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Ditroit Taco with Salsa and Lime
Photograph: Courtesy Damian

The 28 best tacos in Los Angeles

Food trucks, sidewalks, pop-ups and brick-and-mortars: we ate our way through them all to find the best tacos in town—now it's your turn.

Edited by
Patricia Kelly Yeo
Contributors
Sara Rashkin
&
Stephanie Breijo
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In Los Angeles, there seem to be as many good-to-great taco spots as there are stars in the sky, but how can one even begin to decide where to start? After all, you can easily find chef-driven tacos in the $10 to $20 range made with the finest ingredients—though we'll have little to none of that on this list—as you can find $2 street tacos, ready to be popped straight into your mouth while you're standing on the sidewalk.

Our non-exhaustive best tacos list serves as a carefully curated selection of what we think are the city's finest tacos (some of which have even landed on our best restaurants list), along with a few more practical considerations like more regular operating hours and consistency in quality and service. (In our eyes, a "best" taco only the most dedicated, patient fans can get after waiting several hours isn't really a best taco at all.) Whether you’re a visitor or a local, read on for an excellent guide for anyone hoping to become a well-rounded taco connossieur.

RECOMMENDED: The best Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles

Where to find the best tacos in Los Angeles

  • Restaurants
  • Trucks
  • Boyle Heights
  • price 1 of 4

Come on—did you really think we wouldn’t include these guys? One of the long-standing heroes of the old-school taco trucks (aka loncheros), Mariscos Jalisco has earned a deservedly loyal and devoted following. Their signature tacos dorado de camaron ($2.50) are far from a secret, but they live up to the hype with flavorful and fresh shrimp folded into a corn tortilla that is then fried to a golden brown and topped with thick slices of avocado and a vibrant and complex salsa roja. You’ll also want to save room for their legendary tostadas like the Poseidon ($9.50), topped with shrimp ceviche, octopus and a fiery red aguachile of shrimp.

  • Restaurants
  • Trucks
  • Mid City
  • price 1 of 4

If you want one of the most popular types of tacos from one of the most popular purveyors, grab a couple of tacos al pastor ($2 apiece) from Leo’s. Your meat is either pulled from the plancha or else sliced from the hunk of marinated pork that’s flame-roasting on the large trompo, then topped with fresh pineapple shavings for a spicy and sweet charred snack. Leo’s now has seven locations, but it’s the La Brea spot that offers the reliable outdoor trompo and talented taquero on weekends and after 5pm on weeknights. In normal times, crowds swell for a party vibe in the gas station parking lot.

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Southeast Cities
  • price 1 of 4

This casual roadside operation in Bell Gardens serves up pozoles, tamales and phenomenal tacos from Mexico's Guerrero region, piling avocado and cabbage and chicharrones atop hours-long–simmered stews, and folding masa into both corn husks and banana leaves, depending on your mood. While better known for its tamales, the just-barely-fried tacos ($2) at Tamales Elena y Antojitos stuffed with barbacoa or pescadillas are excellent as well. 

 

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • South LA
  • price 1 of 4

A South L.A. institution, Tire Shop (also known as Taquería San Miguel) slings $2.25 Tijuana-style tacos absolutely dripping with avocado salsa. Mesquite-grilled meats provide flavor and texture from the smoky char, especially the carne asada. The kicker? Tortillas here are made to order, then folded into little paper-wrapped cones that ooze the green salsa out of one end. Of course we’re also partial to the freshly grilled chorizo and the complimentary charred peppers, and the massive mulitas ($7.50) and, well, everything. Just be sure to bring cash, then make your way through the line, grab your plate, and, when it’s set up, take a seat and make some friends at the large plastic table.

