Los Angeles: The 25 Best Tacos Right Now

Clockwise from top left: Guisados chiles toreados, Tacos Leo pastor, Sazon Nayarita gobernador, Sky's Gourmet fish tacos.

Los Angeles has the largest Mexican-American population of any city in the United States, so it should come as no surprise that Angelenos probably also have the widest variety of tacos north of the border. Of course, inventive L.A. chefs have added plenty of fun spins — some of which could hardly be called Mexican. We negotiated the two worlds to strike a balance with the top 25 tacos in Los Angeles. Entries are listed in alphabetical order.

Joshua Lurie is the Los Angeles-based founder of Food GPS.

1. The Bazaar

Chef José Andrés is best known for modern Spanish tapas, but this is clearly a man with range. One inspired bar bite at his restaurant at SLS Beverly Hills is the Japanese Taco. Thin-shaved cucumber cradles BBQ freshwater eel fillets sprinkled with black sesame seeds, shiso, wasabi and crunchy chicharron (the only Mexican element in sight). 465 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-246-5555, thebazaar.com

2. Bar Amá

Josef Centeno already found success in downtown's Old Bank District with Bäco Mercat, and his latest opening showcases his takes on the Tex-Mex cuisine of his San Antonio youth. Puffy tacos feature fluffy deep-fried corn tortillas that have a roti-like texture. The best version features grilled shrimp, smoked jalapeño crema and cooling accompaniments. 118 W. 4th St., Los Angeles, 213-687-8002, bar-ama.com

3. Border Grill

The oft-dreaded potato taco reaches unparalleled heights while in the hands of Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. Boiled Yukon Gold potatoes join rajas – sweet bell and smoky Poblano peppers, caramelized onions and cream, sautéed with olive oil for added richness. Top with chunky guacamole, kernels of fresh-shucked corn and chipotle crema and you're good to go. 445 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, 213-486-5171; 1445 4th St., Santa Monica, 310-451-1655, bordergrill.com

4. Cacao

Andrew Lujan, along with his wife and two sisters, opened Cacao in Eagle Rock and have compiled an increasingly progressive menu. Their carnitas de pato taco consists of juicy duck confit, avocado, pickled onion, crunchy radish and spicy chile oil. 1576 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock, 323-478-2791, cacaodeli.com

5. Coni'Seafood

Connie Cossio presides over this sea blue restaurant near LAX. The draw is fish sourced from Mazatlan and a Sinaloa-born master chef named Sergio Penuelas. The pescado zarandeado is the reason to make a pilgrimage to Inglewood. It's available by the kilo and consists of butterflied and grilled snook marinated in soy sauce and topped with a flavored mayo. Chunks of the flaky white sport fish join stewed onions in steaming corn tortillas, forming one badass fish taco experience. 3544 W. Imperial Hwy, Inglewood, 310-672-2339

6. El Parian

El Parian is a formidable restaurant in L.A.'s Pico Union neighborhood that has served platters of highly celebrated Jalisco-style roasted goat for nearly five decades. Owner Maria Garcia delivers crusty-but-juicy birria with a goat-forward consomé and corn tortillas. A squeeze bottle of vinegary habanero sauce should be looked to early and often. 1528 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-386-7361

7. Flor Del Rio

There's only one choice at Flor del Rio: whether to order your goat meat on or off the bone. Go with the Zacatecas-style birria on-the-bone, then form tacos with juicy meat, onions, cilantro, lime juice and a refreshing orange salsa. 3201 E. 4th St., East LA, 323-268-0319

8. Gish Bac

This Mid City restaurant from David Padilla and Maria Ramos specializes in the cuisine of Oaxaca. They're particularly strong on mole negro, a terrific sauce that balances spice and bitterness while taming sweetness. Pile the mole-slathered chicken leg and thigh into formidable corn tortillas with rice. 4163 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, 323.737.5050 [Related: The 7 Moles Of Oaxaca]

