We’re blessed, living in L.A., at least as far as tacos go. You can be struck by a hankering at most anywhere in the city at most anytime of the day or night, and be able to find more than one supremely satisfying taco truck or joint within a mile radius. The ten on this list are the ten that you’ll remember as long as you live here and will crave when you’re away— the tacos that are worth the drive from wherever you are. Because why not? It's always taco weather.
Coni’Seafood’s pescado zarandeado — a snook sold by the kilo, beautifully butterflied, seasoned and grilled — is so good that most everything else on the restaurant’s menu might seem like supporting acts, but the marlin tacos arguably also deserve top billing. These arrive three to a plate, each about the size of a classic Moleskine notebook, stuffed with smoky, shredded marlin encased in melted cheese and a slice of avocado for good measure. They will last mere seconds before the snook arrives, complete with hot tortillas and a bowl of red onions. Of course, given that the stage has already been set, you'll look at the table and think: DIY snook taco? Why not. 3544 W Imperial Highway, Inglewood; (424) 261-0986.
9. Tacos Leo
The spinning trompo in front of Tacos Leo's flame orange taco truck may as well be a marker on a Google Map, with that spit marking the spot for the treasure that is Leo’s juicy al pastor. This spot is specifically located in the parking lot of a gas station in the middle of the city; on your order, a taquero will shave off a few thin slices of that al pastor right off the trompo and onto a warm, oiled tortilla; the meat will be followed by a chunk or two of pineapple. You can add salsa to this if you'd like, but it really needs no additional accoutrements. It's terrific and deeply satisfying as is. 1515 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; (323) 231-5116.
8. Mexicali Taco & Co.
If you’re a die-hard Mexicali Taco & Co. fan, you’ll fondly recall the awesome late nights when Esdras Ochoa and Javier Fregoso would set up in that empty parking lot at Beaudry and 1st, bringing out tortillas they hauled in from Baja, chopping seasoned carne asada on a worn tree trunk and grilling it, along with chorizo and chicken, over a fire, sending up plumes of smoke that you could see blocks away. These days, you won’t find them via smoke signal; they have, rather, moved indoors, to a permanent spot on Figueroa, just north of Downtown. So there's a roof now, and the option to put a fried egg in your taco if you so choose, but much everything else is the same as it ever was: the salty chunks of carne asada, the tortillas from across the border, the excellent salsa bar. Fans aren't disappointed. 702 N. Figueroa St., L.A.; (213) 613-0416.
7. El Coraloense
Owned by a family who hails from the coastal states of Nayarit and Sinaloa, El Coraloense is a fantastic spot that boasts an impressive menu of fresh seafood; thus you'll likely have an excellent platter of aguachile before being completely wowed by its absolutely refreshing ceviches. And then there is a whole menu of tacos to explore: your new favorite seafood taco may very well be the fried shrimp taco d'deto, a hefty four-bite affair topped with a slightly tart tangy carrot slaw that you will remember for days to come. Since you're already here, also try the taco revolcado, with a strip of fish seasoned and grilled al pastor-style. 6600 Florence Ave., Bell Gardens; (562) 776-8800.
6. Carnitas El Momo
There are many, many places where you can get yourself a terrific carnitas taco, but the one that’s perhaps most transformative is over at Carnitas El Momo, where Romulo “Momo” Acosta has become something of a household name amongst certain taco-crazed folks in the blogosphere. And no wonder: for his Guanajuato-style carnitas, Acosta stews the pork slowly, patiently, in an enormous copper pot, and the results are improbably tender yet absolutely packed in flavor. You can specify your favorite cut, but ask for a taco surtido and you’ll get a fine mix of meat, including prized bits of skin. Whatever you choose, note that one taco will have enough meat for two or three, and that, like most of the tacos on this list, one taco will set you a back just a few crumpled dollars. Like most of the tacos on this list, you’ll realize its true value is far, far greater than that. Check Carnitas El Momo's website for times and locations.
