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.
Koreatown has a certain fascination with Mexican food. Despite the overwhelming Korean demographics, taco stands, trucks and sit down Mexican restaurants litter the neighborhood. Many of them offer late night hours as well, ensuring your hours-long Hite beer and soju binge won’t go unrewarded.
On Third Street in K-town, between Kenmore and Catalina, you’ll find Marielas Tacos. It’s the sort of hard-backed booth, tile floor and harsh lighting taco joint that this city thrives on. And while Marielas isn’t the late late kind of spot (they close at midnight), you can find much of the same rowdy demographic pouring in through the glass doors on the weekends. It’s a nice contrast to all of the Jesus bumper stickers and quiet workers behind the counter.
Far from the ancient Mayan ruins that bear its name sits Chichén Itzá the restaurant, a Los Angeles stalwart in the booming fast casual Mexican food world. There are no temples, no hidden secrets; there isn’t even a full-fledged restaurant. Chichén Itzá exists in the Mercado La Paloma near USC, where walk-up counters and open, shared seating are the way of life. But much like the original Chichen Itza, there are always tourists. And this Chichen Itza is pretty amazing, as well.
Most of the camera-snappers that come to Chichen Itza (the restaurant) have heard of one thing: The cochinita pibil. The slowly roasted pork dish is a calling card for the state of Yucatan, and nowhere is the pig handled with such tender love and care as at Chichen Itza.
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.
For years, Chef Sergio Penuelas has been a top name for Mexican-style seafood in Los Angeles. Always operating from one of several Mariscos Chentes dotted across LA, Penuelas developed a loyal (if a bit rabid) fan base that would seek out the master’s mariscos dishes. It wasn’t until a few years ago that Penuelas finally put down roots in Inglewood, working with Mariscos Chente family member Connie Cossio to create Coni’Seafood.
This is very welcome news for us all, and weekend runs out to Coni’Seafood have become somewhat of a rite of passage for anyone serious about mariscos culture in Los Angeles. Yes, there are fantastic fish taco spots in Chinatown that represent the Baja Peninsula well, and Jalisco-style fried shrimp tacos dorados that are worth their own drive to East LA, but for ceviches, aguachiles, and some of the finest head-on shrimp you’ll find outside of the American South, Coni’Seafood stands alone.
Mexican food in Los Angeles knows no boundaries. Of course, neighborhoods east of the LA River deservedly get the most attention, but there are quality tacos, burritos, gorditas and fajitas to be had all over this gigantic city. The San Fernando Valley neighborhood of North Hollywood is no exception.
Thanks to a large working-class population that surrounds the hip NoHo arts district strip, cheap and delicious Mexican food can be had all over the neighborhood. And while there may not be as many taco trucks crawling the streets at night, North Hollywood’s ample space gives lots of room for small taquerias to thrive, supplying late night crowds and daily diners alike with all manner of great meals. Here are five of our favorites.
Strip malls will catch your eye for all sorts of different reasons. Maybe they sit at a clogged intersection, where you and every other bored commuter have lots of time to take in the scenery. Perhaps there’s a certain food you’re partial to — Indian, say — and you find yourself seeking out the hidden lunch buffet gems as a habit. It could be bright colors, obtrusive architecture or sheer size that draws you to any other strip mall, but at the Clar-Ven Center on the corner of Venice Boulevard and Clarington Avenue, the first thing you’ll notice is the variety.
Each end is stamped with a regional Asian food chain, the first being Miyako Japanese Restaurant and the other a Thai Original BBQ. But in between, you’ll find plates of Oaxacan food, daily Italian dishes and that ever-present Indian buffet. Here’s a look at what you’ll find inside each.