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The Forget Bandini... A Serious Chowhounds Guide to L.A's Best Tacos

This is the new, nicer, more polite Eat Nopales speaking... but enough with the adulation of the Taco Bloggers. Honestly, some of these guys (or gals) really... well I won't go there... I think there a better informed, more competent CHers on these boards whose I opinion I personally value many times more than some of the Bloggers... whose main Cred is that they actually take the time to Blog in an organized manner... but when it comes down to judging a good taco and pointing the way for everyone else... I don't know.

Let's break this down... Tacos are simple food just like Sushi, Steaks & Burgers only you need to have some exposure to the best incarnations before being able to judge the rest. Its not rocket science... a good taco necesitates three good components:

> Tortilla... to even be on the judging block its got be a handmade tortilla (hell I might let a truly superior commercial tortilla like Abuelita's slide.. but just barely)... please don't nominate Tacos made with crummy packaged tortillas.

> Filling... the filling should be good enough to stand on its own, on a white plate. No mediocre blends of chopped Chuck griddled to anonymity.

A chow worthy "Carne Asada" taco in Mexico is purchased by its cut... you have Arrachera, Cabreria / Rib Eye, New York, Puntas de Filete / Filet Tips, Palomilla, Diezmillo etc.. if you have to order an anonymous "3 de Asada" instead of "1 de Arrachera, 1 de Palomilla y otro de Cabreria" its not likely to belong on our list.

Similarly a chow worthy "Carnitas" taco in Mexico is ordered along TWO dimensions.... Beast & Cut. For example, you have Carnitas de Pierna de Pavo (Duck Leg) or Carnitas de Robalo (Sea Bass filet cooked until very crispy)... of course the more ubiquitous Pork Carnitas are ordered by:

a) Cachete... Cheeks
b) Trompa... Snout
c) Chamorro... Cross Shank
b) Maciza... rump & shoulder
d) Lomo... Loin usually cooked in really big sections

And it goes on & on... we could be talking about Mushroom, Squash Blossom, Frijoles Chinitos (Whole Beans seared on a griddle), Nopales etc.,... but the filling has to be top notch in QUALITY, DISTINCTIVENESS & EXECUTION.

> Condiments... Well most Tacos in L.A. (including many raved about the Taco Bloggers) are really mediocre on the Tortilla & Filling dimensions... one thing L.A. does just as well as Mexico is the condiments. Usually there aren't significant differences between Salsas in L.A. versus Mexico. The few things is sometimes the local taqueros are forced to use slightly inferior ingredients like Tahitian Limes instead of Key Limes, and big, mature White Onions instead of the Spring White Onions common in Mexico (Cebollitas Cambray). In addition, sometimes LA Taquerias don't make the special salsas that traditional go with a type of filling. For example, Al Pastor's proper pairing is a simple, grassy Jalapeno & Olive Oil salsa... only people from around Mexico City seem to get this right. Further... the few Pork Chop tacos I've had in L.A. weren't served with the Peanut Salsa or the Salsa de Molcajete Los 3 Chiles that best go with them. So its got to be a good Salsa & Garnishes... but also important... its got to be the right pairing for the filling.

So what are the best Tacos in L.A judging by the following criteria:

Tortilla (Only Handmade Tortillas Qualify... Exceptions Might Be Made For Extenuating Circumstances) - Aroma, Texture & Flavor

Filling - Quality, Distinctiveness & Executiion

Condiments - Quality & Proper Pairing

Let the deliciousness begin.

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  1. My first nomination is the Goat Birria Taco at Birrieria La Barca:

    > Tortilla... Handmade... soft, pillowy & substantial but not too thick. Aroma & flavor is weak being made from Masa Harina. Average for handmade tortillas.

    > Filling... perfectly braised, fall apart, gamey goat that has been wonderfully complimented with a marinade of Guajillo Chiles, Vinegar, Spices most notable Cloves & Ginger, Onions, Garlic, the trilogy of Jaliscan herbs (Oregano, Thyme, Marjoram).

    > Condiments... a nice, thick Arbol-Tomatillo salsa that is tangy & sharply spicy perfectly cuts through the richness of the goat & doesn't fade under the powerful flavors of the filling. And most importantly its served with a competently executed bowl of the Goat Consomme you can use to dip the taco.

    In addition, they serve a side of Mayocoba beans de la Olla with a Finas Hierbas accented broth that is absolutely top notch... and a very good counter balance for the intense taco.

    This is one magnificent taco in L.A.... I am sure there are others.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Eat_Nopal

      Link

      -----
      Birrieria La Barca
      10817 Valley Mall, El Monte, CA 91731

      1. re: Eat_Nopal

        A similar yet distinct taco, is the Goat Barbacoa served at Monte Alban.

