Serious Eats

Los Angeles Tacos: La Estrella Truck for Delicious Carnitas and Asada

Editor's note: It's about time we dedicate a whole column to tacos in Los Angeles, wouldn't ya say? That's where our man Farley Elliott comes in! He'll be eating from trucks and taquerias and reporting back on the carnitas, asada, lengua, and other tasty fillings out there in a tortilla. —The Mgmt.

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[Photographs: Liezl Estipona]

The Eastside hill-hugging Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles is often referred to as "Taco Town." Within Highland Park, there's a taco truck hotspot called La Estrella. No, not the one in Eagle Rock or the one on Figueroa. We're talking about THE La Estrella, the dull white truck up on ramps that parks off the sidewalk at York and Ave 54. Yeah, THAT La Estrella.

Those enterprising folks have duplicated themselves across this side of town and printed out a few poor quality copies in the process. Thankfully, the true La Estrella remains one of the better taco trucks in all of Los Angeles. With a steady hand overseeing the meats, each one is largely able to shine in its own way.

The carne asada offers sizable chunks of slightly salty beef with a tender texture, where each bite is tinged with salsa verde and the requisite chopped white onions and cilantro.

Al pastor offers plenty of simmered pork goodness under a warm blanket of slightly spicy salsa roja. But there's one gripe here—the pastor spends too much time out of its natural pig fat habitat to maintain the sort of tenderness that al pastor deserves. And it's shredded, which gives it a carnitas-esque mouthfeel.

But the carnitas is one of the most talked about items on the menu, and with good reason. It's still delicious.

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While most taco trucks in L.A. have some sort of nod to the carnitas family of pork, very few execute the meat with any type of consistency or flavor. Here, carnitas is the best bet for first-timers looking for that wow factor without skipping to the more esoteric side of the menu. The meat is abundantly tender without becoming mushy and is elevated by the salsa verde.

Unfortunately the tortillas are served lukewarm and a bit dry. The small disks don't get enough time and attention on the griddle so you're left largely to rely on the strength of the available salsas to aid in shoving asada tacos down your gullet.

Though the truck is on the east side of Los Angeles, at York and Ave 54, it has not succumbed to the "into it before it was cool" movement. I've been coming to this truck since I first moved to Los Angeles four years ago, and they were parked in the same spot long before that. There was a line to order before I got there, and there'll be one when I leave. For delicious carnitas and asada tacos in Highland Park, the word is already out.

La Estrella

York and Ave 54, Los Angeles CA 90042 (map)

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