9. Guerrilla Tacos

Wes Avila, who's worked for talented chefs like Walter Manzke and Gary Menes, struck out on his own with a mobile taco concept. On Wednesday nights outside of Handsome Coffee Roasters in the downtown Arts District he features fancier tacos like pork shoulder and pig ear rolled in caul fat. On Friday mornings, he dazzles with breakfast specialties like a mushroom scramble, sliced portobello and white button mushrooms sautéed with butter, thyme and scallions — served on griddled corn tortillas with mushroom duxelle to heighten mushroom flavor. The garnish consists of a simple roasted tomato salsa and cilantro. 582 Mateo St., Los Angeles, 213-621-4194, guerrillatacos.com

10. Guisados

Chef Ricardo Diaz and business partner Armando De La Torre start with premium masa, ground next door at brother Eddie De La Torre's establishment Carnitas Uruapan. A blackboard menu touts plenty of tacos, but the fiercest by far is chiles toreados, featuring a substantial hand-patted corn tortilla, earthy black beans and five varieties of roasted chiles (green Thai, Fresno, jalapeño, Serrano and habanero). An intimidating orange habanero salsa and a single shaving of red onion tops this East L.A. classic. 2100 E. Cesar Chavez Ave., East LA, 323-264-7201, guisados.co

11. Kogi

The Korean-influenced taco truck from chef Roy Choi, Mark Manguera and Caroline Shin Manguera launched a mobile movement in 2008. They've got four different trucks roaming SoCal – Roja, Verde, Naranja and Rosita – and the Kogi menu is available daily at the Alibi Room in Culver City. The taco that started it all combines marinated short rib, sesame-chile salsa roja, crisp romaine lettuce and cabbage, Korean chili-soy vinaigrette and cilantro-green onion-lime relish that kicks in brightness. kogibbq.com [Related: Interview: Roy Choi]

12. La Cabañita

Francisco Jimenez and wife Patricia opened this "little cabin" in the northern Glendale neighborhood of Sparr Heights in 1989. The family produces more-than-respectable moles and chiles rellenos, but the top option is chuletas en chile pasilla. Fork-tender pork chops bathe in a silky pasilla chile sauce join rice and black beans in corn tortillas. 3447 N. Verdugo Rd., Glendale, 818-957-2711

13. Loteria Grill

Mexico City native Jimmy Shaw has built a burgeoning restaurant empire that spans from the Original Farmers Market to Westlake Village and serves a dozen different tacos. You should order them all as part of a Probaditas sampler, but if we have to single out a star, try the albondigas en chipotle. Juicy beef meatballs bathe in a tomato and chipotle sauce, garnished with onion and cilantro. Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Studio City, Westlake Village, loteriagrill.com

14. Mariscos Jalisco

Raul Ortega, who hails from San Juan de los Lagos, set up shop in Boyle Heights to start the aughts, specializing in seafood. Taco Dorado is the standard order, featuring a deep-fried corn tortilla filled with shrimp, vegetables and tomato, a topping of creamy, fresh-shucked avocado and a mild salsa slurry of tomato and raw white onion. Sit on the ledge or grab a seat at a picnic table inside an adjacent building. 3040 E. Olympic Blvd., Boyle Heights, 323-528-6701

15. Mariscos Yucatan

Enrique and Lula Camto's sea blue restaurant in South Gate specializes in the cuisine of the Yucatan peninsula. A particularly robust plate spotlights Poc-Chuc, roasted pork that comes with stewed onions, black beans and yellow rice featuring pickled onion, jalapeño and a carrot happy face. Load as many elements as you like into corn tortillas. 3469 Tweedy Blvd., South Gate, 323-357-0906

16. Metro Balderas

Abraham Guzman's mini-chain, named for a Mexico City metro station, specializes in carnitas on the weekend. Specify cuts like buche (stomach), trompa (lips), lengua (tongue) and oreja (ear). Or enjoy a mix, which delivers a range of textures that range from crispy to crunchy to melt-in-your-mouth. Spoon on diced onions, cilantro and a choice of salsa, including tangy, smoky tomatillo-chile de arbol or spicy tomatillo-jalapeño. 5305 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park, 323-478-8383; 8507 Reseda Blvd., Northridge, 818-349-8655

