There are so many great tacos in Los Angeles, where do we even begin. Chorizo, carnitas, and carne asada reign supreme, but the more unusual buche (pork stomach) does manage to hold a special place in our hearts (er, stomachs). Our taco correspondent Farley has been eating his way through the L.A. taco scene—from trucks, taquerias, corner markets making their own fresh tortillas, really wherever he can find a taco—and has some favorites.
Carnitas Tacos at La Estrella Truck
Carnitas is the best bet for first-timers looking for that wow factor. The meat is abundantly tender without becoming mushy and is elevated by the salsa verde.
La Estrella: York and Ave 54, Los Angeles, CA 90042 (map)
Fish and Shrimp Tacos at Ricky's Fish
Working off an old Piña family recipe, Ricky's batter is crispy at the edges without shattering in your mouth. There's a thin veil of hot pepper heat coming from within the entire mixture. The white fish flakes off smoothly, offering up a large creamy interior just begging for a dab of salsa. If shrimp is more your style, Ricky's provides hefty portions. Read more here »
Ricky's Fish: 1400 North Virgil Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90027 (map)
Weekends-Only Carnitas at the Tacos Los Guichos Trailer
There's no beating the slow-cooked, deeply flavorful carnitas at Tacos Los Guichos. And for $9 a pound, you can afford to store some in your fridge for later. They'll even throw in a few hand-pressed tortillas, made fresh on the truck while you wait. This is pork done on another level with an impossibly well-cooked skin and the satisfyingly meaty bites that most people couldn't hope to achieve in their Dutch ovens after lots of practice.
Tacos Los Guichos Trailer: Corner of Avalon and Slauson, Los Angeles 90003 (map)
Carne Asada at Los Cinco Puntos
Strips of pounded flank steak are cut wide and irregularly, leaving plenty of room for crispy browned corners to emerge and engage your tastebuds. The chunks are still big enough to maintain an incredible amount of juice as well, and without such a hefty tortilla, this might otherwise be a problem. Read more here »
Los Cinco Puntos: 3300 E. Cesar Chavez Blvd., East Los Angeles (map)
Shrimp Tacos at Mariscos Jalisco Truck
The shrimp tacos are of the dorados variety, meaning they're stuffed and fried until the tortilla crisps up into a delicious brown shell. The filling is a secret blend of shrimp and spices, browned at the open edges from its time in the fryer. The result is a thick, satisfying bite of fresh and well-seasoned shrimp, crispy-edged with a crunchy tortilla shell.
Mariscos Jalisco Truck: 3040 E Olympic Blvd., East Los Angeles, CA (map)
The Taco Tables Along Pico Boulevard
The taco table is a ubiquitous late-night sight along the avenues and corners of much of Los Angeles. Heading east from Western along Pico Blvd. towards downtown, the weekend streets are awash in tacos. Further down, King Taco and Tacos Tamix have cemented their location and legacy on the Pico-Union neighborhood. On the corner of Hobart and Pico, the telltale white string of lights points the way to an occasional table run by a couple of good-natured long time pals. Together, they chop and scrape and boil and serve all night long, occasionally checking in on the overflowing salsa bar atop a folding table.
Along Pico Blvd.
Buche Tacos at El Chato Taco Truck
The buche (that would be stomach) is soft and subtle, with little of the rubbery funkiness that can plague worse preparations. Paired with some mild salsa verde and a tong-ful from the menacing bowl of soaked habaneros and onions, the buche is a fast ride in a smooth car.
El Chato Taco Truck: Southwest corner of Olympic and La Brea, Mid-City Los Angeles (map)
Komodo 2.0 Taco at Komodo
The Komodo 2.0 taco is as popular now as it ever was, and for good reason. The seared sirloin has plenty of juice to co-mingle with the hefty helping of the Southwest pepper and corn combo that overflows from the top. A creamy, spicy aioli provides a bit of burn and a lot of flavor, helping this taco to cross the threshold from good to great.
Komodo: 8809 W. Pico Blvd, Los Angeles (map)
$1 Tacos at Beto's Taco Truck
Beto's Taco Truck: Corner of Redondo Blvd. / Washington Blvd., Mid-City; Los Angeles CA 90016 (map)
Chorizo Tacos at Taco Arizas
Large chunks of deeply red pork are tossed gently onto a scorching hot plancha, giving the meat just enough time to develop a hearty crust without losing those crucial juices. The smooth and warm flavors from the hot pepper seasonings aren't lost in translation; instead, they speak volumes with each bite, giving a complexity that only some diced white onions can help to unravel.
Taco Arizas: Logan Street, just north of Sunset Blvd. Echo Park (map)
Ground Beef and Pickle Tacos Dorados at Malo
The cheese is merely partner to the seasoned ground beef and pickle slices within. The moist, meaty undercarriage of each filled taco is a rush of salt and beef and tangy zip from crisp, vinegar-y pickle bits. Topped off with some warm, gooey fat from the melted yellow cheese, the whole thing tastes like a reinvention of the cheeseburger.