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Boyle Heights
  • price 1 of 4

If you’re looking for pura calidad, you’re in the right place. Taquero Walter Soto’s Boyle Heights stand is one of L.A.’s most popular spots for perfectly tender mesquite-grilled meats and just-bubbled flour tortillas, and it operates under that slogan—and man, does it deliver. You can always get El Ruso’s OG menu: sonora-style grilled meats stuffed into fresh flour tortillas for some of the heftiest, hottest, most flavorful tacos ($3.50) in L.A. Want more? During the week you can find Sinaloa-style specialties, including corn tortillas, tripitas and tostadas, meaning every day is a good day to eat El Ruso, no matter which style of tacos you’re craving.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Chinatown
  • price 1 of 4

Northern Baja-style tacos reign supreme at Mexicali Taco & Co, which has locations in both Chinatown and San Gabriel, thanks to head chef Esdras Ochoa’s housemade tortillas and excellent salsas made with ingredients from just across the border. While you can’t go wrong with their regular tacos ($3.75) and, of course, their wonderfully crispy, crema-laden Baja-style fish taco ($4.50), the real draws here are more gluttonous dishes like the triple meat and cheese-filled Zuperman ($7.95) and the garlic-lashed vampiro ($6.75) stuffed with with hand-chopped carne asada. Then again, when everything on the menu’s a winner, it’s pretty hard to pick a true favorite.

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 1 of 4

Owners Victor Delgado and Jorge “Joy” Alvarez-Tostado didn’t catch lighting in a bottle with their Tijuana-style tacos; they worked tirelessly, and with equal parts perfect product and total showmanship, the duo created L.A.’s most viral taco stand. Catch their team dressed in all red and tossing adobada from the trompo into tacos ($3.50)—and if Joy’s there, making kissy faces at the crowd—for dinner and a show that can’t be beat. And while the adobada is the star, we’re also partial to the mushroom taco ($3.50)—order it as perron ($5) for cheese and beans—and the vampiro ($5). We mentioned this outfit is enterprising, and they’ve quickly spread across the city: You can catch Tacos 1986 in Downtown, Burbank, Westwood Village, Pasadena, Beverly Grove and inside Echo Park's Button Mash.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Downtown
  • price 1 of 4

Since 1934, these legendary deep-fried beef taquitos ($3.60 for two) have sizzled in bubbling vats of oil on Downtown’s Olvera Street, the oldest street in all of Los Angeles. Smothered in a runny avocado salsa, these crunchy, corn-based cylinders are made fresh to order, as they have been since the shop opened, with a sort of nostalgic, crowd-pleasing deliciousness that once inspired the late L.A. writer Eve Babitz to extol their virtues in her autobiographical novel Eve’s Hollywood. Beyond the shop’s iconic taquitos, however, you’ll also find an extremely solid burrito ($7.50) and chile relleno ($5); all three are best enjoyed after strolling through the entirety of the touristy historical landmark.

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

One of the stars of California-inspired and genre-bending tacos, Guerrilla was one of the first to blaze the Alta California-style trail with a food truck that lit up the streets of L.A. Now, these farm-to-truck goods—formerly led by Wes Avila, who has sinced decamped to Chinatown's Angry Egret Dinette—have finally found a permanent home, and a more fixed menu, with fan favorite creations like the hamachi tostadas ($18) to the to sweet potato and feta tacos ($7). The tacos might be the move, but don’t neglect the daily specials either, and the cocktails—all priced around $14 to $15—are killer. 

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • South LA
  • price 1 of 4

With multiple locations in South Park, Downey, Montebello, Venice and Echo Park, Teddy Vasquez’s red-hot birria tacos ($1.99) are taking over. The taquero’s sudden rise is remarkable, both on the streets and online—with more than 160k Instagram followers—and while it might have something to do with how photogenic those bright red, dripping-with-sauce birria tacos are, it’s really due to the flavor. The long-simmered beef is tender enough, but before it gets served, each taco, quesadilla ($3.99), vampiro ($3.49), tostada ($2.49) or mulita ($3.49) gets a ladle of the spicy broth and it’s all fried on the plancha. Crispy, searingly hot and full of flavor, these are birria tacos to beat.

