Mr Porter Eats

The Five Best Tacos In Los Angeles

The taquerias serving up the standout snacks north of the Mexican border

  • Lamb and shrimp tacos by Guerrilla Tacos. Photograph by Mr Peter Cheng (@theoffalo), courtesy of Guerrilla Tacos

Los Angeles has always been the Bethlehem of tacos in the US. The earliest known photo of one appeared in a 1914 cookbook written by the LA-based Ms Bertha Haffner-Ginger, in fact. The first Stateside tacos to gain widespread renown and fame were the taquitos (“tiny tacos”) at Olvera Street, a historic district of the city. LA gave the world Taco Bell, the taco truck and Korean tacos.

Nowhere else can come close to the city’s taco culture (sit down, Chicago). And the best part? The City of Angels isn’t done. Its many taquerias help keep the scene competitive and delicious, all in the quest for recognition and dollar bills. New ideas and traditions come in from Mexico yearly. And with recent, prominent appearances in Mr David Chang’s Ugly Delicious and the late Mr Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, LA’s taco scene is more hopping than ever, with eaters zig-zagging along the city’s freeways and barrios in search of the Next Big Taco.

Even with all the innovation, however, the city has its standouts. That list could easily extend to 100, but the following five taco spots represent the best snapshot of a scene that is well and truly blooming. Happy eating!

  • Photograph by Mr Wonho Frank Lee

  • Cauliflower tacos. Photograph by DYLAN + JENI

2000 E 7th Street, CA 90021
Instagram: @guerrillatacos

For six years from his rickety lunch truck, Mr Wes Avila wowed Southern California with gourmet tacos – think fried oysters, Moroccan-spiced lamb and a sweet potato version that tasted like beef stew, all wrapped inside thick tortillas made from heirloom, non-GMO corn. There was never a set menu – Avila whipped up tacos according to what was available at that day’s farmers’ markets. Mr Avila has closed his lonchera (food truck) to prepare for a full restaurant that will go beyond tacos (although he’ll thankfully still make them) to focus on “Alta California” cuisine – a fine-dining Mexican food movement led by Mexican-American chefs including Mr Avila. In short, watch this space.

What to wear

  • Taco sampler

  • Photograph courtesy of Guisados

1261 West Sunset Boulevard, CA 90026
Instagram: @guisados

The two most prominent taco chains in Los Angeles remain Taco Bell (blech) and King Taco, the latter of which is descended from the first-ever fully fledged taco truck. But quickly becoming as well loved is mini-chain Guisados, which so far has five locations across Downtown LA. Visit the self-proclaimed “OG” location in Boyle Heights, where artwork by local artists hangs on the walls and the open kitchen allows people to see chefs pat out fresh corn tortillas and whip together the guisos (stews) that gave Guisados its name. Go with the cochinita pibil: Yucateco-style shredded pork marinated in sour oranges and cut with pickled red onions – the best bite of pork you’ll have all year.

What to wear

  • Photograph by DYLAN + JENI

  • Pork carnitas tacos. Photograph by Mr Jakob Layman

2411 Fairmount Street, CA 90033
Instagram: @carnitaselmomo

There are carnitas (the braised pork that’s now a taqueria standard across the US), and then there’s what this taco wagon offers. Owner Mr Romulo “Momo” Acosta takes care to reduce pork shoulder, maw, cheeks and more in lard-filled copper pots while closely monitoring the temperature. The finished product is so thick that he basically smears the carnitas on to tortillas as if it were jam. El Momo’s carnitas make terrines seem like rice crackers. Buy tacos to go, or get carnitas by the pound to make your own at home.

What to wear

  • Birria de res burrito. Photograph by DYLAN + JENI

  • Photograph by DYLAN + JENI

5120 Peck Road, CA 91732
Instagram: @burritoslapalma

One of the most acclaimed tacos in Southern California over the past couple of years is actually – wait, what? – ­­a burrito. Seriously. This restaurant makes burritos in the style of the Mexican state of Zacatecas – small enough so that three make a good meal, which puts it into the taco category. La Palma sells good bean-and-cheese and chicken burritos, but its most famous one is the birria de res – beef prepared the way you would a goat stew, meaning slow-roasted and with lots of juice. All of the burritos are made with handmade-flour tortillas so buttery and pliant you’ll never want to eat a supermarket wrap again. It was one of the top five burritos of the late, great, Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Mr Jonathan Gold, and won Best In Show at Southern California’s Tacolandia, the biggest taco festival in the US, in 2016.

What to wear

  • Photograph by DYLAN + JENI

  • Carne asada tacos. Photograph by DYLAN + JENI

4100 S Avalon Boulevard, CA 90011

This taco stand has no name, but people call it Tire Shop Taquería because they literally set up a grill, a tent and some spotlights near-nightly at a tyre shop in South Los Angeles. It’s street food at its finest: some tables and chairs, a grill, a chopping block – what else do you need? Everyone comes for the carne asada, prepared Tijuana-style: beef cooked almost-medium rare over mesquite charcoal, thrown into tortillas and then sluiced with a guacamole so delicious you’ll wonder why other taquerias haven’t adopted it.

What to wear