10 Amazing Tacos You Need To Try In Los Angeles
Finding good tacos in Los Angeles is not a difficult task, but finding the greatest tacos requires a bit of effort and determination. From long lines to long drives, and Twitter feeds to whispered recommendations, dedicated taco enthusiasts are willing to go to great lengths to track down elevated renditions of their favorite street food. For those willing to look, L.A. offers a treasure-trove of different varieties as well, including the big sellers like al pastor to the lesser known hits like birria. To help you navigate this embarrassment of taco riches, we've rounded up 10 of the city's best tacos.
Al pastor at Leo's TacosTruck (Photo by T. Tseng via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
Tacos Al Pastor at Leo's Tacos Truck
Like a siren song, the slowly spinning trompo of roasting pork in front of the bright orange Leo's Tacos Truck beckons to you from the corner of La Brea and Venice. Slabs of pork are first marinated in chiles and achiote, then spit-roasted with pineapple to achieve the perfect blend of char and caramelization. Thin shavings of the pork are then sliced off shawarma-style (the style was brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants after all), along with hunks of pineapple, and all tossed together on a well-oiled tortilla. At one dollar a pop, you'll definitely be having a few. Though to mix things up you could order the adobada version, which swaps pineapple for a creamy guacamole as they do in Baja California. Thankfully for traveling al pastor fans, the siren call of Leo's can now be heard in three other locations, including Echo Park, though the original location is where you'll usually find the longest lines of devoted followers.
Leo's Tacos Truck is located evenings at 1515 S La Brea Ave, Mid-City; 415 Glendale Blvd, Echo Park; 1533 Vermont Ave, Pico-Union; and 2400 W Pico Blvd, Pico-Union. Check their Twitter feed for their schedule.
Birria Tacos at Flor Del Rio
When a restaurant has thrived for over ten years serving just one dish, you know they're doing something right. Flor Del Rio, a Boyle Heights stalwart, keeps it simple and delicious serving up Zacatecas-style birria de chivito, young goat that is roasted and then stewed until meltingly tender. You can choose to have the birria served dry or drenched in the chile-spiced cooking consomme, and opt between meat on the bone or off, though we highly recommend on the bone and drenched. You'll then assemble your own tacos atop pillowy, made-to-order tortillas and top them with your choice of chopped onions, cilantro, a squeeze of lime, a fierce red salsa made with chile Yahualica and/or a squeeze of a thin, vinegary hot sauce. You'll quickly discover why Flor Del Rio doesn't need to bother with a menu.
Flor Del Rio is located at 3201 E 4th St, Boyle Heights, (323) 268-0319.
Fish And Shrimp Tacos at Ricky's Fish Tacos
Ricky's Fish Tacos offers heaven wrapped in a tortilla. The silver food truck is a mainstay in Los Angeles, and the owner has taken his Baja-style fish and shrimp tacos to the next level. The batter is always light and crispy and the seafood fresh and flavorful, topped with a nice helping of shredded cabbage and pico de gallo. What we especially love are the bottles of crema and homemade salsas that you can help yourself to at the food truck. If the tacos get a little spicy for you, make sure to wash them down with one of the aguas frescas on the menu. We suggest the cucumber mint one. —Jean Trinh
Ricky's Fish Tacos is located at 1400 N Virgil Ave., East Hollywood, (323) 906-7290. Check their Twitter for their schedule.
Goodness at Guisados (Photo by Danny Jensen/LAist)
The Sampler at Guisados
Deciding which flavor-packed taco to get at Guisados can be a challenge, which likely accounts for consistently long lines at all four locations most days. Guisados—which roughly translates to homestyle stew—specializes in just that: slowly braised meats, but they also do justice to their vegetable-centric options as well, so vegetarians fear not. We recommend going for the sampler platter—especially your first time—which features six mini versions of their deeply satisfying tacos served on a thick corn tortilla. You can customize you sampler as you wish, though we definitely encourage you to check out the bistek en salsa roja, tinga de pollo and the hongos con cilantro. But really, you can't go too wrong. You'll also likely want to cool off from some of the more fiery tacos with an Armando Palmero, their version of the classic iced tea and lemonade combo, which swaps in jamaica.
Guisados is located 2100 East Cesar E. Chavez Avenue, Boyle Heights, (323) 264-7201, 1261 W Sunset Boulevard, Echo Park, (213) 250-7600, 541 S. Spring St., Downtown, (213) 627-7656 and 8935 Santa Monica Blvd. West Hollywood, (310) 777-0310.