        > Tortilla... Handmade... very thin & large (8inch diameter), not as pillowy as La Barca's. However, it often has a nice smokey little flecks of charring that are quite satisfying. Unfortuantely, because it so thin they don't retain steam/heat well, and since these aren't served from Griddle to Hand... the tortilla can get cool before you are done eating these substantial tacos.

        > Filling... fall apart, gamey goat... lightly marinaded with vinegar & dried chile... then roasted over Avocado leaves (this what gives the dish its distinct herbal licorice aroma). I also love this style of roasted goat with the anisey flavor such a perfect match. Unfortunately, Monte Alban doesn't do 1/20th of the goat volume that La Barba does. So while La Barca has its own private goat supplier raising them to specifications and cooks several of them per day... Monte Alban's meat is less special and the dish is only prepared a couple times a week at best... so its inconsistent. Some days the various flavors are distinct & brilliant.... other days they are perfectly melded & complex... and then there are off days when its been sitting in a fridge too long and just not as impressive.

        > Condiments... they offer a similar crimson, roasted tomatillo, arbol salsa that complements the goat perfectly. In addition, each taco is served with Black Bean Puree that packs a good punch of toasted Avocado leaf... and the fact that you can order a side of Nopalitos... is a big fringe benefit that shouldn't be overlooked.

        Nonetheless, this goat taco is a notch below La Barca... but its nothing to scoff at. Definitely among L.A's great tacos.

        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          Link

          -----
          Monte Alban
          11927 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            I have nothing of value to add to this thread but my thanks, my eyeballs and my joyous tasting of the nominees.
            Great idea!

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              I love the goat taco at monte alban. Now I have to make it to Birrieria La Barca to try their version.

              1. re: joshekg

                Its definitely the worth the drive. Once you get there... you will have to focus... because there is other equally compelling things to eat there.

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  I made the drive yesterday and can testify: "worth it" is an understatement! Mandatory, more like it.
                  There is no point in any further description beyond what Eat Nopal has written above. AWESOME TACO. And the consumme is wonderful as well. My buddy and I split the tacos and platos of Birria and a Fried Quail. All were top notch. The quail was HUGE...seemed more like a small chicken to me...and tasty, if a tad dry.
                  Great call, EN.

                  1. re: Ciao Bob

                    "The quail was HUGE...seemed more like a small chicken to me...and tasty"

                    I think it was probably a Cornish Game Hen... as in the Highlands of Jalisco they call them Codorniz or Godorniz... wheras Quail are known as Huilota... naming convention problem.

                    Glad you liked it. I think for the price La Barca is one of the best regional Mexican restos in L.A.

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                      That seems about right: although I didn't mentions it, the meat was much white than quail, much more like a CGH.

            2. re: Eat_Nopal

              Link...

              -----
              Taqueria Azteca
              10816 1/2 Valley Mall, El Monte, CA 91731

            3. Senor, a poignant topic indeed.The taco blogs are impressive in volume, but have no substance or great tacos.

              I'm glad you've started this discussion.

              Mariscos Jalisco is my first contribution, a truck featuring a fried shrimp taco with vegetables. the recipe is from San Juan de Los Lagos, Jalisco. Crunchy out tender in, a slighty fermented salsa with a mariscos tang, and fresh avocado.

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5628...

              I've nothing for carne asada or al pastor that I've found in LA worthy of the said criteria.
              I just had trompa in Guadalajara a few weeks ago, brilliant, but don't know where to find it here.

              On Breed St., there's la veracruzana, tacos of cueritos, cochinita, barbacoa, huevo duro con arroz, and more.These are all killing,con sabor de abuelita.Breed St. just north of Cesar Chavez in Boyle Hts. on weekends.

              I will send more soon.

              5 Replies
              1. re: streetgourmetla

                "Crunchy out tender in, a slighty fermented salsa with a mariscos tang, and fresh avocado"

                Thanks you for your contribution and noting the slightly fermented salsa. FYI.. to you, KR & others devoted to quality research into Mexican cuisine... extrapolation from various sources... I learned that the pre-hispanic percursor to Salsa Borracha dishes was not at all the use of Pulque - that would have been sacreligious and punished... instead it was a common practice in Mesoamerica to let leftover salsas & moles ferment... in fact in many indigenous communities throughout Southern Mexico they refer to these concoctions as Tepaches even thought they have nothing to do with the fermented pineapple beverage. To me its particularly interesting... because my parents would love when their signature Tomatillo-Ancho-Arbol salsa would turn for those 1st couple of days. I kind of liked it too... but its an acquired and I was just a clueless teenager so I didn't fully appreciate it like I do today. As you know, San Juan de los Lagos is a mere 15 miles away from where my parents grew up.

                -----
                Breed Street & Cesar Chavez
                N Breed St and E Cesar Chavez Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90033

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Oye cabrones! I went to Breed St. tonight and there was a barbacoa de borrego(mutton) stand.They had consume, many lamb parts including liver, and although they were out, they also have pansita(lamb stomach).

