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

38 Essential Tacos to Try in Los Angeles

LA has the breadth, depth, and specialization as America’s best taco scene

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Barbacoa from Barbacoa Estilo Atotonilco El Grande.
| Wonho Frank Lee

The taco scene in Los Angeles is as vibrant today as it has ever been, thanks to a new crop of Instagram-ready street stars and the usual collection of dedicated classics sprinkled throughout the city. From birria stands with thousands of followers to hidden Compton spots only for those in the know, Los Angeles (considered by some to be the “second-largest” Mexican city in the world) is rife with amazing vendors doing what they love, and serving their communities precisely where they’re at. Here now, a list of the 38 essential taco spots in greater Los Angeles.

Note: Many places are street vendors or temporary setups, so be sure to note the hours and locations. Explore more stories from the United States of Mexican Food.

Added: Tacos Don Manolito, Birrieria Jalisciense, Angry Egret Dinette, Barbacoa Estilo Atotonilco El Grande

Removed: Taco Maria, Tire Shop Taqueria, Bar Ama, Taquizas Gilberto

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission. Please be aware of changing local rules, and check individual restaurant websites for any additional restrictions such as mask requirements. Find a local vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Barbacoa Estilo Atotonilco El Grande

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Hoyt St & Canterbury Ave
Los Angeles, CA 91331

For barbacoyero Gonzalo Ramírez, there’s only one way to make barbacoa, the recipe he learned from his grandfather in Atotonilco El Grande, Hidalgo. Ramírez raises his own lambs, butchers them, roasts large lamb cuts in a cylindrical pit wrapped in maguey spines, and then serves smoky, tender lamb barbacoa tacos across from the DMV in Arleta on Sunday mornings only. Order a mix of barbacoa; well-herbed, stewed moronga (blood sausage); and pancita (offal stuffed stomach), and Ramírez’s earthy consomé, a stock made from the lamb drippings that taste like the smoldering essence of the pit.

The Ramirez family at their barbacoa stand in Arleta, California
The Ramirez family at their barbacoa stand in Arleta, California.
Wonho Frank Lee

2. Tacos de 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. Whether tacos, lonche, or burros — the buttery, rich must-have consome 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.

3. Tacos Los Palomos

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20505 Sherman Way
Winnetka, CA 91306

The story of Mexico City-style al pastor has been written by a small group of indigenous Mihe entrepreneurs from Oaxaca like Fermin Martinez, whose trompos stretch from the San Fernando Valley, to San Bernardino County, to Torrance. Multiple locations serve tender al pastor in a sweet adobo that’s best enjoyed in a plate of tacos, gringas, with melted cheese inside a flour tortillas, or alambres — a stirfry of cheese, peppers, onions, ham, and al pastor that comes with a stack of corn tortillas.

Al pastor tacos from Tacos Los Palomos.
Al pastor tacos from Tacos Los Palomos
Matthew Kang

4. Cacao Mexicatessen

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1441, 1576 Colorado Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90041
(323) 478-2791
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Before Guerrilla Tacos, it was this Mexican-American taqueria in Eagle Rock that first made LA wonder about the possibilities of a taco, be it duck carnitas, Nieman ranch pork belly chicharrones, or Tijuana-style quesatacos. The tempura battered shrimp chile güero relleno topped with Santa Barbara sea urchin and a drizzle of chile serrano soy salsa is a delicious ode to the Californias (Alta and Baja) on a tortilla.

5. Ricky's Fish Tacos

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3061 Riverside Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 395-6233
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Ensenada native Ricky Piña has an obsessive attention to detail when it come to Ensenada-style fish tacos, from his tempura batter (made with flour from Baja California) that yields light, crispy golden brown filets to the house-made cream, salsas, and soft, white corn tortillas. True to taquero code, Piña only serves fish and shrimp tacos; he’s the specialist that reenergized the LA taco scene back in 2009.

