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Feb 10, 2014 11:20 PM

Taco Crawl This Past Weekend (Mariscos Jalisco, Los Cinco Puntos, Guisados, Ricky's Fish Tacos)

More detailed post w/ photos:

During this past weekend, stravaigint came down to LA from NorCal for another weekend of gastronomic expeditions. For our Saturday lunch meetup, his one request was simple: tacos. We all know that tacos suck up north (I didn’t stutter, NorCal people – come at me bros), so this was a request that was forthcoming on one of his visits to LA. At first, I was a little perplexed – which one place should we go to in order to showcase the best of what our city has to offer, in a city full of amazing taco options. But then it hit me: we don’t have to go to just ONE place – WE CAN CONQUER THEM ALL!!!

My original itinerary began with some of my favorites, and a couple of consensus favorites I have yet to try. After some deliberation, I ended up with six taco joints fairly close in proximity to one another to hit up (in alphabetical order): Guerrilla Tacos, Guisados, Los Cinco Puntos, Mariscos Jalisco, Mexicali Taco & Co, and Ricky’s Fish Tacos. Okay, so that wasn’t going to work obviously (I just had a 14-course dinner the night before, one where I had so much food I had to run stairs between dessert courses – details to follow, and stravaigint had gone through a similar experience elsewhere), but we had such high hopes. Oh young Chris…

With my visions of grandeur all but assuredly dashed, we decided to focus on the three Boyle Heights places (Guisados, Los Cinco Puntos, Mariscos Jalisco) and Ricky’s Fish Tacos. We began the taco crawl at what has quickly become one of Boyle Heights’ institutions: Mariscos Jalisco.

Mariscos Jalisco

While Mariscos Jalisco focuses on ceviches y cocteles from San Juan de Los Lagos in Jalisco, Mexico, the one thing they’re known for isn’t necessarily something true of the region, but rather something that developed into the food truck’s own identity: the fried shrimp taco known as the taco dorado de camaron. Not too big in size at $1.75 per taco, we each ordered one of these – corn tortillas stuffed with a spiced shrimp filling of sorts, then the taco is folded and deep-fried whole, and topped with a slice of avocado and unique salsa roja. Just genius. There are now multiple imitators of this taco, including a competing truck parked on the very same block (and with maybe 4x the number of patrons), but nothing compares to this one. To this day, the shrimp taco is still the only thing I’ve tried at Mariscos Jalisco, and there is much to be discovered here. But we were on a mission, and the next stop awaited…

Los Cinco Puntos

The next stop might be the most surprising to the casual taco fan. It’s just a plain-old Mexican mom-and-pop deli/market of sorts, frequently by the local families of Boyle Heights. But insiders know that they have some damn good carnitas, and an impressive variety of different beef and pork offal parts. Not a word of ingles was spoken inside of the place until it was our turn at the counter. At first, the friendly tia that served us was caught off guard by the sight of an Asian guy and white guy ordering individual tacos (the vast majority of their orders are of their meats and tortilla sold in bulk), but once I busted out my ordering-level espanol (my Spanish comprehension is actually better than my Mandarin), she smiled and proceeded to stuff our tacos with carnitas, buche (pig stomach), guacamole, salsa, and their amazing nopales. We stood outside of the market, hovered over a counter barely a foot deep and a trash can underneath, and savored all the porky goodness in between the fluffy, almost pita-like tortillas hot off the press.


After feeling the local love at Cinco Puntos, we had a change of scenery at the original/flagship location of what looks like a future local mini-chain in Guisados (just opened a location in Echo Park, and opening another one in Downtown soon). Despite the expansion, the OG location still holds up very well, albeit one with more hipsters and Asians than I recall. We had been doing one taco each at the previous two stops, but that sampler – it was calling us. Seriously, what’s a better way to try the multitude of options? And you know what? They’re improved the mini-tortillas used for the sampler-sized tacos. Before, they were small, thick discs that held the meats and veggies like a sope, but they were quite difficult to eat. But now, while the amount of masa appeared to be the same, they've managed to flatten out the tortillas more, enabling a better grip and bite.

Ricky’s Fish Tacos

Our last stop was more out of the way, but in my opinion, Ricky’s has arguably the best taco of any variety in LA, so it behooved us to visit (luckily, we had just enough stomach room for one more stop). As more of you know, Ricky’s is back at its old spot on Virgil Ave, but now in food truck form. This was my first time trying them in their vehicular form, and I think they’re doing better than ever. Fish was as good as ever, and I think the shrimp was better than I remembered. Not sure if Ricky was inside the truck himself, but I can safely say that the operation and experience overall has also improved.

Four stops, four different varieties of tacos, four amazing experiences. Mariscos Jalisco, Guisados, and Ricky’s Fish Tacos all continued their excellences, and Los Cinco Puntos – what a pleasant surprise. I had high expectations for them, but they’ve met those expectations…and then some. Definitely have to get a taco of each variety next time – or I can just buy a pound of everything + packs of tortillas. Overall, I thought it was a very successful taco crawl (I hope stravaigint feels the same way), and I have even greater aspirations to expand and improve the crawl if another opportunity arises.

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  1. "There are now multiple imitators of this taco, including a competing truck parked on the very same block (and with maybe 4x the number of patrons), but nothing compares to this one. To this day, the shrimp taco is still the only"

    So do you theorize the tacos are actually superior at that truck than at Mariscos Jalisco?

    Personally, surprised you cut Guerrilla Tacos out of the loop. Although they are not really Mexican, if they are allowed to be called tacos, they are most assuredly the most interesting tacos being done in LA.

    25 Replies
    1. re: BacoMan

      Guerilla Tacos hours are sometimes a bit tricky. According to their website, they only serve until 1 on weekends. Have you been? I've been meaning to go.

      1. re: set0312

        Yeah. I have no idea why they haven't just opened a restaurant, or why they don't operate more frequently. But they have very standardized hours at this point.

        I've been several times. The last time I went I had a burrito and a taco. They seem to do burritos regularly now, too.

        I mean, you'll spend about $20/person, but the food is ridiculously high-quality. I've been served plates with less finesse, and clarity of flavor than their tacos for $20 in some of LA's best restaurants.

        It is also awesome to me that their set locations are right next to some of the best coffee shops in LA.

      2. re: BacoMan

        I was just briefly mentioning my surprise at the other truck being busier.

        And just FYI, I LOVE Guerrilla Tacos. Only real reason it was cut was because of our limited stomach spaces. And set0312, they should be serving from 9am-2pm on the weekends at Handsome.

        1. re: chrishei

          Yeah. I was just wondering how it could be so much busier given how much press Mariscos Jalisco gets.

          I get the constraints. I guess the actual flavors at GT would have been a kind of strange part of the crawl anyway. Better to savor all the different flavors there on their own really =D

          I've been perusing your blog, and am curious if you've ever been to Taqueria los Anaya?

          Also, is the carne adobada at Gloria's like the stuff they serve in New Mexico? I've been searching for a sincere version of that dish forever out here.

          1. re: BacoMan

            I've only had a sample of Anaya from Tacolandia last year - they didn't really bring their A-game (was more concerned about a tie-in w/ Dreamworks for the movie turbo), so everything was very...standard. But they did press their tortillas on the spot, so props to that.

            Judging by the description I saw online for New Mexico "adovada" it's pretty damn close (probably not as soup-y though). But Gloria's is a fairly traditional El Salvadoran restaurant, so it's obviously more "adobada" than "adovada". Still, give it a shot.

            1. re: chrishei

              That sucks that they didn't bring their A-game. They make their own tortillas for everything fresh, and for some reason they make my absolute favorite tortillas in LA. Consequently, they make the best huevos rancheros I've ever had. I think their mole tacos are tasty, and adobada tacos too (but they aren't like the stuff in NM). I really should go more often. I rarely eat basic Mexican food with so much finesse, and clarity of flavor as there.

              I'll have to head over to Gloria's one of these days.

              I can't believe that even with all of our Mexican food in LA, we don't have anything with cuisine you would find at Tecolote Cafe in Santa Fe =/

              1. re: chrishei

                I decided to go to Gloria's today finally.

                Unfortunately it was nothing like the New Mexican dish at all. It was much more like cuban lechon.

                It was still a pleasant meal, although not entirely knock-your-socks off. I don't think I will return, because the plate + plantains is $16.00, so with tip and tax, almost $23 for lunch.

                I would rather pay about half that to get the legendary cochinita pibil plate at Chichen Itza I guess, but otherwise it wasn't a bad meal, just not a particularly memorable one.

                1. re: BacoMan

                  Hope you didn't have to drive very far - I don't consider Gloria's a destination restaurant. But when I lived nearby, I was fortunate to have it as a great neighborhood option, and I still liked it on a visit from a couple of months ago. I actually like Gloria's more than Versailles next door (*gasp*).

                  1. re: chrishei

                    I drove like 15 min *shrugs*. Not that bad. I guess the shot at some NM-style adovada was worth the attempt haha

                    It's right across the street from Mayura, supposedly the best Indian in LA though, so I'll probably drive down there again sometime haha

                      1. re: chrishei

                        Why does everyone rave about it so much then?

                        Did you get the southern specialties?

                        What made it just ok to you?

                        I have never made it, so just wondering.

                        1. re: BacoMan

                          We got some of the Southern dishes. Really liked the dosas, but everything else was just standard. Not that it was bad, but not close to being the best like J. Gold said. But I do plan on giving it another shot sometime.

          2. re: BacoMan

            Every time I've gone to Mariscos Jaliscos the other truck is always busier. Whats even more interesting is that the truck is set up right outside their brick and mortar restaurant that serves just about the same things I think. That being said, their shrimp tacos are comparable, I'd say 90% as good as MJ's, but I'll choose MJ just because Arthur and his crew are really nice people who treat their customers with a lot of care.

            I noticed also a majority of the orders are generallt for the coctelles and not for the shrimp tacos.

            1. re: Xan7hos

              I really wonder what the explanation for this is...seems so weird that a no-name competitor would so easily out compete a heavily advertised favorite without some kind of advantage.

              1. re: BacoMan

                MJ = yelp/hipster/goldsterites vs the other truck for the locals?

                1. re: ns1

                  MJ = locals sit inside the building, the yelp/hipsters/goldsters sit on the bricks

                  1. re: Xan7hos

                    There's a building? I only know of the truck on wilshire(ish)

                      1. re: JAB

                        Olympic East of Sotto

                        Freudian slip?

                          1. re: JAB

                            you meant east of Soto St. You said east of Sotto, like the famed Southern Italian restaurant on Pico, on the Westside.

                            1. re: BacoMan

                              I gotta stop hanging with you foodies!

              2. re: Xan7hos

                Everyone in line for the other one is more...local. I think they just go because it's cheaper. MJ definitely depends on people who seek them out (like us).

            2. You know, they say a picture is worth a thousand words...

              3 Replies
              1. re: ns1

                My apologies - only took photos via Instagram, and was too lazy to transfer them from phone to computer.

                1. re: chrishei

                  what's your instagram?

                  btw, you can upload pics to CH from your phone (that's how I do it)

                  1. re: ns1


                    Yeah, I was just lazy. And I rarely post on CH via phone.

                1. Don't worry, I've got your back if the SF board comes at you.

                  My favorite was the carnitas/buche with nopales at Los 5 Puntos. It's not just the taco, it's the place. The smell, the mountains of pig parts, the aunties making tacos in the back, the shelf outside - it just feels right.

                  That was a successful crawl. Good variety of tacos, all of them really great, and a nice exploration of LA for me. Thanks again for putting it together!

                  Since ns1 asked, I've attached the pics from camera #2, in the same order as the report.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: stravaigint

                    I'd be wearing that taco from Mariscos Jalisco.

                    You'll never be able to eat a store bought corn tortilla the same way again after eating the real deal from a place like Los Cinco Puntos.

                    1. re: stravaigint

                      what is that #2 again? that looks like no normal taco.

                      1. re: ns1

                        Mixed taco w/ carnitas, buche, nopales, guac & salsa. They were really stuffed.