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Barbacoa from Antontonilco in Arleta, Los Angeles on a paper plate with lemon wedges.
Barbacoa from Antontonilco in Arleta, Los Angeles
Wonho Frank Lee

14 Places to Get Traditional Slow-Roasted Barbacoa in California

Follow California’s barbacoa trail from Los Angeles to the Central Coast to the Bay Area to find weekend servings of tender roast lamb, goat, and even chicken

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Barbacoa from Antontonilco in Arleta, Los Angeles
| Wonho Frank Lee

Barbacoa might be the most treasured meal of the weekend for Mexican families. The pre-Hispanic tradition of pit-roasting lamb, goat, and even chicken and beef has proliferated across California thanks to immigrants who settled into the state’s busy urban centers and in agricultural communities throughout the Central Coast and Central Valley. These cooks prepare their passed-down family recipes through the styles and techniques found in small Mexican towns and the notable regions of Hidalgo, Texcoco, and greater Estado de México, establishing a trail of barbacoa up and down California. Here are 14 places to get traditional, slow-roasted barbacoa, from LA’s busy streets and Bay Area flea markets to quiet suburban backyards.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Barbacoa Mejía

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If you only had barbacoyero Omar Mejia’s lamb barbacoa at the Richmond Pulga (flea market) on a Saturday, you’d roll your eyes back in ecstasy over delicate cuts of lamb barbacoa on blue corn tortillas, seasoned by a salsa verde mingled with briny chinicuiles (grubs). Take a sip of tangy consomé, made with chipotle, and ask for directions to his Sunday location in American Canyon. There, Mejia offers the pride of Tulancingo: ximbo, a pit-roasted, spatchcocked chicken encrusted in a red adobo and cactus strips. A rare side, pancita blanco, is an offal-stuffed stomach without adodo that goes nicely with the salsa verde. Grab a corn tortilla and tear off a taco’s worth of chicken, cactus, and pork rinds at this home in the gateway to Napa Valley.

Ximbo barbacoa from Mejia
Ximbo barbacoa from Mejia
Wonho Frank Lee

2. Rosario’s Barbacoa Estilo Querétaro

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5282 E Marsh St
Stockton, CA 95215

Located in the Garden Acres neighborhood on the eastern edge of Stockton, bordering fertile farmland, is one of California’s only Querétaro-style lamb barbacoa operations. There’s lamb barbacoa and consomé, but the top attractions here for offal lovers are the montalayo (regional name for pancita) and machitos (offal wrapped in tripe). Tacos de montalayo here are chopped from a tightly packed lamb stomach filled with heart, liver, and intestines slathered in chile guajillo, while machitos are torpedo-shaped intestines, wound by a continuous string of tripe that’s cooked on a grill. Together, the pair of bold-flavored lamb tacos makes this stand a barbacoa destination. 

3. La Pulga Hidalguense Vendors

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716 W Gertrude Ave
Richmond, CA 94801

While Barbacoa Mejia is the stand to hit up at the Richmond Pulga, there are around a half-dozen competing vendors, all from the state of Hidalgo, selling lamb barbacoa along with essential dishes, including consomé and pancita. This might be the only place in California you can have a Hidalguense barbacoa crawl in one location, all while shopping for cell phone accessories, small appliances, and dishware.  

Barbacoa vendors at Richmond Pulga
Barbacoa vendors at Richmond Pulga
Wonho Frank Lee

4. Barbacoa Los Ramones

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3429 Esmond Ave
Richmond, CA 94805

In a quiet suburban home in Richmond, Ramon Coss prepares tender goat barbacoa, consomé with fatty streaks of goat oil, and a dark-hued, mineral montalayo from Guanajuato, a state not usually acknowledged for its barbacoa. Coss serves his barbacoa and montalayo on handmade corn tortillas, garnished with purple onion and cilantro, in a cheery backyard setting that feels like an invitation from a friendly neighbor.

Barbacoa and consomé from Barbacoa Los Ramones
Barbacoa and consomé from Barbacoa Los Ramones
Wonho Frank Lee

5. Hayward Barbacha

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24480 Thomas Ave
Hayward, CA 94544

Get barbacoa to go at a home located in this East Bay suburb, or get there early for the only table, a plastic picnic set four-top, for Hidalgo-style lamb barbacoa, barbacoa de pollo, and lamb heads. The chicken barbacoa is a whole bird stuffed with cactus and pork rinds, rubbed in an adodo and cooked in the pit, along with both beef and lamb heads clotted with adobo. Be sure to call in advance. 