Fish tacos at Ricky’s Fish Tacos.
Ricky’s Fish Tacos
Cathy Chaplin

6. Taqueria Mazatlán

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13445 Arrow Route
Fontana, CA 92335
(626) 774-1993
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Mazatleco Joshi Coronel’s outstanding carne asada tacos were so popular that within a year of opening he was able to open a brick and mortar taqueria. Coronel worked nearly every restaurant position at Guadalajara Grill, and Mango’s Bar in Mazatlán, then at Culichitown here in LA, before becoming a champion of the chorreada. Coronel uses a thick, sope-style corn tortilla—not a pair of corn tortillas like many others are doing — slathered with asientos (unrefined lard), and melted cheese topped with tender carne asada with fine char, layered with pico de gallo, shredded cabbage, and salsas. Sadly during the pandemic the physical location closed, but Taqueria Mazatlán is still operating as a truck. Check the Instagram for details.

Carne asada tacos at Taquería Mazatlán.
Carne asada tacos
Matthew Kang

7. Tacos Don Manolito (TDM)

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5553 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 366-2688
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LA’s first tacos a la plancha taquería, or flat top grill tacos, comes from a popular chain based in Mexico City founded by Eduardo Palacio Sr. in 2005. The Hollywood sit-down taquería is the place to try tacos campechanos, a CDMX-standardized mix of homemade crumbled chicharrón, chopped cesina (beef jerky), and spicy chorizo on an artisanal corn tortilla made from nixtamalized corn. The next item should be a maja, a crispy cheese envelope stuffed with sliced rib-eye, or your choice of meats, on a delicious flour tortilla with caramelized onions, and a smoky salsa roja.

Tacos Don Manolito.
Tacos Don Manolito.
Wonho Frank Lee

8. Burritos La Palma

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5120 Peck Rd
El Monte, CA
(626) 350-8286

Northern Mexican burritos (a regional style of taco) filled with savory stews were as much an innovation when the Bañuelos family opened Burritos La Palma in Jerez, Zacatecas in 1980 as they were when the first U.S. branch launched in El Monte five years ago. The beef birria burrito drips with simply seasoned meat juices and a light smear of refried beans, whose fragrant flavors permeate the fresh flour tortilla, staining through in a reddish-brown.   

9. Barba Kush

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3909 Merced Ave
Baldwin Park, CA 91706

From backyard barbacoa to a brick and mortar in Boyle Heights (and currently located in Baldwin Park), veteran barbacoa master 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 consommé, there’s a rich, iron flavored lamb menudo called mole de panza enchilada. 

Lamb barbacoa, menudo, and quesadillas from Barba Kush
Barba Kush
Stan Lee

10. Angry Egret Dinette

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970 N Broadway Suite 114
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 278-0987
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Taco Thursdays at chef Wes Avila’s Chinatown window are taking fans back to the days when Guerrilla Tacos founder was on the streets of the Arts District writing his chapter in the story of Alta California cuisine — a modern Mexican-American style of cooking born in Southern California. There’s usually a Baja-style fish taco on the menu, crêpe-thin flautas filled with short ribs, as well as other market-driven specials. But on Thursdays, Avila serves cured tripe finished in hot duck fat; tacos gobernadores, a spicy shrimp and melted cheese taco; and duck confit covered in charred salsa macha on blue corn tortillas. Avila’s tacos are back!

Chef Wes Avila in Los Angeles, California
Chef Wes Avila in Los Angeles, California
Dylan + Jeni

11. Mexicali Taco & Co.

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702 N Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 613-0416
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Edras Ochoa is the original northern taquero in LA, the liberator of true carne asada cooked over an open flame here in the U.S. when he opened his cart on 1st and Beaudry back in 2009. The vampiro filled with carne asada is a riff on a traditional quesataco or quesadilla with meat, moistened by a modish garlic aioli to ward off the vampires for an original take on the Sinaloan vampiro. Mexicali has a new location in San Gabriel as well.