Tacos on tacos at El Chato (via Facebook)
Carne Asada Tacos at El Chato Taco Truck
If you've ever wondered about the lengthy lines while cruising past the taco truck at the corner of Olympic and La Brea, wonder no more. El Chato doles out seriously solid carne asada tacos, expertly grilled, finely chopped and doused with a magical elixir of earthy and smoky chipotle salsa. Others in line with you will likely attest to the quality of the al pastor as well, and they wouldn't be steering you wrong. El Chato's menu delivers on multiple fronts. Just come ready to wait and hungry for a plate full of tasty $1 tacos.
El Chato Taco Truck is located evenings at the southwest corner of Olympic Blvd and La Brea Ave, Mid-Wilshire, (323) 202-6936.
Barbacoa And Vegetarian Tacos at Tacos Quetzalcoatl
Great barbacoa is not always easy to come by, even in a city overflowing with such an amazing variety of excellent tacos. But those in search of supremely tender and flavorful lamb barbacoa head to East L.A.'s Tacos Quetzalcoatl. This low-profile, tricked-out truck serves up shredded lamb that has been slow-smoked with leaves from the agave plant, and offers a deep, smoky heat. Vegetarians—or anyone seeking a bit of green in their taco diet—will be pleasantly surprised to find several veggie options, including ones that feature ancient wild greens like huauzontles (Aztec spinach) and quintoniles (red amaranth).
Tacos Quetzalcoatl is located near the corner of E. Olympic Blvd. and S. Kern Ave. on weekends, and on weekdays they are located near the corner of S. Central Ave. and E. 8th St. in Downtown, (323) 392-4444.
Carnitas El Momo (via Facebook)
Carnitas Tacos at Carnitas El Momo
Many attest that you'd be hard pressed to find better carnitas in all of California, let alone L.A., but we can definitely claim that tracking down Carnitas El Momo is well worth the effort. Both artisan and butcher, Romulo "Momo" Acosta slow-simmers all the best parts of the pig in huge traditional copper pots to create incredibly tender carnitas. Piled high on two tortillas, each taco is then dressed with chopped raw onions and cilantro, followed by a splash of tongue-twisting red salsa. Tracking down El Momo can be a bit of a challenge sometimes, but the truck can usually be found in Boyle Heights on the weekends, and occasionally in the Fashion District.
Guerrilla Tacos (Photo by Danny Jensen/LAist)
Unexpected, Locally-Sourced Tacos at Guerrilla Tacos
You could call the vividly creative tacos of Wes Avila's lauded truck farm-to-table fare, but you might risk missing out on these delicious tacos thinking they're too precious for the street. Also, you'd be missing a table. Refusing to be pigeon-holed, Guerrilla Taco's menu changes constantly based on the best, sustainably-sourced ingredients of the season and whatever clever combination Avila concocts with them. Imagine if you will a Kurobota sausage and fried egg taco with raw tomatillo chile, furikake and chives, or perhaps a sweet potato taco with almond chile, feta cheese, fried corn and scallions. Or for example, you might find an ahi tuna poke and Santa Barbara sea urchin tostada with white miso, furikake, lime and micro wasabi. Whatever delicious combination Guerrilla Tacos is serving up will likely have you rethinking tacos entirely. And bring you back for more.
Guerrilla Tacos parks at multiple locations, check their website for schedules. (818) 640-3033
Cochinita Pibil at Chichén Itzá
Just across the 110 Freeway from USC, this outpost of Yucatan specialties serves up well-balanced, sweet and spicy cochinita pibil tacos. The pork is first marinated with achiote and citrus then slow-roasted in banana leaves until fall-apart-tender. The supple, juicy meat is then piled on tortillas and topped with pickled red onion, which adds a bright zing to the deep, richness of the pork. If you're looking to turn up the heat further, brace yourself for their searing, house-made habanero salsa. And if you need to counteract the heat, order up a cooling agua de chaya, a refreshing drink made with the Mayan super green chaya.
Chichén Itzá is located at 3655 S Grand Ave, South Central L.A., 213-741-1075.
Around the world at Mondo Taco (Photo by Danny Jensen/LAist)
International Tacos at Mondo Taco
Just as years ago the Kogi trucks upended the flavors that Angelenos came to expect from a taco truck, Mondo Taco's international mash-ups are stretching our palates even further. From Thai-inspired grilled chicken and chipotle peanut sauce tacos to Jamaican-inflected grilled jerk fish and pineapple relish, these taco-makers scour the globe to bring refreshingly new tastes to the tortilla. There are also tons of solid vegetarian options served on house-made corn tortillas, as well as a gluten-free version or 'dino-style' on cabbage. While we can't claim that all of the culinary experiments are international hits, many are definitely worth the journey. Considering tacos are ultimately products of many overlapping cultures and regional variations, the global mindset of Mondo Taco seems right at home in an international city that craves a great taco.
Mondo Taco is located at 2200 Colorado Ave, Santa Monica, (310) 310-8922.