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Jun 17, 2011 04:00 PM

Traveling East coast hound needs very specific list

Hi all, I am on a very specific mission. I am the exec chef for a restaurant group in a major East coast city. I previously lived out your way. The guy who owns my group has finally taken my word for it that the taquerias here are shite, and that he can't comprehend what he is missing (trying to explain great taco truck tacos to someone from NY/Boston is like describing blue to the color blind). So we are coming to LA for 3 days (1 probably spent in TJ for other reasons). I am out of touch personally, but gather that El Chato (Olympic and La Brea) is bordering on consensus top 10. Need 5 others, plus 2 or 3 fish taco places. We are coming only to eat, so don't worry if you send us driving all over town. In addition any threads relating to food in TJ or on the drive down. And 1 more thing... Is there a bar/lounge that serves anything you would consider in the top 100 tacos? Some hipster dive with a Mexican run kitchen. Los Feliz maybe or Venice? I appreciate the help. Any top 5 list will do, no need to list all the old threads about this (I am sure there are as many as Boston has lobster roll and NYC has Pizza threads.)

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  1. What a fun trip! For great fish tacos, I personally love Tacos Baja Ensenada in LA (lots of positive talk here about them) and Tacos La Bufadora in Irwindale. There is a great place on the drive down to TJ called South Beach Bar & Grille in Ocean Beach near San Diego. I know I will probably get dinged for mentioning it here, since it should go on the other board, but you may not see it there (sorry CH police!).


    Tacos Baja Ensenada
    5385 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90022

    Tacos La Bufadora
    10990 Lower Azusa Rd, El Monte, CA 91731

    11 Replies
    1. re: WildSwede

      Cool. I have been spending days digging around taco truck reviews. Leo's seems to be mentioned often with El Chato. Any thoughts?

      1. re: KilgoreTrout

        only speaking for the al pastor, leo's > el chato by a mile - I visited both within 30 minutes of each other.

        1. re: KilgoreTrout

          don't go to chato's....it's one of the many overrated places in la. even el flamin is better...there's an orange truck with the word 'gordita' (IIRC) that's usually parked 7th, near grand and hope or flower thas pretty good. A lot of good taco trucks, just not chato's.

          1. re: namstermonster

            btw, totally agree w/estone. go to mariscos jalisco..try their shrimp tacos for sure!! they're crispy shelled, w/avocado slices and hot sauce drizzled on top....the filling is a mash of shrimp, potatoes??, etc. so yummz~

        2. re: WildSwede

          Also, you can hardly go wrong with La Estrella's Al Pastor. It is probably the second best AP I have had - the first only does catering now. The location on N. Fair Oaks in Pasadena is best. Although there are several locations aound Pasadena that are owned by different family members. Their ceviche is also really good. Be sure to get the red salsa (a great salsa is also key for good tacos!).

          La Estrella
          502 N Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena, CA 91103

          1. re: WildSwede

            OK, which is the BEST al pastor (the catering one)?

            1. re: Jack Flash

              Yep. It was that place that Fernando had in the back of a small neighborhood store on Hammond in Pasadena. Now Fernando just caters and it makes me very, very sad. I have referenced him several times when people ask for taco cart catering. Truly wonderful people with truly delicious food.
              I also forgot to mention that he fish tacos at La Estrella are also really good.

              1. re: WildSwede

                This trip is sounding like a dream come true. 48 hours of eating should equal at least 48 tacos (this is research after all, no slacking off). My only concern is having to piece together a route that takes into account all the various random hours of operation. Thanks again to all the wicked good help for this Bostonian, I am sure there are old threads that I could have picked over, but this was more fun. If you guys are mindlessly wasting time at work and want to throw out some ideas about what neighborhood we should book a hotel in that best facilitates the journey and or the closest good taco to LAX, would love to carry on chatting in this thread.

                1. re: KilgoreTrout

                  I would say staying in the downtown LA area makes the most sense (by far) in terms of the majority of these recommendations.

                  1. re: Servorg

                    Also, If you stayed downtown you could take the FlyAway buses to Union Station from LAX for only $6 per person -- big savings vs. cab.

                    1. re: nosh

                      I agree on the downtown rec. Definitely most centrally located. For good Oaxacan food, you can always try Guelaguetza. For delicious Yucatecan food (conchinita pibil and pok chuk - both in taco form) you should definitely try Chichen Itza which is very close to downtown (Exposition and the 110 just south of the 10). You may decide to add their pickled onions to your menu! Delicious!!
                      Along those same lines, maybe a nopal (cactus) taco would be a nice change and something different for the vegetarians out there.