A quesadilla and vampiro on a bright red table at a Mexican restaurant.
Mexicali Taco & Co.
Cathy Chaplin

12. Cielito Lindo

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23 Olvera St
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 687-4391
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There’s no room for nostalgia here, but these legendary taquitos aren’t just the original taco in Los Angeles. They’re solely responsible for the current taco craze in America, and they’re delicious. Order deep fried beef taquitos drowned in a runny avocado salsa oozing with a piquant beefiness thickened with avocado. It’s like being one with the taco universe. Since 1934, the story of the taco north of the Rio Grande begins and ends here. 

13. Carnitas El Momo

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Fairmount St
Boyle Heights, CA
(323) 627-8540
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The best way to have carnitas at Romulo Acosta’s shrine to Mexican confit-style pork cuts is to skip the onions and cilantro, and squeeze in some juices from a pickled jalapeño, chasing each bite of moist pork with some of the chile. That’s the way it’s done in Salamanca, Guanajuato. For more than half-century, “Momo” has been making artisanal carnitas, a trade he’s passed onto his children, ensuring the best carnitas in the U.S. are here to stay.

Carnitas El Momo
Carnitas El Momo
Trent Bozeman

14. Tacos El Tamix

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2402 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90006

Another Oaxacan owner, Rolando Martinez, employs the same strategy as Leo’s, a badass marinade and veteran al pastor taqueros recruited from Mexico’s street food institutions to make his al pastor. The alambres, a hash of sautéed al pastor, peppers, onions, bacon, and Oaxacan cheese are a DIY taco party, and on any given night, Tamix might be the best in LA for their al pastor, too.  

Tacos Tamix
Matthew Kang

15. Leo's Tacos Truck

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1515 S LA Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 346-2001
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Al pastor’s second wave was ushered in by the Oaxacan brothers behind a Mexico City-style food truck strategically placed on Venice and La Brea, within striking distance of a crossover audience. The blogs were soon filled with tales of mercenary taqueros and massive crimson mounds of sweet marinated pork, symmetrically trimmed off of vertical spits finished with the spectacle of flying chunks of pineapple snagged with Ozzie Smith-like precision onto a tortilla. Leo’s now has a fleet of trucks spreading the gospel of traditional al pastor to all Angelenos. 

Leo’s Tacos Truck
Leo’s Tacos Truck
Cathy Chaplin

16. Los Dorados LA

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Traction Ave & E 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Steven Orozco Torres’s flautas (deep fried tacos) are as colorful as his ice cream truck, splashed in kaleidoscope of purples and blues. The flautas are colorful too, with golden crunchy pipettes filled with smoky chicken tinga, potato and chorizo, or potato. The tacos are dressed in thick avocado sauce, cream, and a thin line of red salsa, coated in finely-crumbled cotija cheese. But the lamb barbacoa is on a whole other level. Opt for their dark, silky salsa, that’s a secret blend of dried chiles, that sticks to the flauta like a truck wrap, and the perfect amount of sour from Mexican cream. Antojitos don’t get better than this.

17. Macheen

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2633 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90033
(323) 269-2995
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Has there ever been a time when chef Jonathan Pérez, and his sister, Ana, weren’t running to their next pop-up location, hyping a constantly evolving menu of modern Mexican-American tacos? Currently, they have a regular gig at Milpa Grille in Boyle Heights, where devoted fans can bite into umami-rich mushroom al pastor tacos, chicken in a sweet white mole and fried chicken tacos with hibiscus slaw, brought back by popular demand. The most talked about item is a hefty pork belly breakfast burrito, swelled by crispy hash browns, and spicy, melted cheese.

18. La Flor De Yucatan

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1800 S Hoover St
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 748-6090
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LA doesn’t have many restaurants representing the Yucatán peninsula, but the Burgos family has been delivering the (baked) goods since 1971. Order a taco de relleno negro, where shredded turkey is cooking in a black achiote paste contrasted by pickled red onions and a creamy guacamole. Chasing each bite with a whole raw habanero is conventional, but for humanity’s sake, optional.

