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Jakob Layman
September 15, 2021
9 LA Chefs & Restaurateurs Pick Their Favorite Tacos
Lengua, cochinita pibil, and more.
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Fresh tortillas stuffed with juicy meat and vegetables right off the griddle, layered with salsas and freshly chopped condiments—is there a better handheld snack? Nowhere else in the country can you find a stand, truck, or taqueria in every neighborhood serving tacos from the early morning to the late-night hours. Hungry Angelenos don’t discriminate mealwise, housing tacos for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The plethora of tacos only makes sense when you consider that there are nearly 5 million Hispanic/Latinx people living in Los Angeles County, and three quarters are of Mexican heritage. To illustrate the broad and boundaryless appeal of LA tacos, nine local restaurant experts share their favorites.

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Victor Morales, executive chef at Beachside Restaurant & Bar, Marina del Rey

“Tacos are mi amor! One of my absolute favorite spots to get tacos is Tire Shop Taqueria, inside a tire shop on Slauson and Avalon in South Central LA. By day, the place runs a window tint and tire shop. In the evening, the grills and planchas roll in ready to feed the hungry peeps of LA. The charcoal is lit and the meat starts grilling. You can see the clouds of smoke driving down Slauson Avenue and the smell beckons you to come in and taste one of the meanest tacos in LA.

Groups will form a line and wait to get the tacos for literally an hour and a half. They hand-make their tortillas and will serve you either tacos, mulitas, or vampiros, and often a loaded baked potato topped with your choice of grilled meat. The meats range from al pastor, carne asada, to chorizo. All of the meats are grilled over charcoal, which allows the meat to char beautifully and gives it a smoky flavor, with just the right amount of crispy bits and juicy tenderness. Each taco is topped with your choice of salsa from hot habanero, roasted guajillo, to the more mild tomatillo. You can wash all these tacos down with aguas frescas or Mexican Cokes. Often it’s a tailgating party in the parking lot while people eat al fresco to the sounds of music coming from their cars.”

Wendy Denova, manager at Bardonna, Santa Monica

“I love Tacos Tu Madre’s playful approach to tacos. I remember visiting their Westwood taco shop in college and have loved seeing their menu grow with even more creative takes on a classic taco. My favorite has to be their KBBQ Taco with a 36-hour marinated steak with kimchi and avocado tomatillo salsa. Their tacos feel like a fun representation of Los Angeles, from the classic street tacos to fusion renditions that reflect the best flavors of our city. They also have a vegan version of the KBBQ taco with mushroom bulgogi that is just as delicious when I’m craving something a little healthier.”

Aya Makino, general manager at Sushi Note, Sherman Oaks

“My go-to is typically tacos de lengua, but my favorite taco by far in LA has been the el pastor from Tacos El Venado. It’s a classic taco but their salsa verde takes it over the top. Great portions and the al pastor is always juicy and flavorful. Consistency is key and I’ve never been disappointed.”

Rudy Lopez, executive chef at Soulmate, West Hollywood

“My favorite are the good old crispy shrimp tacos from Mariscos Jalisco. I’ve been going to their original location in East LA since I was a kid. In high school, we would go almost every Friday night! Best part is knowing you can order a beer ‘preparada,’ pretty much making it a Michelada on the spot.”

Shrimp tacos at Mariscos Jalisco. Photo: Jakob Layman

Jorge Sandoval, chef and pizzaiolo at Brooklyn Avenue Pizza Company, Boyle Heights

“I came across El Ruso on a Boyle Heights Taco Tour Night a few years back with my kitchen crew before they moved to Silverlake. It was stop number five on our tour, and I still vividly remember being surprised by the truck’s attention to detail and the unique combination of flavor. That experience has stayed with me for many years, and is one of my favorite taco experiences of all time.

My go-to taco at El Ruso is the taco con carne en chile Colorado, which is made with dreamy handmade flour tortillas, layers of medium spiced sauce, tender chunks of meat, and creaminess of the beans. I promise you will be hooked for life after the first bite. An ice-cold beer enjoyed with your fellow hardworking colleagues at El Ruso is the perfect way to end your day.”

Franco Rivadeneyra, executive chef at Gracias Madre, West Hollywood

“I’d recommend Los Guichos for the best al pastor tacos. I love how spicy their tacos are and they add a sweet and cinnamon touch to them. They’re located inside a mechanical station and have massive trompos on the weekends. Happy Taco stands out for their cabeza and lengua tacos because of the firm tortilla and super soft, tasty toppings. Also, their sauces are always very fresh and they serve you with a smile.”

Joshua Gil, chef and partner at Mírame, Beverly Hills

“The carnitas tacos from Carnitas El Momo are my absolute favorite. The tacos utilize essentially every part of the pig from snout to tail, and the mulita is absolutely incredible too. I highly recommend getting a mulita surtido for the perfect mix of meat and skin.”

The Carnitas El Momo truck. Photo: Jakob Layman

Lilian Sears, owner at Coffee Corner, The Original Farmers Market

“I’m going to have to hand it to Guisados. Not a very original choice, as it’s an LA staple at this point, but they’re still the best I’ve had thus far in LA. My son and I visit Guisados every time we make it out to Echo Park, whether for leisure or business. Nothing better than grabbing a half dozen tacos from Guisados and proceeding to enjoy them by the Echo Park lake!”

Tacos from Guisados.

Frances Tario, CEO of Du-par’s Restaurants & Bakeries, The Original Farmers Market

Tito’s Tacos has been a Culver City staple for me for many years. My family and I support Tito’s Tacos and bring all our out-of-state family as a treat. Yuca’s Taqueria is also famous for their Yucatán-flavored cochinita pibil ... Both are women-owned, something near and dear to my heart.

Tacos to go from Tito's.

We grew up on El Taurino tacos on Hoover Street though. I remember going at a very young age, maybe when I was in third grade. It was always a treat to order asada tacos with green salsa and their famous atole in any flavor. Whether it was chocolate or vanilla, it was always homemade and warm. This was always a stop on our way back from mass on Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12th.”

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