assuming two days of just eating and driving to tacos, what are the essential stops right now?
in my limited research, i would put down:
barbacoa estilo taxco guerrero in the barbacoa category
holbox in the holbox seafood category
tacos la guera in the latenight street setup
birria pa la cruda in the birria category
Those four spots are all solid. Just don’t order chicken tacos at each one and tell us how bad they are.
In all seriousness though, get to Barbacoa Estilo Taxco Gro very early if you know barbacoa and want certain cuts. I might add Tacos Los Güichos on Slauson (for al pastor) and Tire Shop Taqueria (for asada and chorizo) to your late night rounds.
Birria pa la Cruda is delicious but doesn’t really have a firm schedule so depending on yours, their popups might not fit in. You could go to one of a few popular “red” taco spots or try Tacos Al Vapor La Morena, which makes tacos al vapor (great ones!) and really good tacos dorados de birria. Pepe’s Tacos Estilo Leon Gto makes wonderful tacos de guisado. The Cemitas Tepeaca #2 truck in East LA makes my favorite tacos árabes.
in addition to what’s been mentioned, if villa moreliana appeals to you, carnitas el momo specializes in a mix of chicarron, pork belly & pork shoulder that is affectionately referred to as the ‘aporkalypse’ AND their salsas are top notch. you’ll have to check out their instagram feed to determine when and where they’re serving. for non conventional, north african based revolutionario near USC might be to your liking.
and even though they’re technically burritos, burritos la palma’s offerings are lumpia sized and their fillings are also top notch.
if you want to try a number of places fairly close together that offer a fair level of quality as well as diversity, you might try york blvd in highland park.
what is the relative scoring of Pepe’s guisados vs. Guisados?
what is the relative scoring of Cemitas Tepeaca #2 vs. Los Originales Tacos Arabes De Puebla?
How much better is the asada at Tire Shop compared to e.g. the asada at El Ruso or Chikali? The one time I went to Tire Shop, I didn’t find the asada to be order-of-magnitude better and somehow I found the tortillas to be detracting, but maybe I wasn’t in a right taco state of mind? the line is also a major time investment…
Tire Shop and El Ruso are fairly different, as far as these things go. Both great, but Tire Shop is Tijuana style, on corn tortillas with guacamole. El Ruso is Sonoran, and the draw is the handmade flour tortillas. If you go on the weekends, the Ahuja, which is short rib, is quite good.
I’ve only had cemitas at Cemitas Tepeaca #2 and tacos at Los Originales De Puebla so take this with a grain of salt but I would say:
Los Originales De Puebla for tacos (the tacos arabe tortilla was homemade the one time I tried it and I don’t believe that’s the case with Cemitas Tepeaca#2)
Cemitas Tepeaca on Ford St. at the 710 exit for cemitas. It’s debatable who makes the best cemita in LA (and I haven’t tried them anywhere else) but I’ve found even within some recommended spots the consistency can vary widely. This location has been pretty consistent after more than a few orders and the parking and wait are much better than other places including Cemitas Tepeaca#2. If you’re willing you can try calling in your order at (323)-413-3390
On the other hand, if you try the tacos at Cinco Puntos (HIGHLY recommended) you can also walk over to Cemitas Tepeaca #2 which might make it more worth it. If you go this route you could place your order at the truck and then stand in line at Cinco Puntos, which moves pretty fast.
Carnitas El Veneno - 8250 S Main St, Los Angeles - Sat/Sun only for carnitas. The chicharron is amazing. My favorite carnitas in the city right now.
Chichen Itza/Holbox - 3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles - chicharron tacos at Chichen Itzá with a side of potato salad, then scallop taco at Holbox.
Amor Y Tacos - 13333 South St, Cerritos - short rib taquitos and mole tots
Bizarra Capital - 12706 Philadelphia St, Whittier - flank steak chimichangas (basically flautas) and while not tacos but there, the pulpo in mojo verde
Asadero Chikali - 410 S Atlantic Blvd, Los Angeles - carne asada vampiro “Chikali style” and bistec con papa and chorizo con papa tacos (flour tortilla category)
Tire Shop Taqueria - 4077 S Avalon Blvd, Los Angeles - carne asada and chorizo tacos and a mulita w/ carne asada and chorizo. One of the great attributes to Tire Shop is how flavorful and fragrant their masa is. Go later in the evening past 6PM so the get their gears going.
Tacos La Guera - Indian Hill Blvd and San Bernardino Ave, Pomona and 1602 N Soto St, Los Angeles - al pastor tacos only (usually set up after 5PM)
Are you trying to build an actually feasible itinerary or just looking for the best in each category? Because if it’s the former, you could do a pretty killer day in South Central that hits a lot of highlights with Tire Shop, Holbox/Chichen Itza, LA Birria, Los Guichos, etc.
Or in Boyle Heights with La Unica, Jalisco, La Palma, Arabes de Puebla, El Viejon, Cinco Puntos.
But if it’s the latter, well, that’s a different question.
I love Tire Shop because of the distinct aroma that grilling over mesquite charcoal imparts in the beef. And because of how busy they are, they do a better job of getting the beef to guests right-off-the-grill than other places. I haven’t had better carne asada anywhere in SoCal, TJ-style or otherwise.