19. Sonoratown

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208 E 8th St
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 290-5184
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There’s much to love about Jennifer Feltham and Teodoro Diaz-Rodriguez’s warm storefront taqueria — its menu of regional Sonoran tacos, the lorenza, caramelo, carne asada tucked into Sonoran wheat flour tortillas, and the chivichanga. The proposition of well-seasoned chicken, melted cheese, roasted Anaheim peppers, and tomatoes wrapped in a tasty flour tortilla, which is then lightly fried, is a simple pleasure worth repeating. 

Sonoratown’s flour tortilla taco with guacamole salsa on top.
Sonoratown
Farley Elliott

20. Gish Bac

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4163 W Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA
(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 restaurant in its class for its esteemed barbacoa and traditional Oaxacan cookery. 

Gish Bac dish
Barbacoa enchilada from Gish Bac
Matthew Kang

21. Birrieria Nochistlan

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3201 E 4th St
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 268-0319
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Jalisco is the gold standard when it comes to goat birria, followed by respected traditions in Aguascalientes and Zacatecas, especially Nochistlán de Mejia, Zacatecas, just three miles from the Jalisco state line, where the Moreno family originates. Their Boyle Heights outpost serves an austere rendition of braised goat in stock made from the drippings with only a hot chile de árbol salsa, chopped onions, and cilantro as condiments. 

22. Tacos Quetzalcoatl

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(323) 396-7596

For State of Mexico-style tacos with cecina (soft beef jerky), adobo (marinated pork), and barbacoa, and tacos filled with wild greens, the Omega-2, no one comes close to Max Gutierrez, an eccentric taquero prone to flipping tortillas with a spatula to impress his customers and behind-the-back passes of paper plates covered in tacos. Tacos come with cheese fried on the plancha, plated sticky side down, crispy side up, adding a flair to the best vegetarian taco option in town. It can be a little difficult to find, but anyone looking will be rewarded with amazing tacos. The operation is typically at 4827 E Olympic Blvd.

23. Asadero Chikali

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401 S Atlantic Blvd
East Los Angeles, CA 90022
(323) 314-2666

Originally part of a second wave of Baja California themed carne asada trucks, the Pérez family has added tacos made with northern Mexican guisados: steak and potatoes, scrambled eggs with ham, or chicharrónes in a red salsa. Get the guisados sampler; grab a stack of handmade flour tortillas made by Melva Pérez, and start taco’ing. 

Asadero Chikali
Asadero Chikali

24. Tacos Y Birria La Unica

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2840 E Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90023
(323) 715-4025

Taquero Yasmany Mendoza’s popular food truck is one of the big winners in LA’s birria wars, always commanding a long line of taco devotees that show up for goat and beef birria. Mendoza serves the most requested Tijuana-style taco dishes Angeleno’s crave: tacos, dorados (crispy tortilla), mulitas (taco sandwiched in between two tortillas), quesatacos (tacos with melted/fried cheese), vampiros (taco on a toasted corn tortilla), and quesadillas dripping with birria juices. But with birria trucks on practically every corner, it’s the rich, herbal stew with streaks of animal fat in this truck’s birria that keeps them coming back for more. 

Birria de res tacos from La Unica
Tacos Y Birria La Unica
Matthew Kang

25. Mariscos Jalisco

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3040 E Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 528-6701

Could a recipe define a city? The secrets of flavorful shrimp are tucked into a corn tortilla then further obscured by the frenetic blistering of hot fat cooled by a frothy tomato salsa and a slice of avocado. Los Angeles hides its treasures in plain sight, under the fleeting shade doled out by rows of iconic fan palms, but on East Olympic Boulevard it’s the taco dorado de camarón from San Juan de Los Lagos that is an indelible image.   

Fried shrimp tacos at Mariscos Jalisco
Mariscos Jalisco
Matthew Kang

26. Los Originales Tacos Arabe de Puebla

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E Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA

Tacos arabes aren’t possible without the special tortillas, called pan arabe, that are made exclusively in Puebla. Most vendors will just place the roasted pork — cooked on a vertical spit just like al pastor but with a different marinade — on a corn tortilla, which are actually called tacos orientales in Puebla. The Villegas family brings in traditional products from Puebla and prepare their tacos with tender pork and a tangy chipotle salsa.