Malo: 4326 West Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles 90029 (map)
Chochinita Pibil and Carne Asada Tacos at Yuca
At Yuca, tougher cuts like pork butt turn so soft you'd swear you just pulled them out of a stew. The cochinita pibil, for all of its citrus and achiote marinade, is tangy and tender without being overwhelmingly spicy. Another star of Yuca's taco plate is the carne asada, a series of salty, beefy bites without any gristly chew and just a touch of searing. No wonder it's the most expensive item on the menu at $2.50 (note: a quarter more expensive than anything else).
Yuca: 2056 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Feliz (map)
Duck Confit Tacos at Komida
Piled on a single, sturdy homemade tortilla, the deep gamey flavors of the duck confit are accented by a fruity salsa garnish made of plum and nectarine. Toss in a little hoisin sauce and the result is a little umami, a little sweet. Top it with wasabi guacamole too.
Komida: 1738 North Orange Drive, Hollywood, CA (map)
Papa con Rajas and Tinga de Pollo Tacos at Loteria Grill
Papa con rajas tacos come with creamy potato chunks mixed with poblano peppers. In the tinga de pollo taco, the moist chicken is stewed alongside ribboned slices of chipotle to deepen and mellow out their flavor, while a pureed fresh chipotle salsa brings home the heat.
Loteria Grill: Fairfax Farmer's Market (map)
Chorizo Tacos at La Canada Taqueria
Bubbling chorizo rests in its own juices until someone asks for a scoop. The long-simmering chorizo, given a final griddle kiss, is slightly spicy and wonderfully juicy in that fresh-out-of-the-casing, indulgently greasy way. The tortillas are of the classic commercial variety, but they spend so much time crisping up on the plancha alongside all the meats, they're nearly a meal unto themselves.
La Canada Taqueria: 3131 W. Pico Blvd., LA (map)
Al Pastor Tacos at El Compita
Slowly rotating on its vertical spit, the ribbons of pressed, marinated pork are allowed to gradually cook through while the resultant juices work their way along the meat from top to bottom. A hefty cross-section of pineapple sits atop the pork throne, giving the final product some spiky citrus notes. An order with "everything" will get you a pastor plate splashed with both roja and avocado salsas. The pork itself is deeply satisfying in that meaty, sometimes crunchy way.
Tacos El Compita: 4477 Pico Blvd., Mid-City (map)
Gorditas at Antojitos Carmen
Gorditas are a member of the extended taco family, right? Thin round disks of masa are gently fried instead of griddled, pulling off the rare "crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside" feat that so many places miss.
Antojitos Carmen: 2510 E. Cesar Chavez Ave, Boyle Heights (map)
Lobster Taco at Sky's Gourmet Tacos
Here is the lobster. It's battered and fried to golden brown, then wrapped in its own fried tortilla that's been dipped with spices beforehand. Add a handful of yellow cheese and a dash of diced tomatoes for a rich, almost creamy taco that's warm and fresh and pretty magnificent. Lobster taco, yeah who knew?
Sky's Gourmet Tacos: 5408 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90019 (map)
Carne Asada and Carnitas Tacos at Rambos Tacos Truck
The real power players at this truck are the carne asada and carnitas. The bits of asada beef are well griddled to provide a few tasty seared edges in each taco, while the vibrant red salsa isn't afraid to slap you around a little bit. The slow-roasted and subtly crisped carnitas are handcrafted with love and a slew of savory spices.
Rambos Tacos Truck: 4250 Eagle Rock Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 9004
Chicken Tacos at El Matador
The chicken is far and away the best? Surprised us too. Here, generous portions of chicken are shredded after simmering for hours in a stew of red pepper flakes and assorted spices. The result is a wonderfully moist taco with a ton of taste on its own, to say nothing of the healthy splash of salsa verde and diced white onions.
El Matador: 1174 N Western Ave and Lexington, Los Angeles, CA 90028 (map)
Carne Asada Tacos at Mexicali Taco & Co.
Well-salted beef arrives in thick chunks after spending just enough time over some very forgiving heat. You'll find a few crisp, meaty edges that taste familiar to anyone interested in barbecue-style rib tips. But you'll also find a softer, pliable interior that satisfies those savory pockets of your soul with thick chunks of slightly chewy, warm, satisfying pure beefiness.
Mexicali Taco & Co, 702 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles 90012 (map)
Fried Camarones from Mariscos Jalisco Truck (Los Angeles, CA)
The deep-fried crunchy pockets that come out of this brightly painted truck are a two-handed affair. After the initial crunch from the miraculously ungreasy shell, the whole thing gives way to a moist-crunchy-rich mass of fried shrimp topped with creamy slices of avocado and a bright, tomato-based salsa.
3040 E Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90023 (map); 323-528-6701