                  One of the cooks showed me pictures of the place they get the lambs, the pit they have in their backyard to cook the barbacoa with the maguey underground.They are from Hidalgo, and the barbacoa was excellent.

                  They have fresh looking bright salsa, and the salsa roja has a serious kick.They don't have a salsa borracha. They don't have a name but they are just north of the churros stand at the end of the B of A parking lot. Another outstanding taco.Awesome.

                  1. re: streetgourmetla

                    oh man! i hope they are out there the next time i venture to breed st.

                2. re: streetgourmetla

                  Just wanted to offer my thanks for the Mariscos Jalisco rec. I just drove here for lunch today and I'm glad I did. One thing you should mention are the generous portions. I ordered two shrimp tacos, a tostada de aguachiles and a tostada mixta. Out of the three I'd have to say the tacos were my favorite with the aguachiles a close second. Definitely appreciate the textural contrast between the crunchy taco, meaty shrimp, and creamy avocado. The salsa was just a touch salty for my tastes, but delicious nonetheless. Aguachiles was good and fiery, though there's only so much near-raw shrimp I can eat, and the tostada mixta was solid. Everything fresh. I think I looked a little ridiculous with 3 full paper plates of food...with a water everything came to $10.50. Definitely will come back.

                  1. re: fooddude37

                    Fooddude37, you're rigt about that. The sideshow of tostadas is amazing, the mixtas are overflowing, just like they are in Mexico.

                    I was so taken by the tacos the first couple of times I was there, but noticed the locals putting away those tostadas.

                    I didn't try the aguachiles but imagined them to be a generous as everything else.Thanks for reporting on your full degustacion and giving us a more thorough assessment. Sounds like you had a nice fiesta!

                3. In the same commercial development as Birrieria La Barca, and almost exactly across the lane is Taqueria Azteca specializing in Mexico City style casual food such as Tacos, Huaraches, Tlacoyos, Licuados, Flan Napolitano etc., the food & service is not quite the same level as La Barca but they certainly have some noteworthy not your crap-of-the mill Carnitas Michoacan / King Taco / El Taurino stuff.

                  First Up.... Tinga de Pollo

                  > Tortilla.... Handmade, 5 inch diameter, slightly dense & chewy texture... very good aroma & flavor made from fresh ground masa

                  > Filling.... braised, smokey shredded chicken & chorizo in a chipotle sauce with lots of carmelized onions... a very solid version.

                  > Condiments... a very nice rendition of the slightly brownish yellow, tomatillo salsa that has big chunks of onion & flecks of dried chiles... tart & sharp

                  2nd Suadero

                  > Tortilla... same as above

                  > Filling.... thick slices of supremely tender "Mexican Corned Beef" that has been pickled in a spicy vinegar, slow cooked then finished on the griddle. Someone what akin to the juiciest versions of Pastrami around.

                  > Condiments... I don't remember

                  Thats all I remember for now... the draw of La Barca is too great in that part of town (also the service is pretty slow at Azteca).

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    Link...

                    * Taqueria Azteca
                    10816 1/2 Valley Mall El Monte CA Remove

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                      I love Suadero. Taco Zone's is very good. How does this one compare?

                      1. re: blackbookali

                        I haven't had the Taco Zone version.

                    2. "A chow worthy "Carne Asada" taco in Mexico is purchased by its cut... you have Arrachera, Cabreria / Rib Eye, New York, Puntas de Filete / Filet Tips, Palomilla, Diezmillo etc.. if you have to order an anonymous "3 de Asada" instead of "1 de Arrachera, 1 de Palomilla y otro de Cabreria" its not likely to belong on our list."

                      Do any of the Taco trucks/Taquerias in LA have these different cuts for Carne Asada? I haven't seen any, and I thought that most use skirt steak for asada... El Parian is the only place that seemed to have better quality steak, though not quit sure what cut. I would love to have the options you outlined. Do you know of any places that do this?

                      24 Replies
                      1. re: mdpilam

                        I think we all wish the Taco trucks / Taquerias used Skirt Steak (Inside Skirt is Arrachera, Outside Skirt is Falda or Ranchera)... instead they all use a blend of various cuts of Chuck.... chop it in cubes... beat it up with a Mallet, season it with Papain extract etc., to get it tender.

                        The only places that offer distinctive cuts... are El Parian (which offer the mentioned inside Skirt), Taqueria Sanchez' Lomo taco (which uses thinly sliced Loin chop strips)... then you have some of the more sit down places that offer fine cuts like NY Steak, Lamb Chop etc., (Frida, Border Grill etc.,)

                        1. re: mdpilam

                          There are none.Skirt, skirt, and lesser offerings.

                          1. re: streetgourmetla

                            Now that isn't true, because the occasional stand outside my local Mexican market (Jax, in Anaheim) buys up diesmillo from the market, prepares it, grills it and chops it right there. I haven't seen them in the last couple of weeks but I haven't really been paying attention because I normally go there on Fridays and meat on Fridays was not permitted recently.

                            While they fail on the tortilla front (seriously, how hard is it to make a tortilla?? Make a batch of masa earlier in the day, then make the tortilla a la minute...), Carnitas Michoacan in Northeast LA has astounding carnitas, though you only get the choice of maciza, cueritos or "surtido" (assortment).

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              "Carnitas Michoacan in Northeast LA has astounding carnitas, though you only get the choice of maciza, cueritos or "surtido" (assortment)."

                              Alright... I am willing to give CM a little more cred if they are at least offering three choices for Carnitas. I still doubt they are preparing them properly (copper pot, orange rind etc.,). Lincoln Heights - with a few sabbaticals - is where I lived from 5 until 21.... CM was a regular for me... but just a convenience spot.. kind of like going through the McD's Drive Through at 2AM... when we were serious about carnitas we would head to Carnitas Uruapan or Los Zamoranos (I believe they may be now defunct or under different ownership) unlike CM... those places measured their Carnitas volumes in number of pigs slaughtered & cooked per day... the operation was similar to that of Carnitas meccas in Mexico. When we stopped going to those places (I forget why)... Cinco Puntos or worst case scenario the Bakery / Pork Fryery attached to the King Taco in Lincoln Heights were the next place we looked for the real deal.

                              It looks like we will be visiting in the Fall... so I may stop for some carnitas before visiting my parents... and see if they have improved over the last time (3 or 4 years ago)

                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                I think there are good tacos to be had here in LA, definitley.But the asadas, al pastors, and carnitas, not happening. Like yourself I've had it in Uruapan,Jalisco, all over Mexico, and by Michoacanos living in other states in Mexico. I don't expect that quality here, but without at least a full array of meats, at least?

                                Again, DU, give me an address.Astounding, though?

                                1. re: streetgourmetla

                                  Give a man a google response - he's informed for a moment. Teach a man how to google and he's informed for a lifetime. ;-D>

                                  http://www.lmgtfy.com/?q=jax+market+a...

                                  1. re: Servorg

                                    cuteness isnt getting us tacos compa! dame tres de tripas doradas

                                    1. re: kare_raisu

                                      ...ew. I've eaten a lot of tripe and I think I can say with some authority that I hate tripe, dorada or not.

                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                        Despite the simiarity in word... Tripas are not Tripe they are chitlins.

                                      2. re: kare_raisu

                                        "cuteness isnt getting us tacos compa!"

                                        True. But Street can now find Das U's suggested location for diesmillo, (and for which he asked location information 2 or 3 times after Das U posted about it) so perhaps it wasn't totally useless to this discussion?

                                        And in the future, he and others like him here, who come along to this discussion in the future will be able to utilize this information in other situations of the same perplexing situation, allowing them to locate places mentioned here on CH without delay.

                                        1. re: Servorg

                                          Whoa, just realized this wasnt a chowhound team tsk tsk, sorry servorg. What are you bringing to our taco table again?

                                          1. re: kare_raisu

                                            The map of Los Angeles with addresses and zip codes so you all don't get lost.

                                      3. re: Servorg

                                        What a great website! Thanks for sharing this with everyone.

                                        Agree with DU... Jax is a great place.

                                        Mr Taster

                                  2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                    OK, so we have a stand that has diezmillo.But, just having it doesn't really make it great. How is the meat?Flavor?Texture? I really prefer arrachera or blends.I've seen nor tasted anything interesting here.DU, I will be in Santa Ana tomorrow, maybe I'll hit this up.Need coordinates.

                                    1. re: streetgourmetla

                                      What I meant Senor DU, was that if the diezmillo is from Smart and Final, or Ralph's, it's not the same thing Senor Nopal is talking about.DIezmillo in Mexico is not that sad stuff we have in our supermarkets.That said, I'm still interested in your stand.Saludos.

                                      1. re: streetgourmetla

                                        The stand is there occasionally. They buy the meat from inside the store. I'm just not as fussed about whether it's up to some exacting standard I don't really have, so I don't enquire too closely, but the store is on North East and East Sycamore in Anaheim.

                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                          Hermano, wanting a quality piece of steak for a steak taco isn't an exacting standard. Any taquero should care about the quality of his meat.

                                          1. re: streetgourmetla

                                            Understood. But I don't stand there and ask the provenance of the meat, I eat the damn taco and if it sucks I don't buy any more.

                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                              Well, you went far enough to ask about the cut? When you've had excellent quality diezmillo, and shopped for it 'round town it's fairly obvious. An OG with your experience should be able to tell the difference without inquiring too much. It's simple, in certain parts of mexico there's a guy that's known for his diezmillo.You try it, then you look for something close.No need to ask too many questions.

                                              When I go to you're place, for which I'm asking a little bit more help locating, I will just taste it and it will be pretty clear I'm sure based on a sucks or doesn't suck criteria.Anyways, are you comin to Tj, or hiding from Kaire Raisu and I?

                                              1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                Not hiding -- just unbelievably overwhelmed at work.

                                                I respect your searching for the very best -- you are more dedicated to finding the wonderful Mexican food in our midst than I, so I'll tell you what -- if you find the diesmillo of your dreams tell me, and in the meantime when I find the Russ and Daughters equivalent (and it ain't Barney Greengrass) I'll let you know. :)

                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                  Ay Geek, it's not here.TJ?It's on you now.Habla pura cuenta. Let us now and we'll take you to the promised land.Until then, I've laid down recs that I stand behind, check 'em out when you're in those 'hoods and let me know.As far as time, we all gotta eat! Tripas?Tripas are chingon.

                                                  1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                    Well, and the taqueros outside Jax weren't there today... Ugh.

                                      2. re: streetgourmetla

                                        Hey Street... I really do think there are few very good places to get some decent grilled steak tacos... I agree that they haven't been identified. Before I moved from the Eastside to the Westside in 2001... my go to butcher was at Lincoln Heights' Rancho Meat Market... this was before I graduated college.. and such my, ehem... disposable income wasn't quite what is today... so I mostly bought whatever "hook" he put under $3 a lb.... but.. quality of meat was okay... his cousin owned a slaughter house about 20 miles north of bakersfield that sourced Harris Ranch cattle exclusively... so decent beef butchered up by a Mexican cutting for the Mexican community... over the years I enjoyed some beautiful Arrachera, Diezmillo, Palomillo, various incarnations of Lomo, T-Bones etc.,

                                        Before I moved they had opened a 2nd, larger location at the intersection of Broadway & Valley... smack between Lincoln Heights & El Sereno and where doing weekend, outdoor, mesquite fired grills... the Tortillas where the typical mediocre packaged crap... so it certainly isn't fit for this category... but the meats were quite decent... certainly several notches better than anything at Taqueria Sanchez, El Taurino, Carnitas Michoacan etc.,

                                        I don't know what the status is... maybe someone will go the extra 2 miles past Carnitas Michoacan & Chapalita to check it out & update... but overall in the right neighborhoods I am sure you can still find competent butchers sourcing better than average meat.... its just a question of where.
                                        ...

                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                          Agreed. I've been trolling these neighborhoods pretty heavily, though.I'm looking for that magic marker, a stand with names of cuts, selling his tacos for $2.50 for a NY steak,palomilla, or arrachera.

                                          I will check it out, and hopefully others will keep their eyes open for such a thing.

                                2. From an earlier post
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5757...

                                  El Paisita in Lynwood for excellent Tijuana style tacos de birria de res
                                  10350 Long Beach Blvd, Lynwood, CA 90262
                                  It's a stand across the street from El Paisa, a Sinaloan seafood joint.

                                  Tacos El Gordo, tacos de suadero, chorizo,buche, and others cooked in a comal de acero, nopal and onion braised in the intermingled meats just like in Guadalajara and D.F.The taqueros here are from Colima. Juicy suadero with braised onion, clean and fresh salsa station, radishes floating in cold water.These blow any truck out of the water.Chorizo is used as a dam to separate the meats in the comal.They also have lengua and cabeza al vapor at a steam table. Three taqueros at work here, hermano.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: streetgourmetla

                                    Arrrggh! Well, Tacos El Gordo has disappeared or moved. I stopped by tonight on my way home, and the stand was there but the salsa and condiments were set up differently, and there were women working instead of the three guys I saw last time. It was obvious, old cilantro, shoody looking radishes, and the meats were floating in a stew rather than a controlled and organized comal de acero.

                                    I asked, and yeah, they've been there for a few months,These tacos were lame. So it goes for the outlaw stands.Here today, gone tomorrow, replaced by mediocrity.

                                  2. Eat_Nopal,

                                    Do you have any recommendations for tripas tacos? I've had different versions here, but never had them in Mexico.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: spoggly

                                      The best Tripas Tacos (other than homemade which doesn't help anybody) has been from Los Cincos Puntos in L.A... more of a market... they sell Carnitas & Guisados in bulk along with everything you need to make tacos... homemade tortillas, salsas & nopalitos etc., There is a nearby park where you can picnic.

                                      I can remember eating good tripas from numerous places... in the Alameda Swap Meet, at the Mercadito in East L.A., on Pacific Ave in Huntington Park... but none that I remember that were the complete package... served with handmade tortillas, a good green salsa, key limes & chiles gueros toreados etc.,

                                      1. re: spoggly

                                        If they are on their game - the taqueros do an incredible tripitas at Tacos El Gordo in San Diego - should you ever find your self below the OC. The salsa that serve only with that taco is $$$$.

                                        1. re: kare_raisu

                                          Yes ! In their El Centro location, I had a revelatory experience ! Soo good.

                                          1. re: mikester

                                            Whoops I meant Chula Vista, not El Centro.

                                        2. re: spoggly

                                          my favorite tripas are at Taco Loco #3 in Long Beach (Magnolia between PCH and Anaheim). They braise them so they're tender, then the crisp them on the flat-top. great dish.

                                        3. These duck leg and sea bass tacos of which you speak: can they be found anywhere in Los Angeles County? Say the word, i am there!

                                          5 Replies
                                            1. re: silverlakebodhisattva

                                              Check with Das_Ubergeek... Mariscos Puerto Esperanza might offer a Sea Bass taco.... I don't know if they do it in the Carnitas style.

                                              The closest to a Fish Carnitas in L.A. that I know of is Mariscos Chente's Marlin taco.

                                              With regards to Duck Carnitas... I had it once at Babita as a daily special not sure I have seen it anywhere else. In Portland, they are offered at Taqueria Nueve. Of course, in Tijuana you will find them in several places... and I wouldn't be surprised if the newer restaurants in Chula Vista that have litterally hopped the border had one on the menu.

                                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                As far as I know they do NOT have a sea bass taco, though I'm sure you could ask for one. What they do have, which I've only had once and is fantastic, is tacos de robalo al pastor -- striped bass done al pastor style.

                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                  Striped Bass al Pastor Link:

                                                  -----
                                                  Mariscos Puerto Esperanza
                                                  1724 N Tustin St, Orange, CA 92865

                                              2. I would also like to mention Birrieria Tlaquepaque on Florence, for excellent Jalisco style birria de chivo. I tried this not to long ago and they were delicious.I was on my way to several places and didn't check what kinds of meats they had, but the flavor was nice.

                                                Also, the tacos de camaron and tacos de marlin at Mariscos Chente are pure street cart from the state of Sinaloa.Simple, delicious, and the marlin is sublime.

                                                Birireria Tlaquepaque
                                                1753 E. Florence Ave.
                                                Los Angeles,CA

                                                Mariscos Chente
                                                4532 S. Centinela
                                                Mar Vista, CA

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                  The Marlin Tacos at Chente are perfect, unadulterated examples of one of Sinaloa's gifts to the Mexican culinary body. I strongly second those griddled dorado simple tacos to anyone in LA seeking gastronomia sinaloense.

                                                2. I come bearing 3 nominees for The Chowhound Taco Guia del Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de la Porciúncula.

                                                  First up the Mexican restaurant that changed my life when I was 18: El Parian. Yea, yea the carne asada is passable but you come here for the BIRRIA. The juicy, rich, invigorating goat stew on a handmade tortilla. The place is named after essentially the Mariachi 'arena' of Tlaquepaque just SE of Guadalajara. I think it could stand up to Birrierias Ive hit in Jalisco.

                                                  The next 2 I'll refer you to my post on it:
                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/575789

                                                  2. Borrego de Oro
                                                  3. Barbacoa Actopan

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: kare_raisu

                                                    Thanks KR... so if I understand correctly... you would like to nominate:

                                                    > Birria Taco at El Parian
                                                    > Pancita Taco at Barbacoa Actopan
                                                    > Barbacoa Taco at Borrego de Oro

                                                    -----
                                                    El Parian
                                                    1528 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015

                                                    El Borrego De Oro
                                                    2403 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90023

                                                    Barbacoa Actopan
                                                    3100 E Imperial Hwy, Lynwood, CA 90262

                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                      El Parian for Goat is one of my LA favs as well.

                                                      Today I went to your spot at Birrieria La Barca.
                                                      That's a big place nice and clean. The layout and decor reminded me of a Jewish Deli.

                                                      I ordered the Goat and I was not disappointed.
                                                      The goat had a nice flavor and the hand made tortillas were the perfect size for folding over the meat. After finishing the meat there was a nice thick broth to deal with that I scooped up with my spoon. This broth certainly had the most heat out of all the places I've been to for Birria.

                                                      The one thing I did not like was the way the Cilantro was chopped.
                                                      It had a lot of stems which I don't care for. I prefer the way it is offered at El Parian where you get the whole Cilantro fresh and simply pull the leaves off and add to your soup or tacos.