Tacos Arabes truck in Boyle Heights with new livery
Tacos Arabes truck in Boyle Heights
Bill Esparza

27. Birria El Jalisciense

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3442 E Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90023

There’s nothing more welcoming on a Sunday morning than the sight of Héctor Ramírez’s modified pizza oven, as he removes baking sheets full of blistered slabs of birria tatemada de chivo, or oven-roasted goat birria. Ramírez’s recipe comes from the northwestern highlands of Jalisco. Tender, charred goat birria comes in tangy consomé, or separately to make your own tacos with corn tortillas. Slurp the meat stock separately, and for a dollar more, get the maciza, the connoisseurs choice — a meaty, juicy boneless cut from the leg.

28. Chichen Itza Restaurant

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3655 S Grand Ave #C6
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 741-1075
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One of the most popular Mexican dishes, cochinita pibil, is prepared at this market stall with a homemade recaudo (also, recado) rojo, better known as achiote paste, with tender pork broken down by bitter orange juice roasted in banana leaves from a Cetina family recipe. Gilberto Cetina Sr. and Jr. are open to some modernization but when it comes to flavor, there’s an army of Yucatecan women from the Cetina family back home in Mérida to make sure traditional cooking remains the backbone of their operations.  

29. El Ruso

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1401 Mirasol St
Los Angeles, CA 90023
(323) 246-6819
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It would be easy for a customer from one of LA’s Mexican communities in the taco-know to see wayfaring taquero Walter Soto, a Tijuana native with culichi roots who has worked in Sinaloa, Sonora, and LA, and Julia Silva’s truck as curators of LA taco hits, yet there’s more than meets the eye. El Ruso is the most meta taqueria of the moment, with a menu of tacos about LA taco and tortilla trends. Here Mazatlan-style chorreadas, Tijuanense birria de res, Sonoran influenced carne asada with Sinaloan condiments, and Sonoran burritos wrapped in sobaqueras made by Silva from Baja Californian wheat filled with chile colorado reflect a menu that could only happen in LA. 

el ruso tacos on plate
El Ruso
Farley Elliott

30. La Burrita Marina

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Felspar St
Jurupa Valley, CA 92509

This is the first US branch of this prominent burrita vendor from Puerto Vallarta, giving Jurupa Valley our one and only truck dedicated to Puerto Vallarta-style seafood burritas (feminine of burrito). Start with the especial with huge smoked marlin notes, shrimp, and octopus sauteed with bell peppers and onions, then folded into a large flour tortilla with lettuce, avocado, tomato, and cheese. Mixtas are prepared with two seafood items, shaped into rounded rectangular, well-browned burritas for you to slick with crema de chipotle and crema de serrano dressings. There are great ceviches, tostadas, and very good seafood tacos, but you’ll never forgive yourself if you miss these burritas—one for here and one to-go. Located at 4747 Felspar St.

Two marlin tacos from above with avocado slices on corn tortillas.
Two marlin tacos from La Burrita Marina
Matthew Kang

31. Tacos Los Guichos

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320 W Slauson Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90003

One of the original tire shop taquerias of Los Angeles, this team of seasoned taqueros are a double threat, serving some of the best al pastor in the city by night and turning out high-quality Mexico City-style carnitas on weekend mornings that include exotic cuts like ears, snouts, kidneys, and uterus. On Friday and Saturday nights, they load up two impressive trompos, effortlessly carving sweet, crispy pork onto corn tortillas putting on a show for taco lovers from all over town. 

