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Good Gringo Tacos?

Thanks to recent threads on this board, I've rediscovered the simple joys of gringo tacos. So far I've tried the ones at Taco Lita and Taco Time in Arcadia and at Rick's Drive-In in Pasadena, and have liked all of them. Don't get me wrong, I love the tacos at El Chato, Cacao Mexicatessen, and La Super Rica, but there's a certain charm to gringo tacos using fresh ingredients. Besides Tito's (which I tried when I first moved to LA four years ago), can anyone suggest other places in the LA and OC area with particularly good gringo tacos?

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  1. hard shell tacos @ el taco llama in NoHo, get the al pastor.

    Great al pastor, fresh fried hard shell tacos/chips (usually), great refried beans.

    5 Replies
    1. re: ns1

      Thanks ns1! Taco Llama seems to have a number of locations in the SFV. Are you singling out the NoHo location in particular, or are they all good?

      1. re: Peripatetic

        NoHo one is the only one I can recommend. it's the only place i'll buy a hardshell taco.

        Weekends are the best IMHO cuz it's just the cook working there. The cash register girl sometimes messes up your order, but the cook never.

        Fair warning: I have gotten stale shells there, and the al pastor is occasionally greasy. But when it's on, they are freaking godly.

        Also, good jalapenos too.

        1. re: ns1

          Even greasy Al Pastor is good. I know I've gone by it but exactly where in NoHo? Oxnard and Whitsett?

          1. re: mucho gordo

            I think there are three NoHo El Taco Llamas.

            One is the hut next to a car wash at Magnolia, just east of Cahuenga. Salsa is limited to roja and verde.

            Another is on Sherman Way between Lankershim and Tujunga. (no link, sorry). This is a full restaurant with more salsa options, including pico de gallo.

            For a time, these were owned by the same people, but I recall the hut had a sign about new owners about a year ago. I think both are still great, but I've never tried the hard-shell tacos. I always get the asada and birria soft tacos with the kick-ass salsa roja. Their birria is addictive.

            There is a third NoHo branch linked below on Runnymede St.

            El Taco Llama
            10501 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601

            El Taco Llama
            11721 Runnymede St, North Hollywood, CA 91605

            1. re: mucho gordo

              I go to the one on Cahuenga/Magnolia next to the car wash.

      2. In the SGV, I like the hard shell tacos at Mexicatessen in Monterey Park

        830 S Atlantic Blvd, Monterey Park, CA 91754

        4 Replies
          1. re: katkoupai

            I do love Mexicatessen; however I don't think they have the ground beef style of taco found at Taco Lita and Taco Treat.

            EDIT: ignore this, I thought you were referring to Cacao Mexicatessen in Eagle Rock. I shouldn't post before drinking coffee.

            1. re: Peripatetic

              The Mexicatessan in Monterey Park does not use ground beef in their tacos, but rather a shredded style (which I prefer)

              1. re: Ernie

                Yup, it's not ground beef, but it is so good. I am hooked. The salsas are great too!

        1. A new place in Lawndale named Nuestra Senora Del Sabor has great crispy chicken tacos. If you want old school (ground beef) Poblanita Express up the street will fill the bill. Ramonas near ECC used to be a good bet but the new owners started using premade shells (ugh).

          Poblanita Express
          14329 Hawthorne Blvd, Lawndale, CA 90260

          Nuestra Senora Del Sabor
          14916 Hawthorne Blvd, Lawndale, CA 90260

          1. Barragan's on Sunset near Echo Park, especially on Mondays when they are $1.00

            1. Sky's Gourmet Tacos is worth a try. They pride themselves on their soul food tacos and they are pretty tasty. Better than Tito's at least.


              5408 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019

              1. How gringo is a puffy taco from Arturo's? No matter. It's still a good way to kill the appetite...See this review by Pleasure Palate (photos included) from 2008: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4782...

                Arturo's Puffy Taco
                15693 Leffingwell Rd, Whittier, CA 90604

                12 Replies
                1. re: Servorg

                  Arturo's has been on my list for a long time, even if it isn't entirely gringo.

                  What I'm mainly aiming for is tacos like the ones at Tacolita, Taco Treat, and Ricks:

                  1. crispy shell (manufactured okay, but fresh, not stale, and good quality.)
                  2. good quality fresh ground beef
                  3. fresh lettuce and tomato
                  4. decent grated cheese
                  5. flavorful hot sauce

                  I know, this is hardly fine dining, but, like a double-double, it can be a remarkably edifying eating experience. Tacolita, Taco Time, and Ricks also have a distinctive "vanishing SoCal" ambiance which adds to the charm.

                  1. re: Peripatetic

                    How about Pepe's in Temple City or Tops on Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena?

                    1. re: katkoupai

                      Do you mean the Original Tops on Colorado, or Tops on Walnut? I've never noticed tacos on either of their menus (though I've only been to the Walnut one once).

                      1. re: Peripatetic

                        It's the one on Walnut...the tacos are pretty good. They are stuffed to the point of falling out of the shell. I usually eat mine with a fork. There is a cinnamon flavor to the meat that is quite good.

                        1. re: Peripatetic

                          Original Tops has a few "Mexican" items on their menu; tacos, burritos and taquitos etc.

                          I've only had the tostado salad with carne asada, it is huge, and the carne asada is pretty good.

                          The Original Tops
                          3838 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

                          1. re: reality check

                            I love their chicken tostada salad. It is huge and delicious! Definitely worth the price with the almost whole avocado they throw on it - and their delicious ranch dressing!

                            1. re: reality check

                              I happened to be near the Original Tops on Colorado yesterday and tried their "Classic" (ground beef) taco. It was okay, but I not great. There was a ludicrous amount of ground beef in it -- so much that it left no room for the shredded lettuce or cheese, which just fell out onto the wrapper. While the ground beef had a clean taste, it wasn't distinctively spiced. The hot sauce was generic and forgettable. The taco shell was partially saturated with grease.

                              I was a little surprised, as I've had their oft-touted "KOBE Bistro Burger" on a few occasions and thought it was decent. If I went back for the taco, I'd ask for two taco shells and then redistribute the ingredients between them. I'd also bring some Taco Lita hot sauce. But by then, what's the point?

                              To be fair, no one in this thread recommended Tops Original for their tacos, so it was a purely speculative venture.

                              The leaderboard: Taco Lita > Taco Treat > Rick's Drive In >> Tops Original.

                              Next up: Tops on Walnut.

                              1. re: Peripatetic

                                At Tops, I have only had the burgers, CC fries, fried zucchini and tostada salad. Never the tacos. I have only had the tostada salad at the Walnut location. Out of your list here is my preferance of the tacos (with accompanying sauce, of course): Taco Treat, Rick's Drive In, Taco Lita, never had top's.

                                Taco Lita
                                120 E Duarte Rd, Arcadia, CA 91006

                          2. re: katkoupai

                            Pepe's is my favorite for hard tacos. Also has locations in Alhambra and Covina.

                            1. re: heckonwheels

                              I like Pepe's for their tostada, and I also like Mexi-catessen in Monterey Park. Ernie recommended it a long time a go, and it is a great place. The taco and enchiliada plate is very good, and the salsas also taste homemade.

                              1. re: heckonwheels

                                Also in Orange County, Placentia and Brea I believe?

                          1. Oops, just realized that should have been "Taco Treat", not "Taco Time", in the original post.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Peripatetic

                              I was going to mention Taco Treat and ask where Taco Time was! ;-)

                              Taco Time
                              9828 Katella Ave, Anaheim, CA

                            2. I think you'll find what you're looking for at Henry's Tacos in North Hollywood - hard shell, ground beef, shredded lettuce, cheese, and sauce in small plastic cups. It's definitely my "go to" place for my gringo taco fix.

                              Henry's Tacos
                              11401 Moorpark Street
                              North Hollywood, CA 91602

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: omakase

                                Places like Henry's are exactly what I'm looking for. I actually bought a Henry's Tacos T-shirt from them a few years ago but never tried the food (I was only interested in authentic tacos at the time). I'll have to try it next time I'm in that neighborhood.

                                Henry's Tacos
                                11401 Moorpark St, North Hollywood, CA 91602

                                1. re: Peripatetic

                                  I like the hard shell, ground beef tacos at Don Antonio's in West LA.

                                  Don Antonio's
                                  11755 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                              2. Lucy's Mexican near the USC campus has a very old school gringo style taco that has been unchanged for the past half-century...it's very good, if this is the kind of taco you're into. Otherwise, there are a couple of King Taco (El Taurino is part of the KT empire) branches nearby.
                                Lucy's Drive In
                                1300 West Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90007
                                (213) 747-8919 ‎

                                1. Ketchy's off Sawtelle. Great burger pattie tacos.

                                  1. alright cool!! time to try, time to try!

                                    1. The hard shell tacos at Campos at 20th & Pico are very good. You can get them with ground beef, chicken or turkey. The beef ones are particularly flavorful, as well as the turkey. These are very good sized tacos, with excellent proportions of meat, lettuce and cheese. Two would be a full meal for most people.