It’s not breaking news to say that LA has great Mexican food. What might be surprising are the restaurants our diners return to again and again: Perhaps they’re the same ones you recommend to your friends? We imagine there are at least a couple you’ve never heard of, and there’s no better time to give one a shot, whether that’s the new-school Mexican counter serving duck carnitas tacos or the beloved birria spot out in Long Beach. This list has something for every Mexican food lover — especially the hungry ones.
“It’s the inside that counts” never felt truer after scooping into a bowl or biting into a burrito at this inventive, genre-bending restaurant with locations in Westwood and West Hollywood. Tacos, burritos, and bowls come brimming with mushroom bulgogi, succulent lamb barbacoa, buttermilk fried chicken, pastrami, jackfruit carnitas, and much more.
Father-son duo Atilano and Hector Sanchez have been doling out classic Pueblan dishes and distinctly SoCal variations since the 1990s, and they’re still going strong in West LA and Santa Monica. The California burrito is stuffed with tender asada and fries, and the chile relleno plate comes loaded with roasted, cheese-stuffed, battered, then fried Poblano peppers. (Those peppers also come in a burrito!)
One of the great comforts of Los Angeles life is knowing that no matter where you are, you are likely not too far from one of the 14 outposts of this beloved Mexican chain (looking at you, Hollywood and Santa Ana). Asada-filled tortas, grilled chicken burritos, and creamy horchatas are always within reach.
The best part of this Playa Del Rey menu is the “New Items!!!!” section (yes, four exclamation points!), because isn’t it fun when a restaurant is excited to share what they’ve been working on? New additions like the Cali Burrito bursting with carne asada and chilaquile sauce are just as beloved as classics like the Hard Shell Taco Especial! (again, their exclamation point) and fresh guacamole.
This Long Beach takeout spot is a deep cut for taco aficionados. Folks love their juicy birria tacos, mini shrimp quesadillas, pinto-bean-studded nachos, and textbook lengua taco. And nearly every dish is graced with sweet caramelized onions, a sort of calling card for El Sauz.
This Fairfax taqueria is the self-dubbed “home of the rolled taco,” which is your cue to add it to your next order. Shredded beef is tucked into crisp corn tortillas, then showered in guacamole and cheddar cheese, and best paired with steak-topped Super Nachos and creamy horchata.
You will be forgiven for double-dipping when it comes to the intensely flavorful tacos at this Long Beach spot. The tortillas are stained orange with consomme, then stuffed with stewed meat, onions, and cilantro and served with more broth on the side for dunking. Don’t skip the birria ramen, made with that same consomme.
Many Mexican restaurants specialize in one type of protein, but this East Hollywood haunt seems to master many. You’ll find fat-rimmed carnitas, slow-roasted cochinita pibil, spice-laden chicken tinga, jiggly cabeza, and cheesy relleno, all available in quesadilla, burrito, and taco form.
This multi-state Mexican restaurant chain has a cult following; They claim that people have driven 47 miles to dine there. (And that number is too specific to be false!) Thankfully, their sweet pork barbacoa burritos, mountain of nachos, creamy queso and chips, and tortilla soup is within delivery reach from the Manhattan Beach location.
There’s a lot to love about this Torrance taco joint: birria-filled tacos that ooze with juicy meat, crackly flautas threaded with chicken and cotija, and vampiros — corn tortillas stacked and held together by melted Monterey Jack cheese and your meat of choice. But do not sleep on the meat and guac–stacked California fries.
Craving cinnamon-dusted churros? La Taqueria Brand’s got you. In need of birria tacos or just the meaty broth on its own? La Taqueria Brand. Vegan al pastor tacos? La Taqueria Brand. The cheesiest quesadilla known to mankind? You know who to call. This Mexican restaurant in Long Beach has all your comfort foods on lock.
Along with standard-setting carne asada tacos and quesadillas enriched with not one but two cheeses, this Silver Lake spot churns out another excellent Mexican dish: the iconic Caesar salad. Here, the Tijuana invention comes with leafy kale and a lemony vinaigrette.
Pristine seafood is the draw of this mini empire of Baja-inspired restaurants in Hermosa Beach, Chino Hills, and more. Battered, fried, and lofted onto a flour tortilla with all the fixings (slivered cabbage, pico de gallo, salsa) or spritzed with lime and served ceviche style, there’s no wrong order.
