noted the huge number of taquerias on the stretch of North Clark Street in Rogers Park, so it was particularly fortuitous that we came across an organized North Clark taco crawl put on by the Rogers Park Business Alliance. Between 4pm and 7pm, you could sample the offerings from any of ten different restaurants. For only $12, each participant got a punch card with the addresses and names of the participating taquerias, and at each visit you got your card signed, and got a taco in return. The taco was predetermined by the business. While the event ran three hours, due to work, we arrived at 5:30, now faced with the near-impossible task of downing ten tacos, as well as a few horchatas, in only ninety minutes. But we were determined to hit every spot on the list – gotta catch em all! We tackled the crawl with our friends R and R who are similarly interested in exploring sometimes-overwhelming North Clark Taco scene.


1. Fonda Dona Chio (6906 N. Clark) This was the start of the crawl for us, and where we received our punch-card. Their offering was a shredded chicken taco. This was a really good taco (L’s favorite of the whole crawl) with lots of flavor and a little kick. An excellent start to the crawl. Perhaps we lingered a little too long here chatting (and ate too quickly to get a picture), there were 9 more tacos on the horizon!


Taco #2

2. El Pueblito (6712 N. Clark) This spot offered Cochinta pibil (roasted, spiced pork), which was delicious, and extremely spicy. Mad spicy. Too spicy? Not surprisingly, this was M’s favorite.


Taco #3

3. Taqueria el Charro (6661 N. Clark) Our friends R and R had previously visted this joint and gave it their stamp of approval. The taco on offer was shredded chicken with an American touch of lettuce and tomatoes. the restaurant also presented a nice variety of salsas and pickled veggies! A little on the mild side, but we needed a break after the Cochinita Pibil singed our taste buds.


Taco #4

4. El Pulpo Loco (6619 N. Clark) This is a relatively new restaurant on the scene, with shockingly blue walls. The taco here was shrimp- a joint favorite among L and M and their dining buddies. Shrimp is a little bit of a risky choice but they executed it flawlessly, with a delicious mango salsa to boot.


Quesadilla aka “Taco” #5

5. Chiki’s Pizza (6621 N. Clark) Not too sure of our first impressions of a taqueria flaunting their pizza above all else. Here, we received our only quesadilla of the night, cheese, onion and pepper. Good, but not actually a taco! Next.


Taco #6

6 La Cazuela – (6922 N. Clark) This place had an extremely eloborate interior, and the telenovela du jour “La Gata” was blaring in the background. The taco was fish, which is tough to do well, and this one fell a little short. It was a little too “fishy” and dry to be palatable.


Taco #7


Churros from Taqueria Hernandez

7. Taqueria Hernandez (6983 N. Clark) These were the first tacos we got to-go, as our time was running short and our bellies were about to burst. The tacos were a simple, tasty chorizo. They also gave us mini churros, which was an awesome touch. Nice folks!

8. Uptown Taqueria (7023 N. Clark) The taco here was al pastor with traditional onion and cilantro topping. Not bad, with a good al pastor flavor, but nothing special. This was our 8th taco and by this time we were getting pretty full! We ain’t no Adam Richman.


From top to bottom: Tacos #10, #9 and #8

9. El Famous Burrito (7047 N. Clark) A barebones, but efficient place, but the taco was pretty tasty. It was a tender shredded pork with onion (and maybe a little tripe?). We arrived there at 6:55, just under the gun.


Bottleneck at Taqueria Chapala

10. Taqueria Chapala (7115 N. Clark) Our final stop! This taqueria is actually located in the back of a supermarket and is more of a meat/deli counter than anything with no seats. There was some kind of crazy bottleneck here and we arrived right at 7 and waited 25 minutes minutes for a taco…. The taco was plain beef with lettuce and melted cheese and no real seasoning. Not our favorite, but we have to give them props for staying in it until the bitter end!

So here are our top 3 from the crawl:

1. El Pulpo Loco
2. Fonda Dona Chio
3. El Pueblito

Overall, the taco crawl was a ton of fun, though I wish we had gotten there a little earlier in order to pace ourselves a bit more. Even so, we got to try a ton of new places we had been meaning to visit, all at once. Be warned though – this sort of feat is not for the weak of stomach!


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Coming Soon: The North Clark Street Taco Crawl in Chicago

Mexico FlagWe recently returned from a trip to Mexico, where our love for tacos (particularly, Tacos al Pastor) grew ever stronger. Our favorite taqueria is in Pilsen, but sometimes you just get a taco craving, and driving all the way down to 18th street isn’t feasible. So we decided to give the North Clark Street corridor in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago a thorough exploration for tacos. You know, we feel pretty badly that we have ignored this teeming avenue as a spot for Mexican food for so long. However, slowly but surely, we are stating to explore the area, and with good reason – practically every 4th storefront is a taqueria! Do you have any favorites in the North Clark area you can recommend (especially for al pastor)?

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Delicious, Unique Tacos in Wicker Park: Antique Taco

Antique Taco
1360 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL

The thing we miss most when abroad is Mexican food, so we feel lucky to have so many options practically in our backyard. We tend to enjoy hole-in-the wall spots so we decided to get out of our comfort zone and try one of the newer, more trendy taco places that were getting rave reviews. Fortunately, we found that Antique Taco lived up to the hype. When you first step into Antique Taco, you immediately understand where it gets its name – the entire restaurant is full of antique tchotchkes, baskets as light fixtures and reclaimed woods, which makes it immediately appealing.


The menu at Antique Taco is small and rotating. On the day we visited there were six varieties of taco, including one vegetarian option. We ordered the market mushroom taco, with pepitas, guajillo cream, arugula and radish; the pork carnitas with bacon, spinach and avocado; and the garlic shrimp with corn salsa, avocado and onion. The prices, at $7 and $8 per taco basket, which includes 2 tacos, are certainly higher than many other taco joints. But don’t let that put you off, you definitely get what you pay for.


There is indoor and outdoor seating, and since it was nice we decided to grab a picnic table. We also ordered a basket of chips and guacamole ($7) while we were waiting, which came out instantly, and was immediately gobbled up. The tacos came out fairly quickly after the guac. Everything that arrived at the table was fresh and clearly homemade. In all of the tacos, the ingredients really worked together, and none of the toppings were out of place. The pork carnitas had a hint of sweetness from the tamarind glaze and seemed more akin to BBQ than real carnitas, which was still delicious. The garlic shrimp were perfectly complemented by the corn salsa, and the mushroom taco was pleasingly meaty. Only one drawback, some of the filling portions were a little inconsistent, the shrimp was a little skimpy, while there was a ton of pork shoulder.


M also ordered the horchata milkshake ($4), a riff on the classic Mexican drink with rice, cinnamon and almond, which was delicious (and gave us a good idea for a paleta). Though it is not a fancy restaurant, Antique Taco stands out for doing little touches right: the combinations are unique, the drinks come with retro striped paper straws and each taco plate has a little wooden pick with the variety printed on it. We definitely appreciated this attention to detail. We will definitely be back, hopefully sitting at the picnic tables.


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Korean Tacos sweep the nation

koreaMexico FlagSpeaking of world cuisines, a type of fusion that we had never seen before – Asian-influenced tacos – is making its way across the nation. Originating in California, the New York Times describes the arrival of Korean-Style Tacos across the nation. One restaurant, Taco Chino, is even located in Chicago. LTH Forum describes the Taco Chino experience here.

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