                      Chichen Itza
                      3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007

        3. 1. El Chato - went there last week for a taco crawl and felt that it was just okay. Not sure what the big deal is. Also visited TACOS LEO and TACOS TAMIX that same night and TACOS LEO won by a mile - best al pastor I've had in the city and I also visited 5 different al pastor trucks that night. Also significantly better than el chato (imo) w/o the ridiculous wait.


          2. Mexicali Taco Co for carne asada. Also the best I've had. It was the first stop on said taco crawl above and ruined every single carne asada experience aftewards that night.


          3. Ricky's Fish Tacos - Been to ALL the CH favorites for fish tacos and Ricky's is the most legit of them IMHO. Every friend I've brought to RFT has become a repeat customer.


          Mexicali Taco & Co
          1820 Industrial Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021

          Ricky's Fish Tacos
          1400 N Virgil Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

          2 Replies
          1. re: ns1

            This is the stuff I'm looking for. Thanks. Keep them coming.

            1. re: ns1

              +1 on both Ricky's Fish Tacos
              Mexicali Taco Co

              And Tacos por Favor has KILLER red salsa.

              Mexicali Taco & Co
              1820 Industrial Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021

              Ricky's Fish Tacos
              1400 N Virgil Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

            2. Many seem to think El Parian is the best, especially for carne asada.

              My favorite is the Carnitas Michaocan north of downtown and Chinatown, on the N/W corner of North Broadway at 19th. Good carne asada, better al pastor from a rotisserie spit. But the true genius here is the hot sauce -- brickred, thin, smoky, hot, spicy, complex and absolutely delicious. This taqueria got top ranking from The Great Taco Hunt blog for awhile.

              Others to try are Tacos Por Favor in Santa Monica on the S/E corner of Olympic at 14th -- many love their chorizo and cheese tacos, I think their hot sauce is best on the westside. Tacqueria Sanchez, on the west side of Centinela between Washington and Culver is very good, and their shrimp tacos are excellent, with the shrimp chopped but perfectly cooked.

              Enjoy your screenname -- KV, Jr RIP.

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

              Tacos Por Favor
              1406 Olympic Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404

              1. The original comment has been removed
                1. You'll certainly find pretty much everything you need here: http://www.greattacohunt.com/ Of the most highly rated taco trucks / stands, my personal favorites are:

                  Mexicali Taco Co. - Carne asada, chicken and chorizo. Especially try the vampiro (I prefer it with chicken) and the cachetada (I prefer it with asada.


                  While I like Leo's Al Pastor an awful lot, I am even more fond of a place that either doesn't have a name or I just don't know it. It sets up at about 8pm on the southwest corner of Cesar Chavez & Hicks in East L.A. It is just east of Cinco Puntos (Cesar Chavez & Lorena) - a fantastic little market / carniceria that specializes in excellent carnitas but is only open during the day.

                  One block west of the al pastor guys on Hicks, on the northwest corner of Alma and Cesar Chavez is a stand that sets up at night where they fresh make their tortillas and sopes. I'm not crazy about their tacos, but they do make excellent quesadillas with good quality Mexican cheeses and sometimes huitlacoche -which is a pretty funny thing to find at a street stand.

                  I do prefer Ricky's Fish Tacos to Tacos Baja Ensenada.

                  Also, you must have a shrimp taco from Mariscos Jalisco - always parked a few blocks east of Soto on Olympic, but only open until about 5pm. There is another mariscos truck that parks closer to Soto and always seems to have a bigger line, but I can't figure out why as Jalisco kicks its ass.

                  Farther down Olympic, at night, is Tacos El Korita. They've got very good asada and fresh make their tortillas - which really makes it.

                  I'm something of a taco purist and not at all a fan of the various fusion (Kogi, etc.) tacos around town.

                  Tijuana, by the way, has some truly astounding high-end restaurants these days. I haven't been yet, but I have heard nothing short of raves about Mission 19.

                  Good luck to you, Having unsuccessfully hunted for tacos back east, I know you could really use some good ones.

                  Cinco Puntos
                  3300 E Cesar E Chavez Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90063

                  Tacos Baja Ensenada
                  385 W Whittier Blvd, Montebello, CA 90640

                  Mexicali Taco & Co
                  1820 Industrial Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021

                  Ricky's Fish Tacos
                  1400 N Virgil Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027