The Best Tacos In Los Angeles guide image


The Best Tacos In Los Angeles

LA is a taco town. Consider this your checklist for the best of the best.

Is there a more ubiquitous food in LA than tacos? Doubtful. From late-night al pastor trucks in South LA to family-run taquerias with stunning carnitas, to say that LA’s taco options are unlimited still feels like an understatement. And let’s be clear—this is a very good problem to have.

The search for LA’s best tacos is also never-ending. And if you’re looking for a guide to the Best Vegan Tacos In LA, we’ve got you covered. Have a special spot we missed? Shoot us an email or slide into our DMs—we’d love to hear from you. But for now, here are the 25 best tacos in LA, according to us.


photo credit: Jakob Layman

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Mariscos Jalisco


3040 E Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles
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Crowning the best taco in Los Angeles is like trying to explain to that one relative that they're texting you through their email—nearly impossible. But for our money, there isn’t a better single-bite experience in LA than at Mariscos Jalisco in Boyle Heights. This iconic seafood truck parked on an industrial stretch of Olympic Blvd. only has one taco on the menu, but it is glorious. It’s the taco de camaron, and it’s a deep-fried shell stuffed with plump shrimp and smothered in bright tomato salsa and fresh avocado. We would travel across oceans to eat this thing, so let’s all be thankful it’s just right off the 5 (and, thanks to its fleet of trucks, now also in Mid-City, Pomona, and Downtown LA as well).

From the moment you step inside Los Cinco Puntos, it’s clear you’re in for a special experience. This decades-old market and deli in Boyle Heights is a neighborhood institution that sells everything from cheeseburgers to breakfast burritos to spices and dried chiles. You’re here for the tacos, though—and so is everyone else. Make sure to hit the excellent salsa bar, which is an attraction by itself: the tart, pickled nopales offer a counterpunch to any fatty meats, and the guacamole is thick, chunky, and the color of Shrek, so you know it's fresh. Carnitas are the house specialty, and while they're some of the best we’ve had in LA, the crispy chicharron is even better. Frankly though, when the tortillas are as thick and fantastic as they are at Cinco Puntos, we’ll drive across the city to eat any kind of taco they’re wrapped around.

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At El Ruso, a Sonoran-style taco truck in Silver Lake, everything boils down to the tortilla. Made with flour that the truck's owner sources from his hometown of Tijuana, these are the kind of chewy, translucent tortillas that make each bite a euphoric experience. As far as El Ruso’s excellent mesquite-grilled meats go, the muñeco combo is definitely our top choice. Smoky chopped carne asada and spicy chicharron en salsa roja are piled into one of those golden tortillas, plus you have the option of going all out by adding stewed pintos, cabbage, and diced onion to create a hearty beast of a taco.  And if they happen to have them on the menu that day, don't leave without a burrito wrapped one of their sobaqueras, a giant, stretchy hubcap-sized Sonoran flour tortilla that's the only one of its kind in town. 

photo credit: Jakob Layman

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Carnitas El Momo

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If you love juicy, fat-simmered carnitas as much as we do, there’s a good chance you’ll agree that no one does it better than Carnitas El Momo. This Boyle Heights food trailer has expanded to Monterey Park with a full counter service restaurant (complete with a giant pig mural) and at both spots, you'll be greeted by the same amazing porky aroma. Though you can order tortas and quesadillas stuffed with their carmelized Michoacan-style carnitas, the best items here are the standard tacos, which are so obscenely rich they need little embellishment beyond a dab of salsa verde and some pickled jalapeños. Pick your cut (shoulder, belly, skin, burnt ends, or, our favorite, the mixed “Aporkalypse” style) and watch them heap the melting bits of meat onto warm tortillas, then do your best to not drip any of those precious pig juices on your shirt.

Carne asada competition is tough in LA, but Sonoratown has managed to take a tiny taqueria space in Downtown and build it into a full-on institution for Sonoran-style tacos filled with smoky grilled meats. The legendary housemade flour tortillas here melt in your mouth, and the charred steak that gets tucked inside them is tender with the exact right degree of saltiness. You can certainly go for their regular tacos, but our move is the caramelo, which is about double the size and comes topped with pinot beans, jack cheese, salsa roja, avocado, and diced cabbage. There's a second location in Mid-City as well, with much easier parking.

Owned by the same family as Holbox, this busy stall inside Mercado La Paloma near USC has been serving traditional Yucatan cuisine for the past twenty years and is still going strong. You're going to want to start with their flagship cochinita pibil, sweet and savory slow-roasted pork that’s been marinated in achiote and sour orange and cooked inside a banana leaf: It's the best version in the city and the one that others are measured against. But you should probably save room for their shredded turkey panuchos, housemade longaniza, and char-grilled pollo asado, too. These are tough decisions to make, which is why we usually order several rounds of tacos at Chichen Itza rather than choose one entree—somehow, you can always find room for one more taco.