                                                      I arrived early about 10:30 am by the time I left the place was getting packed.
                                                      There's definitely some other interesting things on the menu I'll have to go back for.
                                                      I have no idea what it was but there were these big steamy bowls with with whole green onions sticking out that looked interesting at the table next to me. My Spidey food sense tells me the cheeseburgers are on not the same level as the Birria.(smile)

                                                      1. re: burntwater

                                                        The other big draw there are the Molcajetes... volcanic stone mortars filled with various meats & vegetables all sauced with brothy, roasted salsas. Also the Shrimp a la Diabla is absolutely killer... better than any other I've had anywhere in California... and would standout even in Mexico. Just across the lane is a place called Taqueria Azteca that has many pleasant surprises as well.

                                                        1. re: burntwater

                                                          I wonder if the the "big steamy bowls with whole green onions sticking out" aren't the Molcajetes? If they are... you will not be disappointed... I like getting the mixed one with Shrimp, Steak, Chicken Breast, Chorizo, Nopales & Onions.. I vaguely remember one that offers Lobster & Scallops among other things... but I never tried it... because frankly I was too cheap. I usually like getting a Birria Taco or Two for an appetizer then... either a less expensive Molcajete or the Camarones a la Diabla... a Fruit Plate & a Licuado for dessert.

                                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                            Eat N, the Molcajetas is what I saw. I will return to try that.

                                                            When I was leaving I did see the other place across the street.
                                                            I can't remember if it was the word tingas or something else that raised my eyebrow (in a good way) about that place.

                                                        2. re: kare_raisu

                                                          Hi:

                                                          We've moved an interesting sub-thread about what makes good quality Asada to the General Topics board:

                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/613447

                                                        3. Hi Eat_Nopal,

                                                          Great thread. :) I was waiting for you (or others) to chime in on Pork Carnitas, but I don't see any recommendations listed in this thread yet. :(

                                                          I love the Tacomiendo recommendation you gave me last year; how do they rate in terms of authenticity for their Carnitas? Thanks.

                                                          8 Replies
                                                          1. re: exilekiss

                                                            Hi... most Carnitas in L.A are pretty authentic... they just aren't all they can be. When you have a place with a broad menu on which a Carnitas taco is one of 50 disparate items... it can't be good. The best places in Mexico (or anywhere else) are the ones that butcher several pigs every day & make carnitas with just about every cut... and they run out every day. At one point in time in the 80's Carnitas Uruapan fit that description... with handmade tortillas, nopales salad, great guacamole etc., all served family style... but I am not aware of anything else like that in L.A right now. it doesn't mean it doesn't exist... it probably does... the problem is that all the English speaking Chowhounds are in one part of our lovely segregated City... whearas the best of the mom & pop Mexican restaurant food is off where the new arrivals can be found.

                                                              1. re: blackbookali

                                                                What makes it great? How is it cooked?Michoacan or Jalisco style?What parts do they offer?Are they tender from hours cooked in lard, or of the steamed variety that we so often find here?

                                                                AS Eat Nopal said, the authentic versions here cooked Michoacan style are not all they can be.The flavor and tenderness are often lacking, and the selection of parts are few.

                                                                1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                  Yeah... I guess there isn't a Carnitas Primer thread out there.. lets just recap briefly what makes the best Carnitas:

                                                                  > Cooking Vessel - Large Copper Pot. Purist will insist on an artisinal hammered pot from Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacan (made from locally mined Copper... talk about Terroir)

                                                                  http://www.billpogue.com/stock_photog...

                                                                  > Cooking Liquid - Rendered Pig Fat (Duck or Chicken Fat okay for non-pork carnitas) + Orange Rind for flavor.

                                                                  > Cooking Technique... cooked low confit style until meat is tender... then the meat is basted in Orange Juice - Garlic mixture (or Coca Cola in parts of Michoacan)... then temperature increased to develop browned exterior.

                                                                  > Pig Parts... a great Carnitas eatery offers many different cuts to choose from:
                                                                  >>> Lomo is Loin Meat usually cut in a 2 inch thick, 4 inch diameter wheel
                                                                  >>> Costilla.... half rack of ribs
                                                                  >>> Chamorro... cross cut shank
                                                                  >>> Cachete... cheeks
                                                                  >>> Trompa... snout
                                                                  >>> Maciza.... lean chunks from the shoulder, leg & butt

                                                                  There are more... but those tend to be the popular ones. Great carnitas are served with Nopales salad, dark red salsas, guacamole (particularly in Uruapan the World Capital of Avocados)... hand made tortillas, Bayo (heirloom beans) cooked in a clay pot.

                                                                  The following description & photo of Carnitas in Guanajuato is quite colorful:

                                                                  http://www.seasonedinthesouth.com/blo...

                                                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                    Yes my friend.It's got to be from the copper pot. We can get this in Tj, but the trucks in LA, no way.Here's a recent J. Gold article about:
                                                                    http://www.laweekly.com/2009-04-30/ea...

                                                                    Let's throw in some lengua, cueritos, and buche, too.And then let's have it surtida(mixed).

