If you’re in search for the best taco, there’s really no need to get on a plane to Mexico if you’re already in LA. That’s because the obviously prominent presence of Hispanic culture in Los Angeles has had a profound impact on the local cuisine, and now the city offers tacos that can rival the very best that you can find anywhere else.
Los Angeles is always a city that changes a lot, and it has many secrets. So be assured that these are just some of the best taco places in the city. Keep your eyes open and your wallet ready, and you’ll find one just around the corner with what for you will be the best tacos in the universe.
While it’s true that LA is a haven for tacos, some places here are simply better than the others. Here they are, presented by location from east to west. Some of them are not permanent places, but temporary setups and street vendors. So you better check out the times they’re available.
1 Taco Maria, Costa Mesa
Location: 3313 Hyland Ave, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Carlos Sagada is famed for his efforts in trying to preserve Mexican culture here and part of that is insisting on using the traditional corn tortilla. Come here and order the smoked sturgeon taco which is served with a salsa of toasted chiles and peanuts in vegetable oil. But you also get non-GMO corn tortillas that use blue cónico varietal. It’s their version of the fish quesadilla.
2 Las Margaritas Restaurant, Los Angeles
Location: 2914 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90023
The rolled, fried, golden-brown tacos here are called flautas, and it’s made with ground beef. That may seem a bit too simplistic a description, for a masterpiece with its huge mound of shredded lettuce, cured pork loin rubbed with adobo, pickled pork rinds, and diced tomatoes in Mexican cream. Finish it off with chile de árbol salsa, and you’re good to go.
3 Barba Kush, Los Angeles
Location: 2637 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 9002
Renowned barbacoa genius Petra Zavaleta offers the distinct barbacoa style that comes from her hometown of Tepeaca Puebla. The lamb is tasty and tender, while the lamb skulls are barbecued with the cheeks, tongue, and eyes still attached for the making of your unique taco.
4 Tacos Cuernavaca, Los Angeles
Location: 5511E Whittier Blvd Eastmont Ave East Los Angeles, CA 90022
Even at odd hours like 2AM, you may find this taco truck right when you’re having a case of the munchies. You need to order their house-cured soft jerky (cecina) but you can also try their Picaditas and Alambres with lobster and bacon-wrapped shrimp.
5 Mariscos Jalisco, Boyle Heights
Location: 3040 E Olympic Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90023
The sight of the taco dorado de camarón from San Juan de Los Lagos located on East Olympic Blvd. That’s not surprising, as their secret recipe is to die for. You have tasty shrimp inside a corn tortilla, with hot fat cooled down by an avocado slice and some tomato salsa.
6 Guerrilla Tacos, Los Angeles
Location: 2000 E 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90021
It’s not only because this place also serves cocktails and beers which make this a favorite among taco fans. It’s also because the tacos are themselves terrific even while the menu changes very frequently. So on any day, you may be surprised by soft shell crabs on non-GMO corn tortillas, a roasted sweet potato dressed in an almond salsa, or tacos with braised oxtail.
7 Asadero Chikali, Los Angeles
Location: 401 S Atlantic Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90022
The Pérez family will welcome you with their famous guisados sampler, starting with the flour tortillas made by hand by Melva Pérez. Then go nuts with the chicharrónes in red salsa, scrambled eggs with ham, or steak and potatoes.
8 Tacos de Canasta at Rosario’s, Boyle Heights
Location: 3360 Opal St, Los Angeles, CA 90023
Phone: (323) 247-5737
They’re open only on Saturdays and Sundays, located at the Southeast corner of Lorena St and Opal St., Boyle Heights. Here you’ll find the steamer pot filled with sweaty tortillas, which you can fill with refried beans, mashed potatoes, and chicharrón in green salsa. People seem to call this version by several different names, which the name of the place emphasizes.
9 Tacos Quetzalcoatl, East LA
Location: 4827 E Olympic Blvd East Los Angeles, CA 90022
This is widely considered as the best vegetarian tacos in the city with its tacos with wild greens. But here you can also enjoy tacos with adobo (adobo (marinated pork), barbacoa, and cecina (soft beef jerky). Max Gutierrez runs the place and prepares the tacos as if he has watched Tom Cruise’s Cocktail movie a bit too often, with all the tortilla flipping and passing paper plates with tacos behind the back.