You’ll probably smell Tacos Los Poblanos before you see it. This nighttime Tijuana-style taco stand (and Tire Shop Taqueria rival) grills its carne asada over mesquite charcoal, which sends a smoky trail wafting down Slauson Ave. Our usual order goes like this: a few asada tacos, plus a cheese-lined vampiro with chorizo if we’re hungry, then a step back to watch the taqueros thwack-thwack grilled meat with a cleaver and fling spoonfuls of salsa with acrobatic precision. Each taco is crowned with a dollop of thick guacamole and wrapped in paper like an ice cream cone. Paired with a big gulp of agua de jamaica, it’s a taco ASMR experience that tickles all your senses.

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To find truly outstanding al pastor, it must come from a trompo, a hypnotic vertical rotisserie where marinated pork is shaved off in thin slices like shawarma. If you head to Tacos Los Güichos, a truck in South LA that parks at a tire shop right off the 110, you’ll know immediately you’re in the presence of al pastor royalty. Most nights you’ll see two, perhaps even three, big reddish-orange trompos with taqueros carving the pork using long knives and handing out tacos that are scarfed down in seconds. Charred on the edges, embarrassingly juicy, and a touch sweet, the Mexico City-style al pastor here is unmatched. But two caveats: the truck doesn’t roll out the trompos until 5pm, so don’t come before that. And don’t expect a slice of pineapple on top or a side of avocado salsa (though their earthy salsa roja is A-plus). Los Güichos’ owner considers them distractions and is happy to tell you so.

You can’t fake a great taco al vapor, more or less because there’s simply nothing to hide behind. This purist style from Jalisco involves beef parts cooked for hours over a steam bath until they practically jiggle, paired with corn tortillas that have been warmed to a custard-like texture. And we consider Tacos El Negro, with locations in South Gate and Bell Gardens, the LA al vapor specialist. At El Negro, nearly everyone orders tacos by the plateful and you should do the same (no joke, this place pumps out more steam than a sauna). Top them with a little onion and cilantro, some creamy thinned-out guacamole—plus a dab of their wicked habañero salsa if you’re feeling masochistic—and savor the beefy bliss.

This street-cart-turned-food-truck—which relocated from Compton to an industrial stretch of North Long Beach a couple of years ago—specializes in Sinaloa-style chorreadas, a toasted corn tortilla that’s slicked with pork fat, then topped with a mound of chopped grilled steak and a rough salsa thickened with chopped cabbage. It might look a little like a standard asada taco, but your first one will be a near-religious experience. You can add melted cheese to the whole setup to make it a vampiro, or swap in a baked potato for the tortilla to make it a papa loca. All of them are fantastic with their agua de cebada, a creamy-sweet drink that’s like horchata but made with roasted barley. Make sure to check La Carreta’s Instagram for hours of operation.

Tacos Y Birria La Unica is the food truck we head to for all things birria. With both beef and goat versions on the menu, you can enjoy the spicy chile-braised meat in a taco, quesataco, mulita, or even in a cup of ramen when visiting this Boyle Heights destination (with a second location in Mid-City as well). The goat is particularly delicious, and the cash-only truck’s rich consommé does an excellent job of enhacing the meat’s natural gaminess. But, in order to try a little of everything, our go-to order here is their holy trinity: a goat birria taco, a beef birria taco, and a goat birria quesataco. When it comes to their quesataco, La Unica gently fries housemade corn tortillas to a nice crunch before stuffing them with juicy birria and lots of molten white cheese that oozes and stretches with each bite. Pour on a bit of their habañero salsa for an extra dose of heat.

Cacao Mexicatessen doesn’t just have one of the most phonetically satisfying words in the English language in its name (Mexicatessen is our personal "cellar door"), it’s also a Northeast LA staple that has been serving delicious and inventive tacos for over a decade. The famed duck carnitas here are a must-order, which has much to do with how the sweet fattiness of the meat soaks perfectly into the warm blue corn tortilla. We also love the Ensendas fish tacos, which come with a giant piece of golden fried fish topped with cabbage, crema, and pickled onions (add sea urchin if you want to go big), as well as the sesame-topped Korean short rib and the guisado de pato, duck cracklings and nopales stewed in a savory chile arbol salsa. The place is technically order-at-the-counter, but there’s a large adjacent dining room with TVs and a full menu of interesting cocktails if you want to hang out.

