Visiting LA? Don’t Leave Without Trying These Taco Joints

LA is a taco town. When it comes to the United States, the City of Angels is to the taco what NYC is to pizza. It’s a haven of unctuous meats and tongue-singeing salsa rojas. Where a unique riff or classic play on this classic food-delivery-system can be found on just about every street corner. And, thankfully for us night owls, at any time of the day.

If you’re in town this weekend (or weekday, depending on when you read this), you probably already have “eat Mexican food” on the itinerary. But with so many options out there, it can be pretty overwhelming to settle on a place to try. We get that. So here’s some free advice from someone born and raised in the city: Don’t be too selective. Eat a lot of tacos. Everywhere you go.

Seriously, if you want the quintessential LA taco experience, you don’t even need recommendations. Just look for the closest street vendor with the largest gathering of people. Trust the masses. Those carts and trucks will serve you a great taco every single time.

To help guide anyone who doesn’t have the time to wander, I’ve put together a list of the best taquerias in every corner of the city and highlighted what each spot’s specialty is. Tacos are so varied — from street tacos to birria tacos to fish tacos — that you could only eat at taquerias your entire trip and never get bored. If you have to make time to actually do anything else too (why? Let this trip be about tacos), the entries below will help you zero in on the exact taco experience you’re looking for.

Let’s eat!

Tire Shop Taqueria

The Joint:

As I mentioned before, the best tacos you’re going to find are from street vendors. There is perhaps no finer street-based taco establishment in all of LA than Tire Shop Tacos. Popping up every day (except Tuesdays) in the parking lot of a used tire shop in South Central, you’ll know you’re nearby when you see a line of people wrapped around the block and smell the intoxicating aroma of freshly grilled carne asada, chorizo, and tortillas filling the air.

Essential Order:

If you’re at Tire Shop, the must-order meats include carne asada, cabeza, chorizo, and the deliciously smokey pollo asado.


The Joint:

Open seven days a week and located in the heart of Downtown LA, Sonoratown features a short and simple menu that packs a whole lot of flavor. The tacos are meant to mimic the flavors and style of street food from Sonora, Mexico. That means that the small restaurant makes their flour tortillas with lard. Which is the only way anyone SHOULD make them.

Taking a single bite of their tacos — which feature the meat of your choice, house-made salsa roja, avocado, and cabbage — is enough to stop you in your tracks as you soak in one of the most flavorful eating experiences of your life. Don’t eat these tacos standing up, you’ll need to sit down to really appreciate the power.

Essential Order:

At Sonoratown the best meat is hands down the carne asada. If you’re tired of tacos (who are you?), we can’t recommend the Costilla Burrito highly enough.

La Azteca Tortilleria

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The Joint:

There isn’t a single taqueria in all of Los Angeles that makes better tortillas than La Azteca. You’re going to love them so much that you’ll want to take them home. Located in LA’s taqueria capital, Boyle Heights (don’t sleep on this neighborhood, it’s not touristy and it’s better for it), La Azteca serves all of its food on housemade tortillas (corn and flour) with fresh salsa and offers a small but delicious variety of proteins including asada, carnitas, chicharron, and a sleeper hit, cactus.

They also make a mind-blowing breakfast burrito. If you’ve never had a cactus taco or burrito, this is the place to order one.

Essential Order:

I know this is a list specifically focused on tacos and the cactus taco is definitely one to try, but you can’t leave LA without having the famous La Azteca Chile Relleno burrito. If you’re unfamiliar, Chile Relleno is a giant roasted chili that is stuffed with cheese. Eating it is an unforgettable, deeply aromatic experience that takes you on a journey of spicy and smokey flavors.

Tacos el Gavilan/King Taco

The Joint:

This is going to send the loyal fans of Taco el Gavilan and King Taco after me but … these two taco joints are practically interchangeable. Giving each an individual entry would just take some other taqueria’s spot.

So why are we including both? Because King Taco and Tacos El Gavilan are both everywhere throughout the city. They are absolute LA icons, and locals in every neighborhood have strong feelings about which is the best. But I love them both because they’re always open late. That means when you crawl out of a bar in the late hours of the night, these two taco icons will be there.

Plus, they’re both super cheap — so eat at whichever one is closest.

Essential Order:

Both shops make a variety of tacos with a variety of different meats. The main difference is this, Tacos el Gavilan has less fatty cuts of meat and Coca Cola. King Taco has better salsa and Pepsi. If you like chewing the fat and live for salsa, King Taco is the play. But if you think unlimited sides of salsa, beans, and roasted chilies make the meal, you gotta go Gavilan.

Also, Coke is better than Pepsi, so you know where my allegiance lies.

