The Most Popular Tacos in LA

Maybe make it your mission to try them all?

14 min read
Cav Blog: Penca

LA is first and foremost a taco city. Nowhere else in the U.S. can you find such a wide and delicious range of tacos from traditional (cochinita pibil, barbacoa) to modern (so many vegan options!). Naturally, our diners have identified the best. 

Here are some of your favorite taco orders in Taco Town, U.S.A. Start pulling out your loose clothes and filling up your gas tank — this list also doubles as a delicious road trip itinerary.  

Grilled Steak Tacos for Two, The Upper West

Steak night doesn’t have to mean a T-bone with potatoes and creamed spinach; it can also look like supple flour tortillas, seasoned black beans, fragrant Mexican rice, all the guac and salsa verde, and juicy slices of steak. And we are never looking back. This Santa Monica restaurant’s shareable main is the best of the best for a reason. No judgment if you order this all for yourself.  

Vegan Mushroom Taco, Tacos Tu Madre West Hollywood

At this mini chain of vibrant taco shops, with outposts in Los Feliz and Larchmont Village, you must order the mushroom taco. It’s a study in flavors and textures: chewy corn tortilla, seared marinated oyster mushrooms, a cooling pile of pickled daikon, carrot, and cucumber, and, to finish, a sprinkle of fermented fresno chiles. 

Grilled Rockfish Tacos, The Rose Venice

Chef Jason Neroni is a true Renaissance man. This Venice institution cranks out stellar baked goods, globally inspired small plates, cocktails, and more, but regulars know the grilled rockfish tacos are where it’s at. Neroni and his team grill the locally sourced fish until flaky, then shower it with smoked chile creme fraiche, sliced avocado, and shredded cabbage. 

Grilled Fish Tacos, The Anchor

This Venice neighborhood spot prides itself in sourcing the freshest seafood, and it shows in its crowd-favorite tacos. The fish changes daily — though often you’ll find succulent cod — and that fish of the day is fired up on the grill and seasoned with a balanced duo of creamy guacamole and citrusy slaw, all tucked into a chewy blue corn tortilla.

Grilled Chicken Taco, Tere's Mexican Grill

Hollywood’s best kept secret is this Michoacan-inspired restaurant and its grilled chicken tacos in particular. They are the definition of simple done right: charred chunks of chicken, shredded lettuce, salsa, and the usual onion-and-cilantro mix, all on soft corn tortillas and paired with rich rice and beans. 

Carnitas Soft Taco, Tacos Por Favor Santa Monica

The Sanchez family has been doling out textbook-perfect Pueblan recipes on the westside since the 1990’s, and it’s still going strong. Hector Sanchez has expanded his father’s restaurant to West LA and Venice, and with him, he’s brought the iconic carnitas, fatty and crispy in all the right parts, crowned with onions and cilantro, and nestled into pliable corn tortillas.  

Taco Pollo, Tacos Gavilan Lynwood

Tacos Gavilan started out as a taco truck with a signature charcoal grill. Now 14 locations later  (Huntington Park, West Covina, and beyond) and an expanded menu with sopes, tortas, and more, this family-owned restaurant chain has become a SoCal staple. The must-order, throughout all the change, remains the taco pollo — grilled chicken and a choose-your-own adventure of flavor boosters (salsa roja, onions and cilantro, lime, grilled jalapenos). 

4 Tacos, Tacolicious

San Francisco graciously shared its California-inflected Mexican food with this Manhattan Beach outpost. Create your own little tasting menu of tacos with this order of four: Choose from guajillo-braised beef, chicken tinga, pastrami, mushroom carnitas, spicy shrimp, and more, all served with salsa on corn (or flour) tortillas. 

Shiitake Mushrooms Taco, Sky's Gourmet Tacos

“Soulful” is the word the late, great critic Jonathan Gold used to describe chef and owner Barbara “Sky” Burrell’s tacos. Meaty chunks of shiitake mushrooms are presented with all the veg (lettuce, tomatoes, coleslaw) and a generous drizzle of Sky’s hot and tomatoey Sassy Sauce. 

Grilled Mushroom Taco, Seabirds Kitchen

There’s just something magical about mushrooms grilled until caramelized on the outside and pillowy on the inside and stuffed into a taco. At this Long Beach vegan spot, those ’shrooms are spread over a nutty corn tortilla and blanketed with a smoky ancho chile oil, grilled onions, fermented curtido, and almond-based feta.

Walnut Mushroom “Chorizo Taco,” Sausal

At this El Segundo restaurant, chef and partner Anne Conness takes walnuts and mushrooms and transforms them into flavor-packed sausage that rivals the porky original. It’s amped up with a corn and black bean salad, cashew crema, and a tomatillo-powered salsa. You won’t miss the meat. 

