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Photograph: Stephanie Breijo for Time Out

In a surprise to no one, L.A.’s most iconic dish is the taco (may it reign forever)

We asked you to vote for the city’s most iconic dish, and the results weren’t even close.

Written by
Stephanie Breijo

L.A. is full of universal truths: There’s traffic along the 405 somewhere, Burbank is the superior airport and the taco is king—that last truth is why we’re here today, gathered to celebrate the ultimate Angeleno meal. Time Out L.A. asked you to vote for our city’s most iconic dish as part of the Time Out Index and the winner is, of course, the taco—and it wasn’t even close.

Found in alleyways and Michelin-starred restaurants and street carts and historic food halls and car washes and every other corner of this city, tacos remain the undefeated champion for every mood, budget and craving. Traditionalists who specialize in tacos from hyper-specific regions are lauded and lifted up just as much as our modern mad-scientist taqueros bending all the rules, and ditto those dedicated to the ever-growing movement of cheffy, Alta California tacos piled with microgreens or anything else that catches their eye at the farmers’ market.

But how did we get here? While the exact origins of the taco are unknown, when it comes to pinpointing the dish’s beginnings, it’s all about that base: Nixtamalized corn, which forms the base of many a tortilla today, can be traced to more than 3,000 years ago when Mesoamerican cultures used it to hold and spoon up beans, meats and stews. 

As Latin culture spread its wealth of guisados, moles, masa and more throughout the world, the taco began to take on new flavor and shape. It’s both an art form and a canvas: Tacos can simultaneously be a regional history of Mexico, a glimpse into hyper-personal family recipes and methods, and a bridge between cultures continents—just ask Roy Choi, whose Kogi truck revolutionized L.A. through its tacos heaped high with Korean BBQ short rib and its quesadillas brimming with kimchi.

Los Angeles embraces the taco in all forms, so of course it won in a landslide; the taco toppled the competition with 39% of the vote. The runner-up? Avocado toast, with only three percent. Ramen, burgers and sushi followed with 2 percent, while specifically fish tacos, the French dip sandwich, and general “Mexican food” trailed at one percent. 

Want to celebrate this victory with a taco? Of course you do, and we have a guide to the 29 best tacos in L.A. for just the occasion. In fact, we’ll join you. (Now if only we could decide on where to begin.) 

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