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  • Restaurants
  • Street food
  • Boyle Heights
This East L.A. taco truck run by the Villegas family provides one of the most unique tacos in the city: the taco arabe ($6). Influenced by 19th-century Lebanese immigrants who settled in the Mexican city of Puebla, each thick flour tortilla holds curls of a distinctive shawarma-like al pastor that tastes faintly of cumin and marjoram—though the exact recipe is a deeply guarded Villegas family secret. Topped with stringy Oaxacan cheese and slices of avocado—a.k.a. especiale ($6.50)—and paired with a tangy chipotle salsa, these super-hefty, super-delicious tacos are worth going out of your way for. Pro-tip: You very likely won’t need more than two.
  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

This stylish backdoor taqueria in the Arts District serves gourmet tacos ($7–$8) by way of chef Enrique Olvera, best known for Mexico City’s Pujol and New York’s Cosme. Though the tacos come at a premium, each one is made with the same delicate, housemade tortillas and fresh salsas served at its more upscale full-service sibling, Damian, for the kind of quality and freshness you can taste in every bite. Suadero tacos ($8 and a killer molenegro tamal ($7) highight seasonal California produce, all in lush, greenery-filled alleyway with free self-parking off Violet.

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Virgil Village
  • price 1 of 4

There’s no question: This pop-up is serving some of the most arresting and cheffy tacos the city’s every seen—a bold claim in L.A., where tacos often mingle with other iconic California ingredients and cultures, but a true one. Crab tacos ($6) might involve a smoked-chili schmaltz, while the signature barbacoa tacos ($6) come topped with hibiscus-pickled onions and a phenomenal, lick-your-fingers–good miso peanut salsa macha. There are Nashville-inspired hot chicken mulitas, and hoja santa quesadillas, and purslane-sprinkled octopus tostadas all worth an order. (Don’t even get us started on their fresh churros.) Follow along on Instagram to find out where they're headed next.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Highland Park
  • price 1 of 4

Outside a strip mall containing an AutoZone, Waba Grill and a Big 5 sits Tacos La Guera, a cash-only sidewalk operation that serves some of the best tacos in the city, including their delicious al pastor ($2), freshly carved off a glistening trompo, plus a selection of aguas frescas and horchata. Open nightly from 4:30pm to midnight, Tacos La Guera also operates in South Gate, Huntington Park, Boyle Heights and Venice—look for the taquero outside the Whole Foods off Lincoln Boulevard. Though your eyes may be drawn, as ever, to the rotating spit, we’re also partial to their other tacos, including lengua (beef tongue), buche (beef cheek) and ultra-tender suadero (navel beef plate).

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Los Feliz
  • price 1 of 4

Homesick Texans can find sweet Tex-Mex relief at HomeState, where the queso flows freely and the breakfast taco ($3.50-4.25) selection is tops. Choose either a corn or flour tortilla—both freshly made—then opt for eggs, bacon, cheese, refried charro beans, chorizo, shredded brisket and more in the mornings. (Or, you know, afternoon—you can get breakfast tacos all day.) There are non-breakfast options ($4-5), and migas, too: crispy corn strips with scrambled eggs, onions and cheese ($8.50-$12). Oh, and then there’s the Frito Pie in a Bag ($7.50)—a heartwarming bag of Fritos slathered in chile con carne, black beans, lettuce, tomato and pickled veggies. This is Lone Star cuisine, all right. Find them in Los Feliz, Highland Park, West Adams, Playa Vista and, soon, Pasadena.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Downtown Fashion District
  • price 1 of 4

Delicate, pliant flour tortillas made with Sonoran flour have made this Downtown taqueria notable city- and nationwide, if you're into that kind of thing. Smaller tacos ($3.25) spill mesquite-grilled meat, chopped cabbage and a runny avocado salsa, while the larger caramelos throw pinto beans and melty jack cheese into the mix ($7). The tacos here are stellar, but to truly experience the best of Sonoratown, you should probably also order one or two of those chivichangas ($5.50), the rolled-thin, burrito-like tubes stuffed with shredded meat and grilled Anaheim peppers.