10 Birrieria Nochistlan, Boyle Heights
Location: 3201 E 4th St Los Angeles, CA 90063
The Moreno family runs this place, and they’re from Jalisco where they make the best goat birria. They also vary with the Aguascalientes and Zacatecas traditions. All these explain the quality of the braised goat in the stock from the drippings. Then there’s hot chile de árbol salsa, chopped onions, and cilantro as the condiments, and you’ve got yourself a treat.
11 CaCao Mexicatessen, Eagle Rock
Location: 1576 Colorado Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90041
This place was the foremost trailblazer for discovering the possibilities with a taco. They’ve offered quesatacos made in the Tijuana style, Nieman ranch pork belly chicharrones, and duck carnitas. For a truly classic choice, go with the tempura battered shrimp chile güero relleno. It’s topped with Santa Barbara sea urchin and drizzled with chile serrano soy salsa.
12 Cielito Lindo, DTLA
Location: E-23 Olvera St Ste E Los Angeles, CA 90012
Many credits (or blame) the current taco popularity on this place. That’s probably because they’ve been serving tacos since 1934. But they don’t rely on their history to make a fan put of you. You just need to try their deep fried beef taquitos with the runny avocado salsa with its spicy beef flavor made thicker with avocado. You’ll be a fan too.
13 Tacos El Morro, Los Angeles
Location: 3047 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90023
In this food stand, you get what you came for: fantastic flavor with juicy beef. This is a no-frills place where the quality of the food speaks for itself.
14 Los Originales Tacos Arabe de Puebla, Boyle Heights
Location: 3549 E Olympic Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90023
The Villegas family members are the head honchos here, and they make it a point to bring in the special pan arabe tortillas for their tacos. The roasted pork is quite tender, and the tacos are also prepared with a sharp chipotle salsa.
15 Tacos El Palomas, Compton
Location: 16606 S Pannes Ave, Compton, CA 90221
There always seems to be a standing room only crowd here in this place, as it’s revered among Sinaloenses. Get here to this tacos de Cabeza early to enjoy the moist steamed beef choice head cuts like cheeks, tongue, eyes, and lips. These tend to run out very quickly among the crowd.
16 Antojitos Los Cuates, Compton
Location: 2323 E Rosecrans Ave Compton, CA 90221
Antojitos are cravings made of masa, and these ones from Fernando Gonzalez are subtly different. You have dry and salty cheese with raspadas (gritty tostados) from abroad, while the place makes their own cured pork loin, pig’s feet, and tasty pickled pork skin. These tacos dorados can be filled with ricotta (requeson) and ground meat called picadillo, then topped off with crumbly cheese.
17 Carnitas El Momo, Boyle Heights
Location: 2411 Fairmount Los Angeles, CA 90033
Romulo “Momo” Acosta has been making artisanal carnitas for more than 50 years, and now his children have come to join in the family operation. These are the best carnitas in the country, but you should try the carnitas as they’re eaten in Salamanca, Guanajuato. This means you pass on the cilantro and onions, while you squeeze a pickled jalapeno for the juices. Each time you take a bit out of the moist pork, take in some of the chile as your “chaser”.
You can find the outfit on Saturdays at Alameda St. near 135th, Compton. On Saturdays and Sundays, check the location at 6015 S Avalon, Florence.
18 Burritos La Palma, El Monte
Location: 5120 N Peck Rd El Monte, CA 91732
This place specializes in the style of taco that you can find in Northern Mexico. Order the beef birria burrito which is soaked with the juices of seasoned meat and a few refried beans. The fresh flour tortilla with the fragrance of its flavors will give you something to cheer about.
19 Taquizas Gilberto, West Covina
Location: 15980 Francisquito Ave, La Puente, CA 91744
This is only available on Saturdays and Sundays, and only from 7AM to 1PM. So don’t party too hard on Friday night so you can wake up early. If you do have a hangover, you can do worse than come here. Enjoy the best cuts of goat birria flautas and Tulancingo, along with lamb barbacoa in consommé and Hidalgo-style lamb barbacoa.
20 Aqui es Texcoco, Commerce
Location: 5850 S Eastern Ave, Commerce, CA
It was once thought that making barbacoa the traditional way would never be possible (or even legal) in the US. But barbacoa master Paco Perez was also once an engineer, so he designed his own oven to replicate the very same conditions you’d find in an underground pit. So enjoy pit-roasted delicacies like lamb skulls, pancita (offal stuffed stomach), and lamb cuts. Combine them with the corn tortillas, along with the green and red salsas and papalos.