Baja Avocado Tacos, Sage Plant Based Bistro & Brewery Pasadena

This Pasadena-based vegan restaurant has its own farm and CSA program, but what really blows our mind is the avocado treatment in this taco: battered, deep-fried, and layered with pico de gallo and fiery habanero-threaded “cream cheese,” all served on a corn tortilla. Avocado toast has met its match. 

Steak Tacos, Saddle Ranch Chop House

Everything about this “Rock Meets Western” restaurant in West Hollywood is over the top (ahem, the mechanical bull), and that ethos comes through in the showstopping tacos. The meat is marinated in chimichurri, then griddled and placed on charred tortillas with fresh pico de gallo, fire-roasted salsa, and cotija. 

Dos Tacos De Barbacoa De Chivo Con Consomé, Sabores Oaxaqueños Restaurant

At this Koreatown restaurant, brothers Valentín and Germán Granja showcase the food of Oaxaca from rich mole to this complex taco. Goat meat is simmered in a heady broth of dried chiles, avocado leaves, and herbs until tender and dripping with flavor. Then it’s rolled up in handmade corn tortillas and eaten with a little bowl of that bright red broth. 

Sinaloa Shrimp Tacos “Gobernador,” Red O

LA taco connoisseurs are familiar with tacos gobernador, the classic Sinaloan envelope of shrimp with melty cheese and coriander. The riff at chef Rick Bayless’s Santa Monica spot includes scallion pesto, which is *chef’s kiss* perfect. 

Classic Vegetarian Taco, Poquito Mas

Scrolling through this Westwood taco spot’s website will bring a smile to your face (please read the Mucho Mas Gracias section), but the reason why diners flock back is the simple yet satisfying vegetarian taco: a winning combo of black or pinto beans, pico de gallo, lettuce, and cheese on a fresh-made corn or flour tortilla. 

Pescado Taco, Pinches Tacos Culver City

Legend has it that relatives of the Anaya family were the cooks for Pancho Villa, the revolutionary general in Mexico. Whenever Villa was hungry, he’d shout “Pinche, traime unos tacos!” or “Cook, bring me some tacos!” Now the Anaya family has continued to heed that call with their mini chain of taquerias, with locations in West Hollywood and Santa Monica. We imagine even the general would approve of their perpetually popular pescado taco topped with a Veracruz-inspired slaw. 

Baja Shrimp Taco, Mezcalero

Three words: Beer. Battered. Shrimp. Now you know why the Baja-style shrimp taco is a go-to at this Downtown LA hotspot. Crunchy coleslaw, a scattering of tart dried cranberries, chipotle aioli, and an aromatic finish of cilantro enhance these fried little crustaceans.

Tacos de Pescado, Mercado

Let us count the reasons why so many diners are into the tacos at these Mexican oases, including Hollywood. 1. The soft flour tortillas. 2. The perfectly grilled hunks of white fish. 3. The vibrant Mexican slaw, enhanced with super-fresh pico de gallo. 4. The lime crema and chile de arbol aioli we wish we had access to at all times. 

Grilled Shrimp Tacos, Lazy Dog Restaurant

This multi-state chain clearly knows how to crank out tacos to the masses — check out the Thousand Oaks and Santa Clarita spots — and it shows in these crowd-pleasing tacos. Stone-ground corn tortillas envelop grilled shrimp which are dabbed with salsa, and, in a genius move, sweet-sour tartar sauce. 

Fish Tacos, La Playita

This Hermosa Beach institution doesn’t mess around with seafood. For its ever-popular fish tacos, cod filets are gently poached and given the works — lettuce, tomato, cilantro, and cheese. Rice and beans come on the side, natch. 

Breakfast Taco Trio, La Monarca Bakery Hollywood

Alfredo Livas and Ricardo Cervantes, both natives of Monterrey, Mexico, wanted to recreate the pastries they grew up with, which led to this collection of Mexican cafes in neighborhoods like Boyle Heights and South Pasadena. Come for the conchas and stay for the jiggly huevos rancheros folded into from-scratch tortillas made of Sonoran flour. 

Tacos - Cochinita Pibil, La Flor de Yucatan

Mayan food is the specialty of this Pico Union restaurant, and the jewel in its crown is the cochinita pibil. A big ol’ piece of pork is marinated in citrus, then slowly roasted overnight until it’s spoon-tender (no knife necessary). It’s then mounded atop grill-marked tortillas and finished with pickled onions and cilantro. 

Salmon Poke Tacos, Jinya Ramen Bar

Come to this Downtown LA noodle soup institution for the inventive ramen, but stay for the equally inventive tacos. Specifically the salmon poke tacos, with a fried wonton subbing for the tortilla, stuffed to the brim with fatty salmon poke and a hefty sprinkle of cilantro. 

Fish Tacos, Islands Restaurant Westchester

This breezy collection of surf-and-turf-focused restaurants, with locations in Burbank and Torrance, naturally has a strong taco game: fish (fried or grilled) with shredded cabbage, cilantro, smoky chipotle sauce, and fresh pico de gallo stacked on top and earthy corn tortillas beneath. 

Wood Grilled Kanpachi Taco, Holbox

You’ve seen a lot of fish tacos on this roundup, but the beauty of this particular one from chef Gilberto Cetina Jr.’s South Central spot is found in the details. The buttery kanpachi is from Baja and grilled over wood for a slight smokiness. The corn tortilla is handmade. And on top of those two ingredients is an artful scattering of red cabbage slices, spicy morita sauce, a little mayo, and pico de gallo. 

Vegan Tacos, Founders Ale House

Tacos are a cold one’s best friend, and clearly the vegan version at this Pico-Robertson pub is already yours. Meaty jackfruit is given the asada treatment (a.k.a. grilled), then is scooped onto a warm corn tortilla and blanketed with a limey slaw, avocado slices, and aioli for extra richness. 

Grilled Shrimp Tacos, Fishing with Dynamite

Pristine seafood is the reason why diners love chef-owner David LeFevre’s Manhattan Beach restaurant, and it shows in this textural taco. In one bite, you get charred shrimp, crisp red cabbage slivers, crunchy chicharrones, spicy harissa crema, and verdant salsa verde, all on extra corny tortillas. 

Chorizo Taco, El Condor

When you’ve got good-quality chorizo, you don’t need much else. At this Silver Lake taco hotspot, the crumbly, spicy pork sausage is dressed minimally — some milky panela cheese, a bit of chopped onion, a scattering of cilantro, a lime wedge, all on a corn tortilla. Simple perfection.

Tacos, El Compadre

Since 1975, this Hollywood standby has been churning out solid salsa roja–slicked enchiladas, spicy camarones a la diabla, and, of course, tacos. The meat lover’s pizza equivalent of a taco is the go-to here: your choice of grilled New York Choice steak or velvety carnitas, or one of each (you do you) with lettuce and salsa. 

Tres Tacos Al Carbon, El Cholo

The original stove continues to burn brightly (since 1923!) at the Mid-City outpost of this family restaurant chain. That kind of longevity is sustained by dishes that never go out of style. Case in point: these tacos. The team marinates then grills top sirloin and finishes it with tomatillo-chipotle salsa, Jack cheese, and, for the cherry on top, bacon.

Al Pastor Pork Signature Taco, El Barrio Neighborhood Tacos

One look at the menu of this Culver City fast-casual taco spot and you can tell chef Ulises Pineda-Alfaro obsesses over ingredients. The beloved al pastor pork signature taco comes on tortillas made of either Sonoran flour or Oaxacan corn and inside there’s spit-roasted pork shoulder with charred pineapple, two types of salsa (avocado and chile de arbol), and the combo of chopped onions and micro cilantro.

Chicken Taco, Chicas Tacos Beverly Grove

What’s better than juicy hunks of chicken dripping in morita aioli, queso fresco, and perky cilantro, all on a pliable corn tortilla? Nothing, and that’s why it continues to be a crowd favorite at chef Eduardo Ruiz’s collection of Mexican spots in Downtown LA, Culver City, and beyond. 

Cajun Shrimp Taco, California Fish Grill Long Beach

Sustainable seafood is the thing at this multi-state chain with locations in Culver City and Pasadena — just scroll through the restaurant’s website for a crash course in responsible sourcing. And it’s best translated through plump shrimp covered in a spicy Cajun butter, sweet roasted corn, and something extremely creamy and delicious called Dynamite Sauce.

Carne Asada Tacos, Cafe Vida Culver City

California-cool and Latin-inspired dishes come together at this casual cafe, with another outpost in Pacific Palisades. The carne asada tacos reflect that ethos: steak with grilled onions, peppers, and rich mozzarella, all dressed with guac, tomatillo salsa, and pico de gallo. 

Baja Fish Combo, Blue Plate Taco

Fried fish and aioli are BFFs across cuisines, including this Baja-inspired restaurant in Santa Monica. Here, flaky red snapper is fried until craggy, which is perfect for catching the chipotle aioli, sliced radish, and slivered cabbage showered on top. 

Fish Tacos, Amandine Patisserie Cafe Koreatown

Sure, this French bakery in Koreatown is best known for its almond croissants and picture-perfect strawberry cakes. But this is Los Angeles, where incredible fish tacos pop up in any number of places. Here, they are fried or grilled and always drizzled with slivered cabbage for crunch and spicy aioli for heat.