Chef Jorge Alvarez-Tostado and manager Victor Delgado channel Tijuana with their wildly popular taco chain that started in Koreatown and expanded to Beverly Grove, Pasadena, and beyond. Get the adobada taco, marinated pork on supple handmade corn tortillas, and the asada vampiro, grilled beef and melted cheese on a crunchy tostada.
Let us count the ways we love this mini Mexican chain. 1. The crunch factor of flautas and taquitos, bursting with shredded chicken or potato and cheese and covered in guacamole and Oaxacan cheese. 2. The fact that we can enjoy it anytime, anywhere, from West Hollywood to Downtown LA 3. All the sides: chili-flecked corn on the cob, velvety refried beans, and the holy trinity of chips, salsa, and guacamole.
Clearly this Beverly Hills restaurant lives up to its name. Ordering is a game of FOMO. Go with La Neta, jammy-yolked eggs squished together with crisp bacon and tater tots into a flour tortilla, or jump for the Chori Burrito, with locally made chorizo roja, scrambled eggs, and cheese. Whatever you do, don’t forget an iced horchata latte.
It is possible to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner courtesy of this Lynnwood restaurant, and it is highly recommended. A perfect noshing itinerary is chilaquiles in spicy red or verdant green sauce with eggs in the morning; then birria de res — braised beef with a sidecar of consomme and handmade tortillas to sop it up; and then end the day with a hulking wet burrito smothered in those same sauces from breakfast.
Sure, everyone loves the saucy enchiladas and perfectly textural hard tacos at this Torrance outpost, but true diners know that the must-eat dish here is the Xochitl soup. Shredded chicken, avocado chunks, chopped onions and cilantro, and rice come together for a deeply nourishing soup that’s popular for good reason.
Restaurateur Jesse Gomez and executive chef Jose Acevedo tap into their Mexican backgrounds for the California-tinged menu of this West Hollywood spot (check out Pasadena and Santa Monica, too). There’s the Mexican kale salad with candied pepitas and cotija-pesto bread crumbs, and tacos al pastor with cauliflower subbing in for the pork. But Acevedo doesn’t mess with his family’s recipe for the flavorful carnitas.
Where else can you pair burly burritos with barely structural nachos (chips buried beneath meat, pico de gallo, cheese, and avocado) with refreshing agua frescas and deep-fried Oreos? This Cienaga spot knows these disparate elements come together in harmony.
Owner Daniel Alonso is best known for his tacos: Your choice of meat (carne asada FTW), cilantro, onion, and spicy salsa rolled into a handmade corn tortilla. But this Compton restaurant offers more on top of its Tijuana classic, like rice-and-beans-loaded burritos and tortas bursting with al pastor and a healthy dose of mayo.
No need to brave airport traffic to enjoy the good stuff from this Inglewood restaurant. Get the no-frills quesadilla (all cheese, no meat), crunchy chimichangas, and burritos of all kinds (California style with fries, original with beans). Pro tip for future entertaining: You can get asada fries by the tray.
This Mexican counter in Eagle Rock seamlessly weaves Mexican dishes with international flavors. Think crumbles of Pecorino Romano finishing taquitos; fried avocado, duck carnitas, and even Korean-style short ribs filling up tender corn tortillas; rich mole sauce drizzling over fries. It’s deli food like you’ve never seen it.
Everything about this family-run restaurant in Pasadena screams generous (just look at the portions!) The house nachos come piled with refried beans, a double dose of dairy (Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream), guacamole, pico de gallo, and homemade Ranchera sauce. You can turn your favorite dishes into combos — enchilada and tamale, chile relleno and crispy tacos. Name more iconic duos.
Step aside, granola and yogurt. This Gardena restaurant’s breakfast is iconic. Case in point: the Bionico L, all the fruits (papaya, cantaloupe, banana, apples, strawberries) layered with granola, raisins, and sweet cream for the most awe-inspiring meal. Don’t skip the other any-time-of-day fan favorites: Cuban-style tortas, esquites with Cotija and chile-topped corn, and quesadillas with a choose-your-own-meat adventure (asada, al pastor, chorizo, even tripe!)