If you're looking for the top tacos in Los Angeles, be prepared for a treasure hunt that might require some mid-day to late night excursions. Tacos are street food, so some of the most authentic tacos are found at roadside stands and food trucks which may only be open during a lunchtime or late night shift. While some of the spots on this list are physical restaurants that come with all the normal conveniences, don't be surprised to find some that are cash-only, don't have websites or phone numbers, or even anywhere to sit. Additionally, you may find that, at some of these locations, the vendors only speak Spanish.
Tire Shop Taqueria (South Central LA)
Tire Shop Tacos is a street stand staffed by more cooks than most restaurants and cranks out thousands of tacos a night with fresh handmade tortillas and meats cooked on open-flame grills. You're not likely to come across this stand unless you go looking for it. It's in the parking lot between Buddy Market Carniceria and El Jarocho tire shop in South East LA (south of the 10, East of the 110).
Ave 26 Taco Stand (Lincoln Heights)
Ave 26 Taco Stand has almost as many chefs at work as Tire Shop Taqueria, but they're working the flat-top and fryer rather than an open-flame grill. It's assembly-line style—choose your meats (by name or by pointing) and quantity, then pay and collect your tacos, and finally add all the toppings at the other end of the line. They have grilled onions, which are a welcomed option in addition to the typical raw, and some days they have potatoes, but you have to ask for them. The stand is set up in an industrial alley about a block from a residential neighborhood in Lincoln Heights, northeast of Chinatown, near where the 5 and 110 freeways cross.
El Taco Toro (Del Rey/West LA)
Chef Esteban at El Taco Toro serves up legit tacos with friendly service from a stand parked in the street at the corner of Slauson Avenue and Culver Blvd. Customers will tell you, what's special here are the sauces. He also cooks up a mean quesadilla.
Secret Taco Stand (Downtown LA)
The Secret Taco Stand sets up in front of the closed La Reyna Restaurant at the corner of 7th and Matteo at the south end of the Los Angeles Arts District in Downtown LA. They serve a basic menu of favorites like carnitas, al pastor and carne asada as tacos or burritos. Their beans are not cooked in lard, so they're vegan-safe. Some nights there's access to inside seating.
Taqueria Los Anaya (West Adams)
If you really want your authentic tacos in a cute sit-down restaurant, Taqueria Los Anaya might fit the bill. The taco options are not as exotic as some of the street vendors, although they include chicken (mole or grilled), pork (carnitas, al pastor, adobada), and beef (asada, lengua), but they have a special knack with shrimp. There's also a full menu of non-taco options including desserts.
Mariscos Jaliscos (Boyle Heights)
Mariscos Jalisco taco truck, which keeps roughly 9-to-5 hours near Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights, is known for their fried shrimp tacos and many other seafood specialties.
La Barbacha (Boyle Heights)
No list of LA tacos would be complete without at least one destination for authentic Hidalgo/Texcoco-style slow-cooked lamb and goat barbacoa, and La Barbacha fits that bill perfectly. They're not roasting the meat underground in the traditional style, but they have special ovens to create the same effect. They also serve huitlacoche, a fungus that grows on corn and tastes like corn-flavored mushrooms. It's a storefront, no-frills restaurant in Boyle Heights on Cesar Chavez, a block east of Soto Street.
Guisados (Multiple Locations)
Guisados started in Boyle Heights with the concept of serving Mexican long-braised meats and stewed meats in fresh-made tortillas. They have expanded with multiple locations across Los Angeles (Boyle Heights, downtown, Echo Park, West Hollywood, Burbank) that maintain consistent quality. The menu includes several vegetarian options.
Los Cinco Puntos (Boyle Heights)
Los Cinco Puntos is a long time Boyle Heights market and taqueria that serves super-authentic marinated, braised and fried meats in your choice of taco, burrito or torta. In addition to the standard beef, chicken and pork cuts, you'll find tongue, tripe, and pork belly.
Mexicali Taco & Co (Chinatown)
These authentic Mexicali-style tacos with corn or flour tortillas and your choice of meat or veggie are a little pricier than street tacos. Their al pastor tacos are a favorite, but they only make a limited amount daily, so if you want to try them, don't wait until the end of the day. Other specialties are queso fundido, the "Vampiro" quesadilla with meat and garlic sauce, or the Zuperman with three meets and cheese between two flour tortillas.
Ricky's Fish Tacos (Los Feliz)
Ricky's Fish Tacos is a food truck that keeps designated hours five days a week at a location in Los Feliz as well as posting other appearances on their Twitter feed. People go for the Baja-style fried fish and shrimp tacos, which is pretty much all they sell.
Villa Morelianas (Downtown LA)
Villa Morelianas at Grand Central Market is most beloved for their carnitas tacos, which are about three times the amount of meat as an average street taco and come with multiple tortillas. They hand out free samples all day long because they know that once you taste the meat, you won't be able to resist. They'll also make tacos out of every part of the pig from the skin to organs, plus goat and a couple of beef items including carne asada and lengua. Their pork rinds by the pound are also popular.
Tacos Tumbras a Tomas (Downtown LA)
Tacos Tumbras a Tomas at Grand Central Market almost always has a long line, but it moves pretty fast. Like Villa Morelianas, their tacos are huge. If you want their famous lengua taco, get there early, because they run out. Cabeza is another top seller here. They also serve burritos, tortas, gorditas, and quesadillas.