The list of offerings at Colonia Taco Lounge goes on and on. (Rafael Orellana/Living Out Loud LA)
There’s no two ways about it, when you dine in Los Angeles you’re going to come across a lot of Mexican food. With so much to choose from in the cuisine – enchiladas in red or green sauce, burritos, tortas and the ever-popular tacos – I don’t think I could ever get sick of eating Mexican.
Tacos in general evolved into a trendy phenomenon when acclaimed Chef Roy Choi introduced his Korean background into flavors captured in a hand-sized corn tortilla with the launch of the Kogi BBQ Taco Truck. That birthed a huge market into the world of exploring what other fun ingredients could be placed in a tortilla, folded and then eaten.
The onslaught also brought to light the original mom-and-pop shops that have been around for years, and thankfully so, since these places deserve all the recognition they can get for making exceptional tacos. That said, here’s your guide to the best tacos in Los Angeles!
Colonia Taco Lounge
13030 E. Valley Blvd., La Puente 91746 (626) 363-4691
This taco and cocktail bar offers homemade tortillas and all the ingredients you can think of. Chef Ricardo Diaz and his sister, Stephanie Aguirre (La Taquiza Fish Taco), come from the family that brought us some of the best ceviche ever at El Siete Mares (well, at least on the more eastern side of town), and they teamed with her husband, Chef Patrick Aguirre, formerly of Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, to open Colonia last year. Crispy shrimp tacos, carnitas braised with a little pumpkin, an avocado taco – the list happily goes on and on.
El Chato Taco Truck
Last seen at 4477 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles 90019 facebook.com/elchatotacotruck
This truck is awesome. Setting up either at a gas station on La Brea and Venice or at Olympic and La Brea, the lines can get long late at night, but their al pastor is totally worth the wait.
6600 Florence Ave., Bell Gardens 90201 (562) 776-8800
I came across this spot while at a food truck festival last month. They were serving some surprisingly fresh ceviche, but I heard they’re also known for their tacos. A visit to Bell Gardens was rewarded with crispy and delicious potato and shrimp tacos, along with out-of-this-world ceviches of all different flavors.
2100 E. Cesar E. Chavez Ave., Los Angeles 90033 (323) 264-7201 guisados.co
Hands down my favorite taco spot in the city, simply because they have chorizo tacos. I know it sounds like a simple thing, but those are hard to find. It’s really all about braised meat here, though (guidsados translates to ‘stews’ in Spanish). Pair the (mostly) gluten-free selection with an agua fresco, and it’s a perfect Sunday afternoon. It’s no surprise that this is Ricardo Diaz’s original taqueria; there’s also a second location in Echo Park and another soon to be opened in Downtown.
3040 E. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles 90023 (323) 528-6701
Mariscos Jaliscos is one of the places you would swear has been around a lot longer than it has. These are straightforward, old-school shrimp tacos served just like they’re supposed to be: with a nice hunk of avocado on top.
2200 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica 90404 (310) 310-8922 mondotaco.com
I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into with this brightly colored little Santa Monica shop. The name made me think I was about to eat a monstrous taco and have to be rolled out of the restaurant. I took one look at the menu and was delightfully surprised. Not only were the tacos ambitious in a satisfyingly great way (like the Tokyo Shrimp with tempura shrimp, avocado and a spicy mayo and the Angry Chicken with hot sauce and blue cheese), but they also serve beer – a perfect pairing!
Tacos El Compita
4477 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles 90019 (323) 935-0490
The Mid-City area is where you can find this traditional taco spot with $1.25 tacos of the standard meats, including an al pastor that will knock your socks off. It’s so wonderfully spicy. But you have been warned: cash only.
Tacos Por Favor
1406 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica 90404 (310) 392-5768 tacosporfavor.net
This is a Westside staple. Crispy and soft tacos, rejoice. I highly recommend the potato tacos, served soft or hard, with lettuce, guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo.