L.A.’s taco culture is an ever-evolving affair. Popular spots fall off just as new places come on strong, meaning there’s never a shortage of exciting places to discover and explore.
Just this year, a handful of taco operations have begun making a name for themselves, whether slinging old school carnitas or next-level fusion plates, while still others made waves simply by moving on. There’s exciting taco news on the horizon, too, along with the emergence of a detailed taco digest, meant to demystify the many regional influences of this city’s great carts and trucks. Here then are the most notable taco stories from the year that was.
Los Angeles is a city that has run on steak for decades. From Beverly Hills business lunches to thick late night slabs of prime rib, grilled meat has been a prime motivator for the L.A. restaurant scene for the better part of a century. And thankfully, many of the city’s great old school steakhouses are still standing. From Torrance dive bars that double as prime rib joints to Glendale tiki spots, this is a special The Five Days of Meat edition of are ten of the city’s best long-in-the tooth steak joints.
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.
For nearly a century, downtown Los Angeles’ Grand Central Market has been a place for locals to buy everything from fresh produce and quality meats to takeaway snacks and big bottles of liquor. Untold numbers of stalls have come and gone since then, felled by sinking economies or turned into newer, shinier fronts during prosperous times. Now, after years of slow decline at the once-vaunted downtown open market, things are turning over and looking up once again.
Forget lengthy soft-opens or under-the-radar early service: Plan Check, that bastion of meat and smoke that currently exists only on Sawtelle, is open for some full-on business at their new Fairfax location, beginning tomorrow.
It’s finally here. The food collaboration you didn’t know you were missing out on — streetwear and chicken & waffles — is hitting L.A., thanks to clothing brand Popular Demand. The young and hungry (in more ways than one) L.A.-based streetwear label, known in, let’s say, more youthful circles as a proprietor of hip and casual clothing, has managed to score one of the year’s biggest collaborations, with Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles.
While the idea of urban-inspired clothing lines collaborating with other brands in out-of-the-box ways is nothing new, Popular Demand’s ability to wrangle the name and swooping Roscoe’s logo for a limited edition capsule collection is certainly a feat. In the nearly four decades since Roscoe’s has been putting fried chicken on top of waffles, this is the first time the nationally recognized local chain has put their name on someone else’s product.
As a longtime northern New Yorker, I’ve often come into contact with the beef on weck. It wasn’t very popular in my neck of the woods up near the Adirondacks, but any field trip or family vacation spent near Buffalo meant lots of roast beef. Thinly shaved meat, often served on kaiser rolls, beef on weck and its related sandwich counterparts were cheap and widely available. And, more importantly, it was way better than the Arby’s on the thruway heading back.
You won’t find the same proliferation of roast beef sandwiches out in Los Angeles, let alone the regionally specific beef on weck. But the recently-opened Top Round Roast Beef on La Brea now proudly serves the beefy specialty ($5.95), along with custard shakes, curly fries drowning in brown gravy, and some seriously kickin’ horseradish sauce.
If you spent all of last week wrapped up in New York’s foolish taco debates, it’s likely that you missed out on the ever-so-soft opening of Taco Love, a feel good taco shop on the corner of Sunset and Laurel, just across the street from The Laugh Factory. The teal and tile corner spot is offering an alternative to both New York and L.A.’s Mexican food culture, with San Diego-style burritos, wrapped tacos and lots of guacamole.