While the scratchy speakers at Clark Field play warm-up tunes for Hermosa Beach Little League, the sizzle of a flattop grill and the aroma of grilled onions fill the little space between the field and snack stand. Cotton T-shirts that read “I heart Héctor’s Tacos” are worn by everyone working, and Héctor is preparing for a long afternoon of baseball fans and a lot of hungry boys.
Héctor’s Tacos originally began 30 years ago, says Héctor Alatorre, the man behind the business. Before Clark Field, before catering and before Héctor’s Tacos, Héctor worked at El Torito in Manhattan Beach—making tacos and understanding the science of perfecting them.
During that time, Héctor and his friends often went to Schooner Bar & Grill for beers after work. He noticed something missing: food at the bar. By the time midnight rolled around, people were hungry. After mentioning it to the bar owner and having a conversation about needing a cook, Héctor got the job on the spot. He quit his job at El Torito and started working where Héctor’s Tacos was born.
“They called it Héctor’s Hideaway,” he says of his little kitchen. Many Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach residents were locals at Schooner Bar & Grill, and those first few South Bay customers ended up being crucial to the success of Héctor’s renowned tacos.
But just as quickly as those customer relationships began, the owner of the property passed away and Schooner Bar & Grill shut down for good. The rapport Héctor had built with his Schooner customers and the reputation of his mouthwatering tacos had people begging him to start catering, so that is exactly what he did.
Word spread fast about Héctor’s Tacos. Catering for events soon became Héctor’s primary business, and he was catering approximately every two days. The events and block parties he worked connected him with Patrick Tasto, Hermosa Beach Little League board member, who wanted Héctor to cook at Clark Field for six months.
After many calls and messages from Patrick, he agreed to talk about the possibility of Clark Field. Soon after, they met with Mark Mamber, president of Hermosa Beach Little League, who also did his best to convince Héctor. “What he was picking up on was desperation,” Mark adds. Right after that meeting, Héctor added Clark Field to his increasingly busy schedule.
He knew it was going to be a lot of work, but he wanted to be a part of Clark Field. However, his perception of what the games were like was slightly misconstrued. “I never thought it was going to be this busy, and it’s busy,” he says.
He’s at Clark Field whenever they need him, as there’s no set schedule. When Héctor’s Tacos is open, the menu consists of $3 tacos, burritos, quesadillas, breakfast burritos and churros. And there’s always rice and beans and chips and salsa at their salsa bar.
With high demand, Héctor and his team barely come up for air. Chicken, asada, carnitas and pastor are the meat options for tacos, burritos and quesadillas. Each meat option is compelling and perfectly tender, but the carnitas makes a case that just might outweigh the others. It’s a fan favorite and for good reason. Juicy meat and grilled vegetables placed in a homemade corn tortilla is everything you could need—the perfect taco.
There are 40 people on Héctor’s team, including his wife and six kids who help on the weekends when they’re not in school. While some of Héctor’s older children help set up the salsa, rice and beans, his youngest daughter occasionally perches next to the register on her iPad.
Then there is Oscar. If Héctor is the head chef, Oscar is his sous chef—his right-hand man. “I probably couldn’t do this all without Oscar,” Héctor says.
Héctor’s business, his family and his team are now deeply ingrained into the Clark Field community. Due to his catering business, he already had a relationship with many of the people who were there watching their kids play baseball. There were hardly any unfamiliar faces to Héctor. The love that he and the locals have for each other is more than evident. Even the Little Leaguers know Héctor and give him a wave as they walk by.
“The kids are wonderful; they’re a big part of who I am,” says Héctor. Families give him cards to thank him for feeding their kids. The parents and even the Hermosa Beach Police Department are big fans of Héctor and his toothsome tacos.
“I would love to continue to do it, and I’ll figure out how,” says Héctor. “I have to do less catering in order to be at Clark Field, but that’s something I’m willing to do.”