Barbacoa from Hayward Barbacha
Barbacoa from Hayward Barbacha
Wonho Frank Lee

6. Borrego de Oro Estilo Texcoco

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609 Ming Ave
Bakersfield, CA 93307

Barbacoyero Rodrigo Chaparro sells Texcoco-style lamb barbacoa at his busy Bakersfield food truck, where customers crowd into a half-dozen picnic benches under a tacked-on tarp, providing shade for his regulars. There he serves a moist, stew-like reddish-brown pancita scented with epazote, and a light consomé to accompany popular cuts of supple lamb barbacoa such as ribs and shoulder. It’s an ideal breakfast stop on Highway 99 from Southern California toward Fresno and Yosemite.

Borrego de Oro Estilo Texcoco
Borrego de Oro Estilo Texcoco
Wonho Frank Lee

7. Barbacoa Mixteca in Santa Maria

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California’s barbacoa mixteca region in Oxnard and Santa Maria specializes in yique, a traditional dish that’s essential to barbacoa mixteca. With permission from community members, we visited a pair of stands at the homes of Mixteco barbacoyeros. Because it’s important for Mixtecos, and Indigenous people in general, to have safe spaces for their communities, Eater agreed not to publish these addresses.

Mixtec barbacoa in Santa Maria, California.
Mixtec barbacoa in Santa Maria, California
Wonho Frank Lee

8. Barbacoa Estilo Atotonilco El Grande

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Canterbury Ave & Hoyt St
Los Angeles, CA 91331

Gonzalo Ramirez has been cooking barbacoa as long as he can remember, first with his grandfather in Atotonilco El Grande, Hidalgo, and today in Arleta, where his son Erik Ramirez is learning the trade. Ramirez’s method includes raising the lambs, butchering them, loading the lamb cuts into the pit, placing pots for the consomé under them, and making the pancita in the pre-Hispanic tradition. The lamb is pink, supple, and perfect in a tortilla with just a little salt. The consomé is a beautiful expression of smoke, adobo, and the essence of the pit, rich with lamb oils. Grab a blood sausage taco, enhanced by green herbs, and slices of chile jalapeno to accompany a memorable breakfast from a true barbacoa artist.

Barbacoa Estilo Atotonilco El Grande
Barbacoa Estilo Atotonilco El Grande
Wonho Frank Lee

9. Barbacoa Estilo Chihuahua

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8905 Gullo Ave
Arleta, CA 91331

Taquero Ian Leyva’s beef barbacoa stand has put northern Mexican pit-roasting on the LA map, in a city that’s more familiar with central and southern lamb and goat barbacoa. Like his contemporaries in Chihuahua, Leyva slowly simmers beef cheeks and tongue in a large pot on a stove top, until the meat melts and fuses together in juicy clumps to spoon onto tacos, lonches (tortas), and into thin burritos. The buttery-rich must-have consomé is the star of the show.  

Barbacoa lonches, tacos, burritos, and consome from Barbacoa Estilo Chihuahua.
Barbacoa lonches, tacos, burritos, and consome from Barbacoa Estilo Chihuahua
Wonho Frank Lee

10. Barba Kush

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3909 Merced Ave
Baldwin Park, CA 91706

From a backyard in Baldwin Park, veteran Petra Zavaleta offers one of the most unique barbacoa styles in LA from her hometown of Tepeaca, Puebla. In addition to tender, flavorful lamb, and barbecued lamb skulls with eyes, tongue, and cheeks attached for making tacos with warming lamb consomé, Zavaleta serves a rich, iron-flavored lamb menudo called mole de panza enchilada that you can only find here.

Barba Kush Mexican Breakfast
Barba Kush
Trent Bozeman

11. Gish Bac

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4163 W Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90018
(323) 737-5050
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Maria Ramos is a third-generation Oaxacan barbacoa master with deep roots in the Mercado de Tlacolula in Oaxaca. Her barbacoa enchilada, or pit-roasted lamb in a chile-based marinade, is a smoky, spicy taste of pre-Hispanic tacos de barbacoa. In a city full of Oaxacan restaurants, Gish Bac is the best in its class for its esteemed barbacoa and traditional cookery.

