Even beyond the assumed pleasures of eating along Olympic Taco Row, Boyle Heights continues to be a contender for the best taco neighborhood in all of Los Angeles. You don’t really ever need to venture out of Olympic Boulevard since it hosts more than enough regional styles to geek out about. However, there are plenty of other spots worth venturing out and appreciating in the historic neighborhood east of the L.A. River, including more mariscos and, yes, more tacos.
Whenever you grow out of Taco Row or are feeling taco curious, here is the perfect afternoon taco crawl to break you out of your Boyle Heights shell.
This paisa-owned Oaxacan-Lebanese concept in the outskirts where Boyle Heights meets City Terrace is one of the neighborhood’s most delicious and important restaurants. In Los Angeles, no matter the type of food or price range in a restaurant, you can count on the back-of-house staff (line cooks, runners, bussers, dishwashers) being made up of mostly immigrants from Mexico and Central America. This restaurant marrying two of the boldest tasting cuisines in the world is a direct result: two Indigenous brothers from Oaxaca who worked in a Lebanese restaurant in West L.A. who decided to do their own thing in this part of town. What you get is a menu that fully lives up to that powerful “only in L.A.” saying, including black bean falafel with a “salsa arabesca,” which is one of the most exciting salsas—made of tahini and tomatillo—that I’ve had in years.
923 Forest Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90033
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Santa Cecilia Mexican Food
Nestled in Mariachi Plaza’s corner with hand-painted signage sits this unassuming storefront that may hold L.A.’s best taco de tripas. Why? Because the tripas themselves, when requested “extra crispy,” are nothing short of a revelation. Imagine if a piece of jaggedly crispy chicharrón got the Flamin’ Hot-like seasoning treatment, seasoned magnificently—with the haunting flavor of tripa as the backbone. This study in savoriness is underscored by a soft, warm, handmade white corn tortilla, a rarity in the tripa taco game. We are still thinking about this taco de tripa days later. It’s time to grow out of asada and al pastor. It’ll be OK…we promise.
1707 Mariachi Plz De Los, Los Angeles, CA 90033
Tacos La Güera
This trompo in an industrial stretch of Soto Street flies low in L.A.’s cutthroat al pastor game, but it can compete with the best in Mexico City on its good days. While La Güera has locations all around L.A., this one in front of USC Medical Center and a tortilla’s throw away from the Ascot Hills trailhead hits differently. Perhaps it is the fact that the trompo is not as hulkingly big as its competitors deeper in the L.A. metro area or maybe because they offer this unique aguachile-style jungle green salsa verde loaded with chopped cucumbers that is both addictingly spicy and refreshing at the same time. Still, all I know is that this al pastor is tasty enough to bring staunch chilangos who love to come and talk masa about L.A.’s taco scene. One of these tacos usually shuts them right up. An honorable mention goes out to their suadero, too. L.A. TACO would like to formally give props sonidero DJ Diego Fuego for showing us this locals-only spot.
1521-1569 N Soto St, Los Angeles, CA 90033
Extra credit crawl options: Go to Sara’s Market in neighboring City Terrace and load up on natural wine, tortillas, and highly curated coffee and craft pisto at 3455 City Terrace Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90063. (Yes, it’s super worth looking for parking for upwards of 15 minutes for).