5. Guerrilla Tacos
Before opening Guerrilla Tacos, Wes Avila worked in some of the finest kitchens in the city (Church & State, Le Comptoir); thus it's perhaps no surprise to find that his ever-changing daily menu includes tacos filled with things like lamb shanks topped with roasted Mission figs and burnt tomato chile, or tasty slivers of squash with feta cheese and a smooth almond chile, or whatever else Avila finds at the farmers market (or Gary Menes's garden) that strikes his fancy. To drink, agua frescas or, because the truck usually can be found outside one coffee shop or another, a cold-brew. Tacos and coffee. Welcome to L.A. Check Guerrilla Tacos's website for locations and times.
Guisados opened in Boyle Heights just under four years ago, but it has become such an integral part of our taco landscape that it feels like we’ve been eating here for far longer than that. At Guisados, thick, thick corn tortillas are filled with homey, richly braised and stewed meats and vegetables; of note, especially for those who tend to be either paralyzed by choice or inspired by it, is Guisados’s equivalent of a greatest hits album: a sampler plate of six miniature tacos for you to compare and contrast. Likely you’ll find a favorite amongst these, whether it be the lovely steak picado with peppers or the tinga de pollo or something else entirely. There are, of course, more tacos on the menu than will be represented on your sampler plate, but when and if you decide to give the others a try, rest assured that everything else on the Gusiados catalog is pretty damn great, too. 2100 East Cesar E Chavez Ave., L.A., (323) 264-7201; 1261 W Sunset Blvd., L.A., (213) 250-7600.
3. Colonia Taco Lounge
Colonia Taco Lounge is right off a stretch of the 605 where the transmission towers that dot the landscape like a row of Iron Giants may or may not affect your reception of the L.A. Kings game on AM radio. But then you’ll exit the freeway, and not much further from where you may see someone riding a horse past a car dealership, you’ll arrive at Colonia Taco Lounge, easily one of the best places in town to watch a game, hockey or otherwise; eat a few tacos; and drink things like margaritas and Allagash Whites on draft. Because the tacos and the drinks here are very, very good; take, for instance, the cauliflower taco, with beautifully battered florets, or the fascinating take on the shrimp taco, where the shrimp is sautéed with aji and served on a bed of creamy rice. The tortillas, too, are terrific, all paired specifically with their fillings: homemade thick-ish corn ones for the guisados; thinner, chewy flour ones for most everything else. The tacos are served individually on colorful plates reminiscent of small Frisbees, which is sort of the point: this is a fun place to have great tacos. Score. 13030 E. Valley Blvd., La Puente; (626) 363-4691.
2. Ricky's Fish Tacos
If you haven’t been to Ricky’s Fish Tacos in, oh, say, the last six months, you might be surprised to find that Ricky Pina is now (thankfully) back on his old location on Virgil, between Sunset Boulevard and SQIRL and, more importantly, has seriously switched up his hardware. Gone are the two shallow fryers that he McGyvered into a taco stand; in their place, a bona fide taco truck that’s the size of a family RV, which makes sense: what else are L.A. taco lovers if not family? Significantly, his tacos did not suffer in the upgrade from 1.0 to 2.0; the shrimp and especially the fish remain as fantastic as ever, both coated in a thick, flavorful batter, then doused in the fryer; they emerge with delicate crunch and are served on a tortilla showered with slaw and a drizzle of pico de gallo. See? It's the same taco you remember, except it's now on wheels. And quite possibly rolling up to a curb near you. 1400 Virgil Ave., L.A. Check Ricky's Twitter feed for days and times.
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1. Mariscos Jalisco
Mariscos Jalisco has been slinging its tacos on its stretch of Olympic Boulevard in East L.A. for over ten years now, and if there is a god, it will be doing so for decades more. There are lots of seafood-centric things to order here, but the one constant on everyone's spread are the truck’s taco dorado de camaron, which has rightfully become something of a legend: here a taco is stuffed with a creamy mixture of fresh shrimp and other ingredients that remain a trade secret, then deep-fried wholesale until its edges char just so and its tortilla yields a more than pleasant crunch. The final flourishes — a ladle of thin salsa, a few generous slices of avocado — are added before it’s plated and handed off to you, at which point you will very likely inhale the whole thing on the spot. And then get right back in line for a few more. 3040 E. Olympic Blvd., L.A., (323) 528-6701; 10th Street and Towne Avenue, (323) 309-1622.