Plain and simple, this family-run food truck serves tacos that are unlike anything else in the city. Made with marinated roast pork and smoky chipotle salsa wrapped in a thick, soft flour tortilla that almost resembles a pita, the signature tacos arabes here can be traced back to the Mexican city of Puebla, where 19th-century Arab immigrants intertwined kebabs and shwarma with central Mexican cuisine. Our favorite order here is the Especiale, which is a traditional taco arabe upgraded with stringy quesillo cheese and buttery slices of avocado. Once you see the heft of these babies, you’ll realize you might only need one. OK, maybe two. Tacos Arabes is open Wednesday through Sunday, and usually parks in Mid-City during the daytime and in Boyle Heights at night, though we recommend confirming their hours/location on Instagram.

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LA Guide

The Best Tortas In LA

Here’s a “brunch if you hate brunch” plan: go get barbacoa. The pit-roasted meat dish, usually made with lamb or goat, is famously labor-intensive (seriously, watch an episode of Taco Chronicles on Netflix) and the best LA vendors often sell it only on weekend mornings. Barbacoa Estilo Taxco—a veteran sit-down operation that sets up from 7am-2pm Saturdays and Sundays under a big tent in South LA—is one of those places, and like cartoons to a six-year-old, is worth getting up early for. The signature here is Guerrero-style roasted lamb (sold by the pound or as tacos) rubbed generously with adobo and served with a side of heady lamb consommé. The barbacoa is velvety soft and tender, exceptional on its own but somehow even better as a taco, wrapped in a fresh-pressed tortilla and dabbed with chunky salsa verde. Plan to arrive early(ish) and bring cash.

photo credit: Jakob Layman

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Guerrilla Tacos



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Guerrilla Tacos used to be one of LA’s best taco trucks, and before that one of LA’s best taco carts, and ever since it moved into a permanent space in the Arts District a few years ago, it’s been one of LA’s best taquerias, too. Though it’s no longer the new kid on the block, Guerrilla Tacos is still one of our favorite places in the city for creative and tasty tacos that treat the tortilla like a blank canvas. The menu changes fairly often, which means you might find wackier options like a fried “fish & chips” taco topped with mashed pea guacamole or a black pepper steak taco with peanut chile crisp and a squiggle of hoisin sauce. That said, the menu staples—like the sweet potato taco with feta, or the fantastic pork belly one—still hold their own. Add in their great cocktails and raw dishes, and you’ve got a complete sit-down taco experience with something to please everyone.

Look, we know putting a place with burritos in its name on a “Best Tacos” list is a little confusing, but bear with us. Burritos La Palma is a local chain that originates from Jerez, Zacatecas, a region where small, tightly-wrapped burritos made with chewy flour tortillas and filled with guisados and are considered to be a form of taco. Got it? Beyond that, the most important thing to know about Burritos La Palma is that these simple burritos are petit enough for most people to put away two-to-three in a sitting, which is a good thing given that all the fillings here are fantastic. We particularly love the smoky, fall-apart beef birria, shredded beef in green chile, and spicy stewed chicharron. There are locations of Burritos La Palma in El Monte and Santa Ana, as well as a pick-up window in Boyle Heights, but whichever one you visit, make sure to grab a bag of their buttery, housemade flour tortillas to take home.

While most of the city is either sleeping in or suffering through some 7am workout class they pretend to enjoy, Asadero Chikali is busy preparing simmering batches of soul-warming stews for breakfast tacos. This East LA food truck serves spectacular Mexicali-style tacos de guisado that will easily be the highlight of your day, served on tender handmade flour tortillas and filled with things like shredded beef with roasted potatoes, chicharron cooked in tangy salsa, and spicy chorizo with scrambled eggs. Beyond breakfast, Asadero Chikali also uses those delicious tortillas for classic Norteño carne asada tacos, which come seasoned with a nice charcoal flavor from the grill. Make sure to grab one of their cheesy vampiros, too: a corn tortilla toasted until crisp and browned, then piled high with handfuls of melty cheese and grilled asada on top.

If taco stands were judged the same way as baseball prospects, Angel’s Tijuana Tacos would be what coaches call a five-tool player. Not only does this taco stand with locations all over LA County excel at juicy al pastor with a flick of pineapple, they also serve smoky grilled asada and flavorful braised meats like cabeza, too. In fact, from the bright salsas to the pressed-to-order tortillas, we’ve yet to encounter anything Angel’s doesn’t do well (dry cleaning? tax services?). Even if you insist you’ve had better this or that at other taco spots, rarely can you find all of it in one place, never mind an operation that has 12 locations stretching from North Hollywood to Long Beach. We're not Angels fans but we're Angel's fans, dig?