32. Teddy’s Red Tacos Venice

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46 Windward Ave
Venice, CA 90291

Teddy Vasquez is making good on his dream to put a delicious taco into as many LA hands as possible. His outlet in Venice sits just by the beach in a prime location, and serves up the same delicious birria de res, or simmered beef, tacos with signature bright red consomme as his Slauson truck original.

teddys red tacos
Teddy’s Red Tacos
[Official Photo]

33. Tacos La Güera

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5930 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90003

The al pastor here is worthy to be among the top vendors in town, but where this food truck sets itself apart from others in its grade is by serving true suadero, or brisket tacos. Tacos de fritanga, or meats fried in a stainless steel disc with a convex center are mostly supplied by Jaliscans, who don’t get into as much offal as their CDMX (Mexico City) counterparts, but one can still find chorizo, hog’s maw, chitterlings, and brisket.

34. Aqui es Texcoco

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5850 S Eastern Ave
Commerce, CA
(323) 725-1429
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It took a feat of engineering to produce legal and traditional barbacoa inside of a U.S.-based 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 (offal-stuffed stomach), and lamb skulls are served with corn tortillas, papalo (wild greens), green and red salsas for making tacos, just like back in Texcoco. 

Aqui es Texcoco barbacoa
Aqui es Texcoco barbacoa taco
Wonho Frank Lee

35. Tamales Elena Y Antojitos

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8101 Garfield Ave
Bell Gardens, CA 90201
(562) 674-3043
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The talented traditional cook Maria Elena Lorenzo and her daughters, a team of professional cooks, have opened their first brick and mortar that’s a pozolería, tamal stand, and a shrine to Afro-Mexican cuisine from La Costa Chica, Guerrero all at once. The guisados: tongue with plantains, aporreadillo (eggs with beef jerky), and mole verde are perfect for making your own tacos, but try the tacos dorados here. The pescadillas (crispy fish tacos) are as good as what you’ll find in Acapulco, and Lorenzo’s spicy beef barbacoa comes suave (corn tortilla) or dorado (deep fried corn tortilla), but its juicy fragrant stands of meat are best enjoyed in a crunchy shell. Call ahead to see which tacos are being served each day.

Aporreadillo, a scramble of beef jerky and eggs with tortillas.
Aporreadillo, a scramble of beef jerky and eggs with tortillas

36. Los Sabrosos al Horno

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4901 Patata St
Cudahy, CA 90201
(323) 407-5930
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Roast suckling pig tacos, called puerquito echado in Acaponeta, Nayarit — where taquero David Delfin grew up — are the only thing on the menu at his street cart, located in a dirt lot across from an industrial park in Cudahy. Fill the paper plate with tender, pork pulled from the carcass onto corn tortillas with a piece of golden, crispy skin. The dish is not complete with the traditional salsa de mostaza (mustard salsa), moistening the tacos with sweet, spicy chile guero for a light, tangy finish.

A ladle pours over yellow salsa onto pork tacos.
Pork tacos from Los Sabrosos al Horno
Wonho Frank Lee

37. Coni'Seafood

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3544 W Imperial Hwy
Inglewood, CA
(310) 672-2339
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Connie Cossio is a second-generation cook and seafood cocktailer from Acaponeta, Nayarit — the traditional seafood capitol of Mexico and home to amazing ceviches, cocktails, stews, and pescado zarandeado (whole grilled fish). There are many plates to explore at this Inglewood institution, but the smoked marlin tacos with melted cheese are a required order.

38. Tacos La Carreta

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3401 E 69th St
Long Beach, CA 90805

Regional carne asada has disseminated in recent years with provincial styles representing Mexicali, Tijuana, Sonora, and now Mazatlán, where mesquite-grilled steaks for chorreadas and vampiros fill the tangy beach resort air with a the balm of roasted meats. Now serving out of a taco truck, Jose Morales Jr. grills quality steak, greases a thick tortilla with asiento (unrefined pork lard) and melted cheese, then piles on the meat, creamy avocado salsa, pico de gallo, and slices of cucumber to snack on the side. 

