The popular conception of L.A.-style tacos is that they're fairly pared down: You're served meat in a tortilla, and you add your own accoutrements, usually simple toppings such as salsas and onions and cilantro. The tacos at Los Cinco Puntos, though, are different creatures: These start with thick tortillas, and then there's the meat. Then there's the guacamole. And the salsa. And the nopales. There's a reason people eat them with forks.
But these monster tacos are only one of a multitude of reasons to visit Los Cinco Puntos. Another gustatory reason is the huge quantities of food you can order to-go for pretty reasonable prices. Want to be the hero of the party? Be like the lady I watched on one visit there, carrying out a gallon of guacamole and a stack of tortillas as tall as a toddler. (Or just get one tortilla for 35 cents. Maybe you can even pick the specific one you want from the griddle.)
Ordering is a bit chaotic, but the staff are all very helpful to newcomers, somehow remaining patient with everyone lined up to order everything from a torta to a bag of chipotles to three pounds of asada. If you order food to eat at the restaurant, you'll sit at one of the tables on the sidewalk, soaking in the history of the area: Los Cinco Puntos is both the name of the store and the five-point intersection at which it stands, at the center of which are memorials for Mexican-American veterans of WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. It was also the staging ground for Vietnam War–era protest marches. Across the street is the fascinating Evergreen Cemetery, which is well worth a stroll for anyone interested in Los Angeles history.
Eat lunch, learn some culture, take home some dried chiles you've never cooked with before. A perfect L.A. day.
3300 E. Cesar Chavez Ave., Boyle Heights; (323) 261-4084, los5puntos.com.