Barbacoa from Gish Bac
Barbacoa from Gish Bac
Wonho Frank Lee

12. Barbacoa Estilo Tlacotepec, Puebla

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440 S Rowan Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90063

From his camper taqueria mounted on his pickup truck in East LA, barbacoyero Javier Ramirez serves delicious goat barbacoa, simply salted and roasted in a pit, with a flavorful consomé to complete his pithy menu. The rich consomé stock is cooked with goat bones that leech their marrow into the dish, with some adobo for color, pungent epazote, and garbanzos. Together it all represents Tlacotepec, Puebla, a little-known style of barbacoa from this southern Mexican state.

Barbacoa from Barbacoa Estilo Tlacotepec on a plate with a built taco and salsas with consomme.
Barbacoa from Barbacoa Estilo Tlacotepec
Wonho Frank Lee

13. Aqui es Taxco

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5607 McKinley Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90011

Tucked into a print shop parking lot, cloaked behind a canvas banner proudly displaying the Mexican silversmith capital of Taxco, Guerrero, Julio Jaimes prepares excellent lamb barbacoa, pancita, and goat birria with fresh tortillas made to order. One of the deepest skills of the barbacoa master is pancita, the offal-stuffed stomach of pit-roasted lamb, which requires meticulous cleaning before being covered in a scarlet plaster of chiles and spices. Julio gets this right — a balance of forbidden flavors of lung, heart, kidney, chitterlings, and liver with a rich chile guajillo that’s both subtle and alarming.

Julio James of Taxco Gro. cutting barbacoa de chivo at his stand in Los Angeles wearing a red apron.
Barbacoa Estilo Guerrero
Wonho Frank Lee

14. Aqui es Texcoco

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5850 S Eastern Ave
Commerce, CA 90040
(323) 725-1429
Visit Website

It took a feat of engineering to produce legal and traditional barbacoa inside of a U.S. restaurant. Former engineer and barbacoa master Paco Perez has done just that with his own oven design to simulate the conditions in an underground pit. Pit-roasted tender lamb cuts, pancita, and lamb skulls are served with corn tortillas, papalo (wild greens), and green and red salsas for making tacos, just like back in Texcoco at this large restaurant in Commerce.

Aqui es Texcoco in Commerce, California.
Aqui es Texcoco in Commerce, California
Wonho Frank Lee

1. Barbacoa Mejía

American Canyon, CA 94503
Ximbo barbacoa from Mejia
Ximbo barbacoa from Mejia
Wonho Frank Lee

If you only had barbacoyero Omar Mejia’s lamb barbacoa at the Richmond Pulga (flea market) on a Saturday, you’d roll your eyes back in ecstasy over delicate cuts of lamb barbacoa on blue corn tortillas, seasoned by a salsa verde mingled with briny chinicuiles (grubs). Take a sip of tangy consomé, made with chipotle, and ask for directions to his Sunday location in American Canyon. There, Mejia offers the pride of Tulancingo: ximbo, a pit-roasted, spatchcocked chicken encrusted in a red adobo and cactus strips. A rare side, pancita blanco, is an offal-stuffed stomach without adodo that goes nicely with the salsa verde. Grab a corn tortilla and tear off a taco’s worth of chicken, cactus, and pork rinds at this home in the gateway to Napa Valley.

2. Rosario’s Barbacoa Estilo Querétaro

5282 E Marsh St, Stockton, CA 95215

Located in the Garden Acres neighborhood on the eastern edge of Stockton, bordering fertile farmland, is one of California’s only Querétaro-style lamb barbacoa operations. There’s lamb barbacoa and consomé, but the top attractions here for offal lovers are the montalayo (regional name for pancita) and machitos (offal wrapped in tripe). Tacos de montalayo here are chopped from a tightly packed lamb stomach filled with heart, liver, and intestines slathered in chile guajillo, while machitos are torpedo-shaped intestines, wound by a continuous string of tripe that’s cooked on a grill. Together, the pair of bold-flavored lamb tacos makes this stand a barbacoa destination. 