                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                  2. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                    i can find the words. you just have to try them.

                                                                    1. re: blackbookali

                                                                      And thus we separate the casual carnitas observer with the lifestyle obsessed chowhound variety :)

                                                                      Mr Taster

                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                        if you try the Zone and know of a better one, let me know!

                                                              2. maaaan, good thread.
                                                                to be honest, i was pretty stoked on the great bandini a year or two ago.
                                                                that's one of those blogs that got me really stoked on food in general.
                                                                i'm glad that there are more people (especially on ch) stepping up.
                                                                the blog scene seems to be dying down with "buzzworthy" food like kogi, et al.
                                                                everything seems to be a competition for the most hype rather than the best food.
                                                                chowhound has always been my go-to for great food recs, regardless of hype.
                                                                thanks again!

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. La Taquiza - Al Pastor tacos

                                                                  Homemade tortilla
                                                                  Trompo Pastor
                                                                  Bangin salsa bar.

                                                                  nice thread. hope i dont get shot down too bad with my nomination.

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Brown Dolphin

                                                                    Don't worry, it's the NEWER NICER Eat Nopal posting, so I am sure you won't get flamed.

                                                                    Please post an address for La Taquize, TGIA

                                                                    GJ

                                                                    1. re: Gypsy Jan

                                                                      Place link for La Taquiza

                                                                      -----
                                                                      La Taquiza
                                                                      3009 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90007

                                                                    2. re: Brown Dolphin

                                                                      I think that there is much better Al Pastor to be had right around the corner at Taqueria Vista Hermosa.

                                                                      1. re: Brown Dolphin

                                                                        No flaming from me on La Taquiza.... solid Al Pastor tacos. Not the best ever... but they are certainly Chow nominate-able and a baseline for L.A.

                                                                      2. I had a shrimp taco at Mariscos El Perihuete in Paramount the other day that was hands down the best taco I have ever had. OMg!!!

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: irishkevbo

                                                                          Peruhuete is a Sinaloan mariscos joint.Was it fried with vegetables and cheese, sauteed? Mariscos Chente does excellent versions of this in addition to their taco de marlin.Sinaloan tacos de camaron are distinct. Let us know more?

                                                                        2. Still doing research for a trip to LA and thought I'd temper this excellent thread a little. Great information, but somewhat overstated in parts. A few points:

                                                                          * Even excellent taquerias and puestos in Mexico often don't have handmade tortillas. Most are using good quality machine-made tortillas, though often from fresh masa rather than masa harina. And the fritangas stands rarely if ever have fresh tortillas, but they often refresh the tortillas in the greases pooling from the suadero, chorizo, etc, which may be much more important for flavor than them being handmade. And some of the places that grill meats or fish will refresh tortillas in the coals, which I love as well, and find more important than how the tortillas were made.

                                                                          * My experience is that even in Mexico, the most common choice made on carnitas isn't what cut (and definitely not what beast), but just whether you want offal or not. But that doesn't have a direct relationship to quality. eg, here in Oregon we used to have a place for a long time (recently went out of business due to the drop in immigrants) that did excellent carnitas -- better than 90% of the places I've tried everywhere from Chicago to LA to various cities in Mexico (though I have't traveled through Michoacan). You could see the slow-fried orange halves mixed in with the meat and taste it subtly on the meat. The chunks were golden and barked on the outside, nicely salted and lightly sweet, succulent on the inside, like good BBQ. No need to sautee before serving like so many places. But they didn't do whole animals, just shoulders, heads, and buche. Not even ribs like most of the carnicerias here.

                                                                          * As with carnitas, cut isn't always a choice at truly great places. Sometimes they're a stand where it's economical for them to only provide one cut, but they do it perfectly. Likewise, I've been to restaurants in Mexico where they special in grilled meats, but they only have one or two cuts of beef they're doing, but they do them fantastically.

                                                                          So my point is only that while such details can be helpful in indicating who might be serious about what they're doing, a good cook trumps all.

                                                                          Disappointed there weren't more tacos de guisados in this thread.

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: extramsg

                                                                            Since the local boards (as the LA board is) are really for trading specific places to get (hopefully) great chow do you have any place(s) you would like to recommend? Always interested in hearing about new, or even an updates on old, places. For instance you mention your disappointment that there weren't more tacos de guisados recommended. Where do you go for them in the greater LA area when you get the itch?

                                                                            1. re: Servorg

                                                                              As noted in the first sentence above, I'm researching on Chowhound for an upcoming trip to LA. My recent travels have mostly focused on Mexican seafood in LA, not tacos per se, along with Oaxacan foods. (And then things like Japanese and Thai.) So, I'm more asking for recommendations than giving them.

                                                                              1. re: extramsg

                                                                                What do you have on your short list at this point?