Long before Mexico was Mexico, there was Aztlán. Stay with us here, we'll get to burritos in a minute. But for now, let's go back to Tenochtitlán, the vibrant mega­lopolis where the Aztecs built the Western Hemisphere's greatest urban area of the pre-colonial era. Today, their ingenuity lives on as Mexico City. Back in the day, Aztecs traced their origins to an idyllic locale, somewhere on a distant coast, northwest from the floating gardens and pyramids of their own region. They called this heavenly paradise Aztlán. Here in Los Angeles, however, Aztlán was reborn in the 1960s and '70s, when Chicano activists, poets and artists reclaimed the myth, reimagining that perhaps, Los Angeles was this promised land, the Eden on the ocean, where the indigenous Tongva and Chumash peoples could conjure crops from the seemingly magical soil and haul in bountiful catches from the endless sea.

Like the folks of that pioneering Chicano movement — whose re-envisioned Aztec myth recontextualized the city we live in — today a new generation of Angeleno chefs is reshaping the way we think about Mexican cuisine in our town. L.A.'s Mexican food is legendary, but this legion of hometown heroes is creating dishes with a distinctly Angeleno approach. Think locally sourced ingredients and cross-cultural mashups; health-consciousness and flavor-forward experiments. These chefs take traditional recipes and reinvent them according to their own rules, forged by the L.A. experience, where culture collisions are the defining characteristic of what makes this place great.

While this issue is about some mind-shatteringly great Mexican food and new restaurants that are changing the game, we are featuring chefs who are bringing novel ideas and revolutionary philosophies to the edible artistry they create. There's Ted Montoya, whose otherworldly pozole at Caló Provisions showcases his hybridized Chicano cooking. Visionary chef Ray Garcia's haute cuisine at Broken Spanish strives to distinguish Los Angeles as a distinct region in the culinary pantheon of Mexican-American culture. And mole queen Rocio Camacho's ancient recipes with a modern twist fall in line with the rising trend of “decolonizing the diet,” which seeks to bring Latin American food back to its pre-Columbian roots.

We trace the refocusing of Los Angeles' culinary districts, as more unmissable eateries open away from the traditional centers of restaurant hot spots, instead looking to the southeast enclaves of Whittier and Bell. Then there's the recent rise of Sonoran-style spots, featuring food from that Mexican state, which has been often underrepresented on Angelenos' plates.

While there are countless great Mexican restaurants throughout Los Angeles, we've chosen a handful of our favorites who are pushing the limits of how we think of our regional cuisine. Check them out in the Google Map above.    

Is Los Angeles really Aztlán? Only the gods know. But for us mortals, we know that Los Angeles is the holy land for a new wave of modern Mexican food.

A Rough Guide To Mexican Restaurants

There are zillions of Mexican restaurants around Los Angeles, from street corner grills to high-end haunts. The options are almost overwhelming, so to help get great Mexican fare into your face, here are a few of notable spots from across the city, most of which are mentioned in our Modern Mexican Summer Dining Guide. It's a nice cross-section, ranging in price-range, geography, and culinary style. Enjoy!

1. Amor Y Tacos

13333 S. St., Cerritos, 90703
(562) 0860-266, amorytacos.com

2. Aqui Es Texcoco

5850 S. Eastern Ave., Commerce, 90040
(323) 725-1429, aquiestexcoco.com

3. Bar Ama

118 W. Fourth St., Downtown, Los Angeles, 90013
(213) 687-8002, bar-ama.com

4. Bizarra Capital

12706 Philadelphia St., Whittier, 90601
(562) 945-2426

5. Border Grill

1445 Fourth St. Santa Monica, 90401
(310) 451-1655, bordergrill.com

6. Broken Spanish

1050 S. Flower St., Downtown, Los Angeles, 90015
(310) 916-9450, brokenspanish.com

7. B.S. Taqueria

514 W. Seventh St., Downtown, Los Angeles, 90014
(213) 622-3744, bstaqueria.com

8. Burritos La Palma

5120 Peck Road, El Monte, 91732
(626) 350-8286

9. Cacao Mexicatessen

1576 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock, 90041
(323) 478-279, cacaodeli.com

10. Chicas Tacos

728 S Olive St, Downtown, Los Angeles, 90014
(213) 896-0373, chicastacos.com

11. Cielito Lindo

E-23 Olvera St., Chinatown, Los Angeles, 90012

12. Colonia Publica

6717 Greenleaf Ave., Whittier, 90601
(562) 693-2621

13. Coni's Seafood

3544 W. Imperial Hwy, Inglewood, 90303
(424) 261-0896

14. Cook’s Tortas

1994 S. Atlantic Ave. Monterey Park, 91754

15. Don Chente

1248 S. Figueroa St., Downtown, Los Angeles, 90015
(213) 814-4865, donchentedtla.com

16. El 7 Mares

3914 Whittier Blvd, East Los Angeles, 90023
(323) 267-8667; el7mares.com

17. El Condor

3701 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, 90026
(323) 660-4500, elcondorla.com

18. El Coraloense

6600 Florence Ave., Bell Gardens, 90201
(562) 776-8800, elcoraloense.com

19. Gish Bac

4163 W. Washington Blvd., Mid City, Los Angeles, 90016
(323) 737-5050, gishbac.com

20. Gracias Madre

8905 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, 90069
(323) 978-2170, graciasmadreweho.com

21. Guelaguetza

3014 W. Olympic Blvd., Koreatown, Los Angeles, 90006
(213) 427-0608, ilovemole.com

22. Guerrilla Tacos

826 E. Third St., Downtown, Los Angeles, 90013
(323) 388-5340, guerrillatacos.com

23. Guisados

2100 E. Cesar E Chavez Ave., East Los Angeles, 90033
(323) 264-7201, guisados.co

24. Home State

4624 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz, 90027
(323) 906-1122, myhomestate.com

25. La Casita Mexicana

4030 Gage Ave., Southeastern Cities, Bell, 90201
(323) 773-1898, casitamex.com

26. Loqui

8850 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 90232

27. Malo Restaurant

326 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, 90029
(323) 664-1011, malorestaurant.com

28. Mexicali Taco

702 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 613-0416

29. Mariscos Jalisco

3040 E. Olympic Blvd., Boyle Heights, 90023
(323) 528-6701

30. Ortega 120

1814 Pacific Coast Hwy, Redondo Beach, 90277
(310) 792-4120, ortega120.com

31. Petty Cash Taqueria

7360 Beverly Blvd., Hollywood, 90036
(323) 933-5300, pettycashtaqueria.com

32. Playa Amor

6527 Pacific Coast Hwy, Long Beach, 90803
(562) 430-2667, playaamorlb.com

33. Public Beer and Wine Shop

121 W. 4th Street. Long Beach, 90802

34. Puertos del Pacifico

1240 S. Soto St., Boyle Heights;
(323) 262-0203

35. Red O

8155 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, Los Angeles, 90046
(323) 655-5009, redorestaurant.com

36. Rocio's Mexican Kitchen

7891 Garfield Ave., Bell Gardens, 90201
(562) 659-7800

37. Rosa Mexicano

800 W. Olympic Blvd., Downtown, Los Angeles, 90015
(213) 746-0001, rosamexicano.com

38. Salazar

2490 Fletcher Drive, Frogtown, 90039

39. Sonoratown

208 E 8th St, Los Angeles, 90014
(213) 290-5184

40. Tire Shop Taqueria

4069 S Avalon Blvd, Los Angeles, 90011

41. The Briks

1111 S. Hope St. Ste 110, Downtown, Los Angeles, 90015
(213) 746-7766, thebriks.com

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.