Guerilla Tacos

The Joint:

Started by Chef Wes Avila in the early 2010s, Guerrilla Tacos has been cited as a favorite by the late, great food critic Jonathan Gold, who wrote of Avila’s approach as “a kind of tasting-menu restaurant whose dishes happen to be composed on tortillas instead of on fancy plates.”

Guerrilla Tacos isn’t the place you go when you want an authentic LA taco experience (though it is very LA). It’s where you go when you want to know where the world of tacos is headed next. The menu is just so interesting, from the Korean Fried Fish Taco to the ground beef crunchy tacos to the vegetarian sweet potato taco — there isn’t a single option on the menu that you won’t want to test.

Guerrilla also has a variety of finely crafted Mexican-inspired cocktails. So if you like to get a buzz on while you eat, this is a great option.

Essential Order:

The Korean Fried Fish Taco features rock cod, sesame mayo, a guajillo and gochujang glaze, pickled daikon radish, and green onions. If that doesn’t make your mouth water, I guess your tastebuds are broken.


The Joint:

Juicy homestyle braises, housemade agua frescas, and a gourmet edge set Guisados apart from most taco spots in the city. Plus it’s home to the spiciest taco you’ll ever eat.

Over the past decade, Guisados has expanded from its humble beginnings in Boyle Heights to Echo Park, Downtown, West Hollywood, Burbank, Beverly Hills, and Pasadena. That means absolutely nothing to you if you’re visiting LA for the first time, but just know — that’s a wider net than it looks like on a map, this joint is thriving.

Guisados has one specialty: tacos. They offer over ten different styles that you can’t really get anywhere else in the city. Their approach each taco is so unique that they offer a sampler platter that lets you try six different variations. They know how hard they’ve made it for you to decide.

Essential Order:

I love the Bistek en Salsa Roja and the Mole Poblano. For vegetarians, I suggest the Calabacitas and Hongos Con Cilantro.

You might as well also order the Chiles Toreados for the table as a challenge amongst friends. This taco features a suicidal blend of habanero, serrano, jalapeño, and Thai chilis all mixed together. Or just get the sampler!

Angel’s Tijuana Tacos

The Joint:

I included Angel’s on my list of the most essential LA meals so it only makes sense that I double down and mention it again. I can’t say this enough: you can’t leave LA without rolling up to Angel’s. This is another street set-up situation, this time in a Target parking lot in Eagle Rock where you’ll find some of the best tacos served on delicious homemade, hand-pressed tortillas.

The build is simple, your choice of meat, cilantro and onions, salsa, and a healthy dose of guacamole which doesn’t cost anything extra and blows Chipotle’s weird lime-forward guac out of the water. The way the juicy meats and salsa soak into the thick tortillas is culinary perfection. You’ve never eaten this good in a Target parking lot.

Essential Order:

Everyone is surrounding that spit roast for a reason — the al pastor tacos are a must.

Holé Molé

The Joint:

If this list seems light on fish tacos, it’s because… I don’t really like fish tacos. It’s just not my thing. And more to the point, if you really want a fish taco, go to San Diego. Better yet, if you’re going all the was to SD, just go to Tijuana.

All that said, one fish taco spot I can definitely recommend is Long Beach’s Holé Molé. If you want fish, you’re going to have to go near the water (don’t go in the water, it’s Long Beach) and people swear by Holé Molé’s tender shrimp ceviche and fish burritos.

Essential Order:

Cabo tacos, made with lime-grilled fish or shrimp and topped with grilled onions (a rarity!) and fresh cilantro.

Tacos Soloma

The Joint:

Admittedly, the Valley is a bit of a blind spot for me when it comes to good food. I was born and raised on the East Side and if you’re not living or working in the Valley, there really isn’t a reason to visit (sorry Valley peeps). Having said that, if you for some reason find yourself in North Hollywood (AirBnB maybe?), then you have to track down Tacos Soloma.

The tortillas and salsa are fresh. The grilled meats are tender and juicy while still capturing that smokey grilled flavor. This is a hidden gem in a sprawling city.

Essential Order:

Carne asada and Al pastor. Also, the green salsa is a must.

Birria Pa La Cruda

The Joint:

And now the moment some of you have all been waiting for. When it comes to birria tacos (tacos dipped and smothered in a delicious flavor-packed stew) where do you go? There are a lot of great places throughout the city (we could probably make a list of just birria spots). But if I had to suggest just one… I’m going Birria Pa La Cruda.

Be warned that this taco truck is only open on weekends and has few options outside of birria. But once you taste their tender beef consommé, your life will separate into two eras: the time before you had Birria Pa La Cruda and the time after. Your tastebuds will never be the same.

Essential Order:

Birria de Res, or mushroom tacos if you’re vegetarian!