5282 E Marsh St
Stockton, CA 95215

3. La Pulga Hidalguense Vendors

716 W Gertrude Ave, Richmond, CA 94801
Barbacoa vendors at Richmond Pulga
Barbacoa vendors at Richmond Pulga
Wonho Frank Lee

While Barbacoa Mejia is the stand to hit up at the Richmond Pulga, there are around a half-dozen competing vendors, all from the state of Hidalgo, selling lamb barbacoa along with essential dishes, including consomé and pancita. This might be the only place in California you can have a Hidalguense barbacoa crawl in one location, all while shopping for cell phone accessories, small appliances, and dishware.  

716 W Gertrude Ave
Richmond, CA 94801

4. Barbacoa Los Ramones

3429 Esmond Ave, Richmond, CA 94805
Barbacoa and consomé from Barbacoa Los Ramones
Barbacoa and consomé from Barbacoa Los Ramones
Wonho Frank Lee

In a quiet suburban home in Richmond, Ramon Coss prepares tender goat barbacoa, consomé with fatty streaks of goat oil, and a dark-hued, mineral montalayo from Guanajuato, a state not usually acknowledged for its barbacoa. Coss serves his barbacoa and montalayo on handmade corn tortillas, garnished with purple onion and cilantro, in a cheery backyard setting that feels like an invitation from a friendly neighbor.

3429 Esmond Ave
Richmond, CA 94805

5. Hayward Barbacha

24480 Thomas Ave, Hayward, CA 94544
Barbacoa from Hayward Barbacha
Barbacoa from Hayward Barbacha
Wonho Frank Lee

Get barbacoa to go at a home located in this East Bay suburb, or get there early for the only table, a plastic picnic set four-top, for Hidalgo-style lamb barbacoa, barbacoa de pollo, and lamb heads. The chicken barbacoa is a whole bird stuffed with cactus and pork rinds, rubbed in an adodo and cooked in the pit, along with both beef and lamb heads clotted with adobo. Be sure to call in advance. 

24480 Thomas Ave
Hayward, CA 94544

6. Borrego de Oro Estilo Texcoco

609 Ming Ave, Bakersfield, CA 93307
Borrego de Oro Estilo Texcoco
Borrego de Oro Estilo Texcoco
Wonho Frank Lee

Barbacoyero Rodrigo Chaparro sells Texcoco-style lamb barbacoa at his busy Bakersfield food truck, where customers crowd into a half-dozen picnic benches under a tacked-on tarp, providing shade for his regulars. There he serves a moist, stew-like reddish-brown pancita scented with epazote, and a light consomé to accompany popular cuts of supple lamb barbacoa such as ribs and shoulder. It’s an ideal breakfast stop on Highway 99 from Southern California toward Fresno and Yosemite.

609 Ming Ave
Bakersfield, CA 93307

7. Barbacoa Mixteca in Santa Maria

Santa Maria, CA
Mixtec barbacoa in Santa Maria, California.
Mixtec barbacoa in Santa Maria, California
Wonho Frank Lee

California’s barbacoa mixteca region in Oxnard and Santa Maria specializes in yique, a traditional dish that’s essential to barbacoa mixteca. With permission from community members, we visited a pair of stands at the homes of Mixteco barbacoyeros. Because it’s important for Mixtecos, and Indigenous people in general, to have safe spaces for their communities, Eater agreed not to publish these addresses.

8. Barbacoa Estilo Atotonilco El Grande

Canterbury Ave & Hoyt St, Los Angeles, CA 91331
Barbacoa Estilo Atotonilco El Grande
Barbacoa Estilo Atotonilco El Grande
Wonho Frank Lee

Gonzalo Ramirez has been cooking barbacoa as long as he can remember, first with his grandfather in Atotonilco El Grande, Hidalgo, and today in Arleta, where his son Erik Ramirez is learning the trade. Ramirez’s method includes raising the lambs, butchering them, loading the lamb cuts into the pit, placing pots for the consomé under them, and making the pancita in the pre-Hispanic tradition. The lamb is pink, supple, and perfect in a tortilla with just a little salt. The consomé is a beautiful expression of smoke, adobo, and the essence of the pit, rich with lamb oils. Grab a blood sausage taco, enhanced by green herbs, and slices of chile jalapeno to accompany a memorable breakfast from a true barbacoa artist.