Los Dorados is a tiny food trailer that only makes one thing: taco dorados. And, as you might expect from a place that sells just one item, they do crispy, deep-fried rolled tacos really, really well here. Doused in housemade salsa roja, spicy mole sauce, or avocado salsa verde, then finished with a heavy sprinkle of cotija cheese—there’s absolutely nothing subtle about these crunchy, extra-long beauties and that’s exactly why we love them. There are usually four different fillings to choose from (lamb barbacoa, chicken, chorizo-potato, and bean and cheese), and while the lamb is probably our favorite, don’t fool yourself—you’re getting one of each. Los Dorados generally pop ups around the Eastside on Thursday through Saturday, and at Smorgasburg on Sunday, so keep an eye on their Instagram and plan accordingly. You need these flautas in your life immediately.

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If you take one bite of a taco from Villa's Tacos and think, “I’ve never really had anything like this before,” it’s because you probably haven’t. This Highland Park taco stand is home to fully loaded tacos that come on Dodger-blue corn tortillas layered with crispy griddled cheese, diced onions, cilantro, crema, cotija, guacamole, and a mesquite-grilled protein of your choice. Oh, and did we mention they have seven different salsa and hibiscus-pickled onions, too? These tacos might sound overloaded, but the more-is-more totally approach works here, and in our experience, it's almost impossible to order wrong. That said, you should probably go with the Villa's Trio, a cheesy three-taco sampler that includes grilled asada, chorizo with potato, and chicken with black beans. Keep an eye on their Instagram as they pop up at various locations along York Blvd. in Highland Park throughout the week.

You might have noticed that Macheen, which serves out of Milpa Grille in Boyle Heights on weekdays and at Smorgasburg on Sundays, also makes one of our favorite breakfast burritos in LA. Well, we’re here to tell you that they are just as skilled at putting things on heirloom blue corn tortillas as they are stuffing things inside big flour tortillas. Macheen usually offers a handful of inventive and colorful fillings, like fried chicken tossed in salsa macha as well as solid vegetarian options like sauteed mushrooms done al pastor-style. But the must-order here is the pork belly taco, which drips with juice and comes on a bed of black beans and nopales. Takeout is most popular at the Boyle Heights location, but if you have time for a relaxed lunch, grab a table on their shaded streetside patio and eat your tacos with a turmeric cinnamon iced latte from Cafe Cafe, a craft coffee pop-up in the same space.

The name of the game at Carnitas El Artista in Inglewood is the Michoacan-style carnitas —tender, slow-fried chunks of pork that are beautifully crisp and bronzed along the edges. You’ll find excellent pork shoulder carnitas at this father-and-son operation, but El Artista also goes whole hog by mixing in other cuts, from pork ribs and chicharron to lengua and cabeza. Whether you go with their hefty tacos, a torta, burrito, quesadilla, or a big plate of chilaquiles topped with a fried egg as your carnitas vessel, you’ll catch serious aromas of garlic and lime rising up from the juicy, caramelized meat. For our money, you won’t find a more memorable carnitas experience west of the 110.

Conveniently located at the corner of National and Sawtelle just off the 405, Brothers Cousins is the late-night taco kingpin of the Westside. Lines begin to form around  6pm for the main attraction, a wide, bubbling pan of tender meats that have been braised into absolute submission. Choose your cut of choice—asada, carnitas, chorizo, lengua, suadero, among others—and the taquero plucks the meat from the pan and chops it to order, scooping it into a warm tortilla in one swift motion. They’ll usually have some soft, fat-cooked potatoes and carmelized onions to help yourself to as well, and the salsa station is always well-stocked and pristine

The family behind Taco Nazo is originally from Ensenada—the supposed birthplace of the Baja-style fish taco—and since opening their first location in La Puente four decades ago, they’ve managed to turn delicious beer-battered fish into a mini-empire. Nazo now has six locations across greater East LA, each serving flakey fish on warm corn tortillas with fresh cabbage, pico de gallo, and a big dollop of rich crema that tastes like tangy tartar sauce. If you’re in a hurry, you can use their convenient drive-thru, but don’t be surprised if it takes 20 minutes to get through during the dinner and lunch rush (or even longer during Lent season). We promise the two fish taco combo with creamy frijoles and chips will be worth the bumper-to-bumper lines, though.

We love this bright turquoise truck that parks in Silver Lake because its seafood tacos have bold, thought-out flavors that are practically stacked on top of each other, plus they’re just beautiful to look at. You can find Simón across from Bacari Silver Lake Tuesday through  Saturdays, serving creative mariscos dishes cooked by a Oaxacan chef with a fine dining background: be sure to get the spicy tempura soft shell crab tacos topped with tangy pineapple salsa and a slathering of smoked chile mayo. We’re also huge fans of the fish al pastor taco that gets dressed in the truck’s excellent salsas (which sit in an ingenious refrigerated salsa cabinet), like a nutty salsa macha and very spicy carrot habanero. All those clever details, from the presentation to the complex tastes and textures, push the curbside taco experience at Simón to another level.

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