Carne asada tacos and vampiro from La Carreta Matthew Kang

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1. Barbacoa Estilo Atotonilco El Grande

Hoyt St & Canterbury Ave, Los Angeles, CA 91331
The Ramirez family at their barbacoa stand in Arleta, California
The Ramirez family at their barbacoa stand in Arleta, California.
Wonho Frank Lee

For barbacoyero Gonzalo Ramírez, there’s only one way to make barbacoa, the recipe he learned from his grandfather in Atotonilco El Grande, Hidalgo. Ramírez raises his own lambs, butchers them, roasts large lamb cuts in a cylindrical pit wrapped in maguey spines, and then serves smoky, tender lamb barbacoa tacos across from the DMV in Arleta on Sunday mornings only. Order a mix of barbacoa; well-herbed, stewed moronga (blood sausage); and pancita (offal stuffed stomach), and Ramírez’s earthy consomé, a stock made from the lamb drippings that taste like the smoldering essence of the pit.

Hoyt St & Canterbury Ave
Los Angeles, CA 91331

2. Tacos de 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. Whether tacos, lonche, or burros — the buttery, rich must-have consome is the star of the show.  

8905 Gullo Ave
Arleta, CA 91331

3. Tacos Los Palomos

20505 Sherman Way, Winnetka, CA 91306
Al pastor tacos from Tacos Los Palomos.
Al pastor tacos from Tacos Los Palomos
Matthew Kang

The story of Mexico City-style al pastor has been written by a small group of indigenous Mihe entrepreneurs from Oaxaca like Fermin Martinez, whose trompos stretch from the San Fernando Valley, to San Bernardino County, to Torrance. Multiple locations serve tender al pastor in a sweet adobo that’s best enjoyed in a plate of tacos, gringas, with melted cheese inside a flour tortillas, or alambres — a stirfry of cheese, peppers, onions, ham, and al pastor that comes with a stack of corn tortillas.

20505 Sherman Way
Winnetka, CA 91306

4. Cacao Mexicatessen

1441, 1576 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041

Before Guerrilla Tacos, it was this Mexican-American taqueria in Eagle Rock that first made LA wonder about the possibilities of a taco, be it duck carnitas, Nieman ranch pork belly chicharrones, or Tijuana-style quesatacos. The tempura battered shrimp chile güero relleno topped with Santa Barbara sea urchin and a drizzle of chile serrano soy salsa is a delicious ode to the Californias (Alta and Baja) on a tortilla.

1441, 1576 Colorado Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90041

5. Ricky's Fish Tacos

3061 Riverside Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Fish tacos at Ricky’s Fish Tacos.
Ricky’s Fish Tacos
Cathy Chaplin

Ensenada native Ricky Piña has an obsessive attention to detail when it come to Ensenada-style fish tacos, from his tempura batter (made with flour from Baja California) that yields light, crispy golden brown filets to the house-made cream, salsas, and soft, white corn tortillas. True to taquero code, Piña only serves fish and shrimp tacos; he’s the specialist that reenergized the LA taco scene back in 2009.

3061 Riverside Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90027

6. Taqueria Mazatlán

13445 Arrow Route, Fontana, CA 92335
Carne asada tacos at Taquería Mazatlán.
Carne asada tacos
Matthew Kang

Mazatleco Joshi Coronel’s outstanding carne asada tacos were so popular that within a year of opening he was able to open a brick and mortar taqueria. Coronel worked nearly every restaurant position at Guadalajara Grill, and Mango’s Bar in Mazatlán, then at Culichitown here in LA, before becoming a champion of the chorreada. Coronel uses a thick, sope-style corn tortilla—not a pair of corn tortillas like many others are doing — slathered with asientos (unrefined lard), and melted cheese topped with tender carne asada with fine char, layered with pico de gallo, shredded cabbage, and salsas. Sadly during the pandemic the physical location closed, but Taqueria Mazatlán is still operating as a truck. Check the Instagram for details.

13445 Arrow Route
Fontana, CA 92335

7. Tacos Don Manolito (TDM)

5553 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Tacos Don Manolito.
Tacos Don Manolito.
Wonho Frank Lee

LA’s first tacos a la plancha taquería, or flat top grill tacos, comes from a popular chain based in Mexico City founded by Eduardo Palacio Sr. in 2005. The Hollywood sit-down taquería is the place to try tacos campechanos, a CDMX-standardized mix of homemade crumbled chicharrón, chopped cesina (beef jerky), and spicy chorizo on an artisanal corn tortilla made from nixtamalized corn. The next item should be a maja, a crispy cheese envelope stuffed with sliced rib-eye, or your choice of meats, on a delicious flour tortilla with caramelized onions, and a smoky salsa roja.