17. Mexicali Taco & Co.

Friends Esdras Ochoa and Javier Fregoso took awhile to get in a groove after graduating from a freeway-adjacent taco stand to a brick-and-mortar establishment on Chinatown's fringe. Now the Mexicali natives are rolling out deluxe specials like Taco de Ostion — beer-battered West Coast oysters coasted with a crispy, well-seasoned sheath. The briny, creamy bivalves join minced red onion and jalapeño beurre blanc on a griddled corn tortilla. 702 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, 213-613-0416, mexicalitaco.com

18. Providence

Michael Cimarusti has cornered the market on sophisticated seafood in L.A., and he's also managed to create an innovative taco at Providence. For an amuse bouche, the chef serves a nasturtium taco. The slightly spicy leaf acts as a "tortilla," cradling sushi rice, silky New Bedford sea scallop tartare and bubu arare, crispy Japanese brown rice. 5955 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-460-4170, providencela.com

19. Ricky's Fish Tacos

Ensenada native and former florist Ricky Piña sets up shop outside a Silver Lake salon, frying flaky basa in twin cazos until they sport crispy sheaths. The fish is complimented with cabbage, pico de gallo accented with crunchy green bell pepper and, if you like, crema and a choice of salsa (order the spicy variety, crafted with tomato, jalapeño, onion and garlic, before grabbing a seat in a mismatched chair. 1400 N. Virgil Ave., Los Angeles, 323-906-7290, twitter.com/RickysFishTacos

20. Rivera

Sometimes, tacos don't even need proteins to succeed. That's certainly the case at John Rivera Sedlar's downtown pan-Latin restaurant. Tortillas florales consist of crisp-edged tortilla pressed with pansies, griddled with grape seed oil and plated with creamy "Indian butter" (a silky guacamole). 1050 S. Flower St., Los Angeles, 213-749-1460, riverarestaurant.com

21. Rocio's Moles de los Dioses

Oaxaca native Rocio Camacho, previously of Moles La Tia and La Huasteca, now presides over a Sun Valley restaurant next to Nopaltilla, which provides her with Christmas-green cactus paddle–mixed masa to form handmade tortillas. She's best known for creative moles, but also features Yucatan specialties on her menu like cochinita pibil. The stewed achiote-stained pork arrives with pickled onions and habanero bite on a sturdy nopal-infused corn tortilla. 8255 Sunland Blvd., Sun Valley, 818-252-6415, rociosmolesdelosdioses.com

22. Sazon Nayarita

Chef Omar Garrido is from Tlacolula, but the new owners are from Nayarit, and their South Gate establishment features their favorite regional dishes, including the taco de Gobernador. Molten Monterey Jack cheese joins sweet shrimp, tomato and green bell pepper in griddled corn tortillas. 2709 Santa Ana St., South Gate, 323-587-4537

23. Sky's Gourmet Tacos

Barbara J. Sky Burrell brings unique soul-inflected tacos to Mid-City, none better than her shrimp taco with cheese. Spices like chiles, cumin, garlic and oregano wash over plump shrimp and coat the accompanying corn tortilla. Crunchy iceberg lettuce, tomato, cilantro and shredded American cheese all contribute to a flavor bomb. 5408 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-932-6253, skysgourmettacos.com

24. Tacos Leo

An orange truck parks in a 76 gas station parking lot and sells dozens of $1 tacos. At night, they break out the trompo, but during the day the pastor is still good — featuring crusty nubs of spice soaked, griddled pork, minced onions, cilantro and firm shaved pineapple. Squeeze on lime, load on smoky salsa de chile de arbol, and alternate with crunchy radish. 1515 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles

25. Taqueria Los Anaya

This corner taqueria from three Guadalajara-born brothers (Juan, Manuel and Gerardo Anaya) resides in West Adams, complete with an upraised dining room and sun yellow walls. Lengua features tender cubes of beef tongue, boiled, grilled and served with onions, cilantro, tangy tomatillo salsa and a squeeze of lime. 4651 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-731-4070, taquerialosanaya.com

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