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Chichen Itza
  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • South LA
  • price 1 of 4

Named after the ancient Mayan site, this unassuming cantina from celebrated chef Gilberto Cetina and his family specializes in affordable, authentic Yucatecan cuisine. There are tortas and full plates and tamales and even a handful of breakfast items, but we’re sold on the tacos ($6.45 to $7.65 for two), which come buried in saucy meats and tart pickled red onions. Try the cochinita pibil, the panuchos (miniature stuffed tortillas) and the octopus tacos—though take our advice and administer the habanero sauce carefully: A single excess drop of the fiery liquid will have steam shooting out of your ears.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • South LA
  • price 2 of 4

If you love the Yucatecan-forward food of Chichen Itza but wish there were more seafood, well, you—and all of us—are lucky that Gilberto Cetina branched out with Holbox. Drawing on technique, recipes and heritage from his family restaurant (which can be found at a nearby stall), Cetina also runs a seafood stand brimming with bold, bright tacos, ceviches, tostadas and cocteles. When it comes to tacos (around $6), the menu changes often and you’re just as likely to find scallops spilling from corn tortillas as you are uni, crispy octopus or kanpachi.

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Lincoln Heights
  • price 1 of 4

Though its original Lincoln Heights location has since closed, this exellent taco stand (whose popularity eventually gave rise to the virally popular Avenue 26 Night Market) still has locations in Mid-City, Little Tokyo and Eagle Rock. You’ll know it when you get there because it’ll be a party: There’s usually music, and late-night revelers, families and all other walks of life are here and lined up for some of the city’s best tacos. Al pastor is the staple at them all, and every option here is only $1.50—just be sure to tell them you want a free broth-soaked potato to go with it, then make your way to the serve-it-yourself salsa stations. 

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Monterey Park
  • price 1 of 4

This taco operation (now at a brick-and-mortar shop in Monterey Park) is all about the meat. The carnitas tacos boast heaping portions of tender, juicy braised pork (obliterating the thin tortillas underneath, which are simply a delivery method). You can order your favorite cut, or try the extra saturated pork scraps on the bottom of the pan (migajas), or go for the popular “aporkalypse” surtido taco with a mix of shoulder, stomach, belly and skin ($2). This is the spot to pig out on pig. But don’t stop by too late, as the small family operation can run out of several options before closing time due to high demand. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Boyle Heights
  • price 1 of 4

A slightly thick, freshly pressed corn tortilla does its best to wrap around piles of fillings so good it’s impossible to choose a favorite here. Armando de La Torre and his son, Armando de La Torre Jr., built an L.A. taco empire whose foundation is in the very name of the business. Guisados, flavorful hours-long braised and stewed meats and vegetables, are what make these so special, whether you’re opting for the spicy cochinita pibil with pickled onions ($3.45) or the mushrooms with cilantro and queso fresco ($3.45). Of course we’re also partial to the lightly battered fish taco ($3.95) and the tamales ($4) are killer. Can’t decide? Get the sampler ($8.50) made of six mini tacos whether you’re dining in Boyle Heights, Downtown, Echo Park, Pasadena, Burbank, West Hollywood or Beverly Hills.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Highland Park
  • price 1 of 4

Often erroneously listed online as Dos Mujeres, Jenny’s Tacos is a small, cash-only sidewalk cart in Highland Park selling tacos ($1.50) made with six kinds of meat and vegan-friendly nopales, or prickly pear cactus pads, on some of the best handmade corn tortillas in all of L.A. Open nightly from 5pm to 1am on a quieter stretch of York, Jenny’s typically offers mouthwatering juicy cuts of asada, al pastor, pollo, buche, chorizo and tripas as well as cups of at least one type of horchata or aguas frescas. Paired with a few pickled onions and jalapeños peppers, they’re quite possibly the most perfect post-drinking late-night snack.