5553 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028

8. Burritos La Palma

5120 Peck Rd, El Monte, CA

Northern Mexican burritos (a regional style of taco) filled with savory stews were as much an innovation when the Bañuelos family opened Burritos La Palma in Jerez, Zacatecas in 1980 as they were when the first U.S. branch launched in El Monte five years ago. The beef birria burrito drips with simply seasoned meat juices and a light smear of refried beans, whose fragrant flavors permeate the fresh flour tortilla, staining through in a reddish-brown.   

5120 Peck Rd
El Monte, CA

9. Barba Kush

3909 Merced Ave, Baldwin Park, CA 91706
Lamb barbacoa, menudo, and quesadillas from Barba Kush
Barba Kush
Stan Lee

From backyard barbacoa to a brick and mortar in Boyle Heights (and currently located in Baldwin Park), veteran barbacoa master 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 consommé, there’s a rich, iron flavored lamb menudo called mole de panza enchilada. 

3909 Merced Ave
Baldwin Park, CA 91706

10. Angry Egret Dinette

970 N Broadway Suite 114, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Chef Wes Avila in Los Angeles, California
Chef Wes Avila in Los Angeles, California
Dylan + Jeni

Taco Thursdays at chef Wes Avila’s Chinatown window are taking fans back to the days when Guerrilla Tacos founder was on the streets of the Arts District writing his chapter in the story of Alta California cuisine — a modern Mexican-American style of cooking born in Southern California. There’s usually a Baja-style fish taco on the menu, crêpe-thin flautas filled with short ribs, as well as other market-driven specials. But on Thursdays, Avila serves cured tripe finished in hot duck fat; tacos gobernadores, a spicy shrimp and melted cheese taco; and duck confit covered in charred salsa macha on blue corn tortillas. Avila’s tacos are back!

970 N Broadway Suite 114
Los Angeles, CA 90012

11. Mexicali Taco & Co.

702 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA
A quesadilla and vampiro on a bright red table at a Mexican restaurant.
Mexicali Taco & Co.
Cathy Chaplin

Edras Ochoa is the original northern taquero in LA, the liberator of true carne asada cooked over an open flame here in the U.S. when he opened his cart on 1st and Beaudry back in 2009. The vampiro filled with carne asada is a riff on a traditional quesataco or quesadilla with meat, moistened by a modish garlic aioli to ward off the vampires for an original take on the Sinaloan vampiro. Mexicali has a new location in San Gabriel as well.

702 N Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA

12. Cielito Lindo

23 Olvera St, Los Angeles, CA

There’s no room for nostalgia here, but these legendary taquitos aren’t just the original taco in Los Angeles. They’re solely responsible for the current taco craze in America, and they’re delicious. Order deep fried beef taquitos drowned in a runny avocado salsa oozing with a piquant beefiness thickened with avocado. It’s like being one with the taco universe. Since 1934, the story of the taco north of the Rio Grande begins and ends here. 

23 Olvera St
Los Angeles, CA

13. Carnitas El Momo

Fairmount St, Boyle Heights, CA
Carnitas El Momo
Carnitas El Momo
Trent Bozeman

The best way to have carnitas at Romulo Acosta’s shrine to Mexican confit-style pork cuts is to skip the onions and cilantro, and squeeze in some juices from a pickled jalapeño, chasing each bite of moist pork with some of the chile. That’s the way it’s done in Salamanca, Guanajuato. For more than half-century, “Momo” has been making artisanal carnitas, a trade he’s passed onto his children, ensuring the best carnitas in the U.S. are here to stay.

Fairmount St
Boyle Heights, CA

14. Tacos El Tamix

2402 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006