L.A. is a taco-mad town. We revere the stuff, whether at late night trucks or all-day stands, from the Silver Lake to Downey, East L.A. to the ocean. But not all tacos are created equal, and after years of chowing down on the city’s finest, we’ve come up with a list of the twelve best tacos you’ll find in Los Angeles. You can opt for Baja-style fried fish tacos, slow-cooked carnitas, grilled carne asada or smoked marlin, but you won’t do better than the tacos on this list.
Tacos are the heartbeat of Los Angeles’ culinary scene. Upscale chefs sling braised meats and fresh tortillas alongside uni and imported mezcal, while daily loncheros keep the city fed with $1 late-night tacos from the same trusty location. From hand-patted tortillas to all manner of ingredients — stews, moles, seafood, slow-cooked pork and plenty of carnitas — there are endless iterations of possible taco greatness. Here, in no particular order, are twenty tacos to try before you die in LA.
Is there officially a ‘first family’ in the Los Angeles taco world? There may be, thanks to Chef Ricardo Diaz and his clan.
Diaz’s family is responsible for the Southern California seafood mini-chain El Siete Mares, whose Silver Lake walk-up stand we profiled last year. (If you’re in the mood for fish tacos and want to give them a shot, opt for the fried shrimp tacos dorados.) And if that wasn’t enough, chef Diaz himself helped open Guisados, one of the most celebrated taco spots in the entire city, before splitting with partner Armando de la Torre and leavving the stewed taco empire to him (for now at least). Then, just last month, we talked lovingly about the mole fries and cochinita pibil at Bizarra Capital, Diaz’s slightly upscaled beer bar and Mexican food outpost in Whittier.
Angelenos have barely had time to push away from the table and wipe our mouths before word of another Ricardo Diaz operation spreads like salsa down our shirt. This time, Diaz is back to take on the world of stewed meat tacos with a spacious, open eatery all the way out in La Puente. Known as Colonia Taco Lounge, the dark and roomy restaurant is part Bizarra—lots of puffy booths and a solid beer list—and part Guisados, thanks to hand-patted tortillas, simmered meat taco options, and long, deep flavors.
Word around the taco cooler is that chef Ricardo Diaz — he of Guisados, Cook’s Tortas and Bizarra Capital — is planning to open a fried taco concept in Silver Lake in the coming months, aptly called Duro (that’s “hard” in Spanish). Diaz belongs to the clan behind mini Mexican seafood chain El Siete Mares, so it’s no surprise that the longtime Eastsider is taking over the Sunset Boulevard sit-down version of his family’s restaurant to open something more fun and vibrant on his own.
Of course, all this taco chatter got us hungry, and before we knew it we were in La Puente, home to Diaz’s other recent venture: Colonia Taco Lounge. Open since August, the restaurant features a slew of guisados-style tacos, plus craft beers, a small stage, and lots of free parking. Sounds like a winner already.
What does it feel like to be considered one of the top taco purveyors in all of Los Angeles? You’d have to ask Armando De La Torre, co-owner of Guisados, the stewed taco phenomenon that’s been growing on LA for a few years now. It’s not hard for curious diners to find the man; just wait long enough at the Boyle Heights outpost and he’ll walk right through the front door. Should you need to pick him out of a crowd, just look for the pepper-haired man sporting a Guisados polo shirt and a large, wide smile.
Waving De La Torre over to your table might be a mistake, though, depending on your tolerance for all things habañero. He likes it spicy (just try the chiles torreados for some fiery-lipped understanding), and you probably won’t make it far into a conversation about the tacos in front of you without receiving a complimentary splash of the housemade habañero salsa. It’s a good thing you’ve got a half-full horchata in front of you.
Back to that plate of tacos. At Guisados, it’s all about savory, thick stewed meats and vegetables that are dolloped onto freshly patted corn tortillas. Maybe you’ll find a thin slice of avocado here, a dusting of toasted seeds there, and plenty of pickled spicy onions to go around, but that’s about it. The stews do the talking at Guisados, though it’s really the menu board itself doing all of the heavy lifting.