Canterbury Ave & Hoyt St
Los Angeles, CA 91331

9. Barbacoa Estilo Chihuahua

8905 Gullo Ave, Arleta, CA 91331
Barbacoa lonches, tacos, burritos, and consome from Barbacoa Estilo Chihuahua.
Barbacoa lonches, tacos, burritos, and consome from Barbacoa Estilo Chihuahua
Wonho Frank Lee

Taquero Ian Leyva’s beef barbacoa stand has put northern Mexican pit-roasting on the LA map, in a city that’s more familiar with central and southern lamb and goat barbacoa. Like his contemporaries in Chihuahua, Leyva slowly simmers beef cheeks and tongue in a large pot on a stove top, until the meat melts and fuses together in juicy clumps to spoon onto tacos, lonches (tortas), and into thin burritos. The buttery-rich must-have consomé is the star of the show.  

8905 Gullo Ave
Arleta, CA 91331

10. Barba Kush

3909 Merced Ave, Baldwin Park, CA 91706
Barba Kush Mexican Breakfast
Barba Kush
Trent Bozeman

From a backyard in Baldwin Park, veteran Petra Zavaleta offers one of the most unique barbacoa styles in LA from her hometown of Tepeaca, Puebla. In addition to tender, flavorful lamb, and barbecued lamb skulls with eyes, tongue, and cheeks attached for making tacos with warming lamb consomé, Zavaleta serves a rich, iron-flavored lamb menudo called mole de panza enchilada that you can only find here.

3909 Merced Ave
Baldwin Park, CA 91706

11. Gish Bac

4163 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90018
Barbacoa from Gish Bac
Barbacoa from Gish Bac
Wonho Frank Lee

Maria Ramos is a third-generation Oaxacan barbacoa master with deep roots in the Mercado de Tlacolula in Oaxaca. Her barbacoa enchilada, or pit-roasted lamb in a chile-based marinade, is a smoky, spicy taste of pre-Hispanic tacos de barbacoa. In a city full of Oaxacan restaurants, Gish Bac is the best in its class for its esteemed barbacoa and traditional cookery.

4163 W Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90018

12. Barbacoa Estilo Tlacotepec, Puebla

440 S Rowan Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90063
Barbacoa from Barbacoa Estilo Tlacotepec on a plate with a built taco and salsas with consomme.
Barbacoa from Barbacoa Estilo Tlacotepec
Wonho Frank Lee

From his camper taqueria mounted on his pickup truck in East LA, barbacoyero Javier Ramirez serves delicious goat barbacoa, simply salted and roasted in a pit, with a flavorful consomé to complete his pithy menu. The rich consomé stock is cooked with goat bones that leech their marrow into the dish, with some adobo for color, pungent epazote, and garbanzos. Together it all represents Tlacotepec, Puebla, a little-known style of barbacoa from this southern Mexican state.

440 S Rowan Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90063

13. Aqui es Taxco

5607 McKinley Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90011
Julio James of Taxco Gro. cutting barbacoa de chivo at his stand in Los Angeles wearing a red apron.
Barbacoa Estilo Guerrero
Wonho Frank Lee

Tucked into a print shop parking lot, cloaked behind a canvas banner proudly displaying the Mexican silversmith capital of Taxco, Guerrero, Julio Jaimes prepares excellent lamb barbacoa, pancita, and goat birria with fresh tortillas made to order. One of the deepest skills of the barbacoa master is pancita, the offal-stuffed stomach of pit-roasted lamb, which requires meticulous cleaning before being covered in a scarlet plaster of chiles and spices. Julio gets this right — a balance of forbidden flavors of lung, heart, kidney, chitterlings, and liver with a rich chile guajillo that’s both subtle and alarming.

5607 McKinley Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90011

14. Aqui es Texcoco

5850 S Eastern Ave, Commerce, CA 90040
Aqui es Texcoco in Commerce, California.
Aqui es Texcoco in Commerce, California
Wonho Frank Lee

It took a feat of engineering to produce legal and traditional barbacoa inside of a U.S. restaurant. Former engineer and barbacoa master Paco Perez has done just that with his own oven design to simulate the conditions in an underground pit. Pit-roasted tender lamb cuts, pancita, and lamb skulls are served with corn tortillas, papalo (wild greens), and green and red salsas for making tacos, just like back in Texcoco at this large restaurant in Commerce.

5850 S Eastern Ave
Commerce, CA 90040

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