Throughout the first eight (thousand) months of 2020, the only real constant has been change, and usually not for the better. So we take some small comfort in the fact that, despite all that, one thing has remained the same: Los Angeles is, was, and forever will be a taco town.
The city’s most famous spots have continued to do what they do best (as best as they can), but as is always the case, we’ve seen a host of great new places pop-up in parking lots, sidewalks, storefronts, and even ghost kitchens all over LA. To celebrate that resolute spirit - and since it had been a minute since we updated our Best Tacos In LA list - we decided to shine a spotlight on some of those new options. From an Oaxacan restaurant in Venice and a high-end taco pop-up at a Silver Lake wine bar to sidewalk grills across East LA and The Valley, these are ten of our favorite new taco spots across town.
TEN TERRIFIC TACOS
Tamales Elena Y Antojitos is a family run, Afro-Mexican restaurant in Bell Gardens that’s home to some of the best food we’ve eaten all year. The menu is filled with delicious specialties from the owner’s home state of Guerrero, including red pozole, pork tamales, and beef tongue guisado. The biggest highlight on the menu, however, are the pescadillas. Thin, crispy, and filled with perfectly stewed fish, we recommend getting at least three orders - one for you now, one for you in five minutes, and one for five minutes after that.
Los Dorados LA
Los Dorados is a tiny truck that only makes one thing - taco dorados (flautas) - but they are among the best versions we’ve ever eaten, period. Crispy, deep-fried rolled tacos doused in house-made salsa roja, guacamole, and cotija cheese - there’s nothing subtle about these flautas, and that’s exactly why we’re so addicted to them. There’s four different kinds (lamb barbacoa, chicken, chorizo, and potato), and while the lamb is probably our favorite, don’t fool yourself - you’re absolutely getting one of each. They pop up in Highland Park outside La Cuevita on Friday and Saturday nights, and in the Arts District on Sunday, so plan your weekend accordingly. These are tacos you need in your life immediately.
Taking over the former MTN space on Abbot Kinney, Valle’s menu leans Oaxacan, and the regional staples - tlayudas with quesillo and cocoa-bean spread, fantastic amarillo and verde moles - are certainly worth your attention. But we like their tacos the most; the focus is on flavorful, well-seasoned meats, like achiote-rubbed chicken with salted cabbage, and a grilled pork collar with pineapples, al pastor-style. The two standouts, though, are the tender and rich lamb barbacoa and the slightly salty pork belly, the latter of which is topped with green zebra tomato pico de gallo and a fermented manzano pepper salsa.
Metztli Taqueria is a weekly pop-up at Melody in Virgil Village, run by a married couple who met while working in the kitchen at Jean-Georges. So it’s fitting that these are deeply original and tremendous-tasting tacos with some fine-dining flourishes. They hand-press their soft, chewy blue masa tortillas, and fill them with fantastic ingredients like wild mushrooms chile verde with tomatillo, egg yolk bottarga and pine nut salsa morita, and, our favorite, the short rib barbacoa with hibiscus pickled onions, miso peanut salsa macha, and nori-forward Mexican furikake. The menu changes frequently, so check their Instagram to see what they’re serving this week.
In 2019, El Ruso became one of most popular taco trucks in LA, with people driving from all over the city for a taste of their homemade flour tortillas and Sonoran-style tacos. Both those things certainly still exist, but now, just on the weekends. During the week (Monday-Thursday), the menu has shifted to highlight owner Walter Soto’s Sinaloan roots, meaning corn tortillas, sweet and smoky adobada, and chorreadas (flat, crispy tacos coated with a layer of chicharron paste). Our recommendation is to come as hungry as possible, because you’re going to want everything you see - including their two-inch-thick, Sinaloa-style vampiro that we’ve yet to take down in one sitting.
Tacos Neza is a much-needed spot on Sunset by the border of Weho and Hollywood, an area where it’s nearly impossible to find an affordable lunch. (No, salad from the Rock & Roll Ralphs doesn’t count). Their roster of tacos is pretty deep - shredded chicken in mole, crispy al pastor topped with pineapple, grilled nopales - and most cost less than $4. Our favorite, though, is the rajas, featuring grilled poblano peppers and a sheet of crispy fried cheese. All tacos come on their pillowy, freshly made corn tortillas. Make sure you ask for a side of their house-made salsa verde and pickled onions.
Tacos Negros is a new spot run by the same people as My Two Cents, a tremendous Southern comfort food restaurant on Pico. The tacos here meld Southern and Caribbean flavors on hand-made tortillas. Think bacalao - salted cod - with potatoes and olives in crispy shells, or callaloo with fried plantains. We recommend you try a few different ones, to get the best sense of the inventive and straight-up fun tacos they’re making here. But whatever you do, make sure you get our favorite: The pan-fried crab cake with pickled okra, which is topped with My Two Cents’ sweet, spicy hot sauce.
If you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you already have your quesotaco go-to - Tacos Y Birria La Unica, Birrieria Gonzalez, or perhaps Papi Tacos & Churros? But if you’re looking to add a new spot to your rotation, check out Villas Tacos. Starting with a thick, Dodger-blue corn tortilla (owner Victor Villa’s way of showing love to his hometown team) and crispy cheese, each taco is a stupendous, seven-layer affair - featuring creamy refried beans, diced onions, cilantro, crema, cotija, fresh guacamole, plus the mesquite-grilled protein of your choice. The house speciality (and we do mean house, since Villa grills in his grandmother’s Highland Park backyard) is chorizo and potato, and it’s spicy, smoky, and satisfying, especially when topped with Villa’s chunky tomato salsa with radish and cilantro, and some of their slightly acidic pickled hibiscus onions. Interested? Give Villas Tacos a follow on Instagram, and DM them to place an order for pick-up.
There’s a lot to try at this Tijuana-style taquero, so we’re going to make things easy. Here’s the order: One queso taco shell, filled with al pastor pork, then topped with guacamole and salsa. We like the standard corn masa tortillas as well, but the queso shell comes with a mound of cheese and is fried to perfection. And while there are plenty of great meats on the menu (we particularly like the soft and briny cabeza), to ignore the giant, rotating trompo out front would be a massive mistake. The meat that comes from it is beyond tender - the marinated pork is filled with a smoky, almost sweet flavor, provided from the chunks of pineapple sitting at the top. Has anyone made a trompo ASMR video yet? Or should we be the first foray into that market?
Mixing the flavors of the Philippines and Mexico, Kaon! is a new taco ghost kitchen located around Pico-Union. What is a taco ghost kitchen you ask? That means they operate out of a pick-up only location, and you’ll have to place your order ahead of time online. But that doesn’t make the food any less legit. The menu is filled with a mix of Filipino staples, like beef kare-kare, oxtail adobo, and lechon kawali, but what you want to focus on is the sisig taco. If you’re used to the mixed meat dish over rice, this taco is a little different - it’s a bit less stew-y, and has a good amount of crunch. It’s filled with twice-cooked pork belly, and seasoned with onions, jalapeños, and just a touch of calamansi for a fresh, flavor-packed taco.