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • North Hollywood
  • price 1 of 4

Angel’s Tijuana Tacos are packed with flavor and your choice of grilled meat and then, as to be expected from the style, get topped with cilantro, onions and a hearty dollop of avocado salsa. The handmade corn tortillas—which are exactly the perfect thickness—get formed, pressed and seared down the assembly line here and the trompo-shaved al pastor proves its own bit of showmanship, making every visit not only delicious but a feast for the eyes, too. Opt for tacos ($2.50), mulitas ($8), vampiros ($4.50), quesadillas ($9–10) and burritos ($9) in North Hollywood, Eagle Rock, Sylmar, Echo Park, Van Nuys, Jurupa Valley and Fontana.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Commerce
  • price 2 of 4

If you love lamb, the tacos at this Commerce sit-down restaurant are positively dreamlike. If you don’t love lamb, the tacos here will convert you. Aqui es Texcoco specializes in the traditional Texcoco-style barbacoa, which involves slow-roasting lamb covered with maguey leaves for more than seven hours. For your taco, you can choose lean leg meat, rib, tripe, brains or head ($3.25), but you can also opt for non-lamb fillings such as pressed pork belly or blood sausage. They’re all good, but our preference is the tender, fatty and very “lamb-y” rib meat (you may have to remove some bones). Served with onions, cilantro and salsa, these tacos are simple yet extraordinary, and can come either soft or grilled—though if you want to do it up you can opt for BBQ plates, combos, flautas, sopes, enchiladas and more. Pair with crunchy chapulines (fried grasshoppers) or grilled cactus slices for a true Texcoco-style feast.

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  • Restaurants
  • Vegan
  • Lincoln Heights
  • price 1 of 4

Forget the myth that vegan food is bland. At Cena Vegan, generational recipes for salsas and marinades—the kinds of marinades normally reserved for meats—make this entirely plant-based Mexican-food spot home to some of the most flavorful tacos, burritos and nachos around. There are spicy cashew cremas and saucy seitan al pastors and even vegan agua frescas, and when it comes to tacos ($4), they all come served on house-made, hand-pressed tortillas that are, you guessed it, also totally vegan.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Boyle Heights
  • price 1 of 4

Diehard birria fans, take note: Available only on Saturdays, and starting at 8am until they sell out—and boy, do they do sell out—this Boyle Heights stand roasts up the most succulent goat birria in all of Los Angeles. You’ll find it in taco form ($3) or sold as lamb ribs ($12), but no matter which way you’re eating their chivo, you’ll want to order a cup or four of Birria El Jalisciense’s comforting, perfectly seasoned consome for dipping and sipping.

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Central LA

At this Pico-Union bakery specializing in all things Yucatán, you'll also find an excellent cochinita pibil taco ($3)—one of the region's specialties. The menu expands on the weekends to include harder-to-find dishes such as rellenos negros ($3)—a type of succulent braised turkey meat—and blood-sausage tacos. The friendly service often leads to enthusiastic conversations on the subject of Mayan culinary history, so feel free to speak up while you chow down.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Highland Park
  • price 1 of 4

Is a flauta a taco? Look, we’re not here to debate you on this, but yes. And fried up perfectly from a colorful truck, the flautas from the Los Dorados truck provide some of the most satisfying taco crunch in town—and come dripping with refreshing salsas for a perfect hot-to-cold sensation with every crunchy bite. Massive corn tortillas wrap around chorizo, chicken, potato, and our favorite, the lamb barbacoa, all ordered two of each variety to a pair ($9) and topped with a showering of cotija. Find them popping up at Smorgasburg on Sundays; follow along on Instagram for location updates and hours on other days of the week.

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