"Your best bet at one of Los Angeles's most beloved taco stands is actually the burrito."
It doesn't take long in any Los Angeles taco conversation to wind your way around to Yuca's, the deep-rooted Loz Feliz taco closet situated in a liquor store parking lot. Well, it's the size of a closet anyway, which must make it hard to store all the awards they receive.
From the James Beard award (in the "America's Classics" category) to local March Madness-style taco brackets, Yuca's just wins, baby. Hell, our AHT correspondent Damon even vouches for their tasty griddled burgers.
Line up in front of the cash-only window on any given day and you're likely to hear chatter surrounding the cochinita pibil, a slow-roasted pork traditionally cooked inside banana leaves. Across town at Tinga, the pibil is a fiery affair with some crispy edges after getting time on a blazingly hot plancha. At Yuca's, the flavors are more subtle, reminiscent of true Mexican cooking, where tougher cuts like pork butt turn so soft you'd swear you just pulled them out of a stew.
If anything, Yuca's ancestral leanings are both a blessing and a curse. Of the five protein options (carne asada, machaca, chicken, cochinita pibil and carnitas) only the asada comes truly chopped and griddled. The others are all slow-cooked, shredded and incredibly moist, which can turn a plateful of tender tortillas into a mess real quick.
The carnitas is deeply porky, and the few crispy edges you'll find are certainly a welcome addition. The cochinita pibil, for all of its citrus and achiote marinade, is tangy and tender without the overwhelming spicy heat you often find elsewhere.
The star of the Yuca's taco plate, however, has to be the carne asada. After decades of griddling, Yuca's plancha gives a little back with each asada order tossed its way. The result is a series of salty, beefy bites without any gristly chew and just a touch of searing. No wonder a carne asada taco costs $2.50, when everything else is a quarter cheaper.
For all of their old world charms, you might be surprised to learn that Yuca's doesn't offer up a homemade salsa bar. Anyone looking for a little heat is given small regional bottles of serviceable hot sauce, but nothing with the deep, smoky flavors of Grandma's salsa roja.
Perhaps the taco conversation surrounding Yuca's needs to shift, just a bit. What if you dared to order a burrito instead? Judging by the smiling faces tucked into the few available seats, it may be wiser to drop $5 on that. With the same meat options wrapped up with rice and/or beans, there's less concentrated moisture to tear apart your tortilla, and more complementary flavors to play with.
After all, if you can find a winning burger here, maybe it's not so hard to imagine that your best bet at one of Los Angeles's most beloved taco stands is actually the burrito.
Yuca's 2056 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Feliz (map)
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