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Boyle Heights

The 13 Best Tacos In Boyle Heights

Boyle Heights is arguably the city’s most important local taco galaxy in the larger taco universe that is Los Angeles. Remember, this is Boyle Heights! It's not East L.A., and it is most definitely not just some vague place known as “the Eastside.”

Picaditas de cecina being made at Tacos San Juditas by the Soto Station. (Brian Feinzimer for L.A. Taco)

Boyle Heights is arguably the city’s most important local taco galaxy in the larger universe that is Los Angeles. Its proximity to downtown Los Angeles offers the long-established neighborhood a perk that many other ‘hoods do not have: a shot to introduce extremely legit regional taco variations to visitors and, more importantly, not have to dumb down their flavors because they have a community of nearly 93,000 residents who support them every night. You also have a few outlier tacos that can only be classified as “only in L.A.” style, which have their roots in Mexico but evolved to be their iconic selves in Boyle Heights.   

L.A.’s other B.H. is also home to Olympic Taco Row, which may be the quickest and most convenient way to cover the most ground via taco styles within a very walkable three-block radius. Boyle Heights also stands out because it is a powerhouse in daytime and nighttime tacos; you can have your pork belly burrito for breakfast, your crispy shrimp taco for lunch, and then your handmade picadita with grilled tasajo for dinner. 

Remember, this is Boyle Heights! It's not East L.A. and it is most definitely not “the Eastside.”

Three tacos dorados de camarón at Mariscos Jalisco. Photo from L.A. TACO archives.

Mariscos Jalisco

Is there an iconic taco in Los Angeles that is more iconic than the shrimp taco dorado from Mariscos Jalisco? Often duplicated and imitated by countless others, this L.A. original taco stays unbeaten. Covered in an un-watered down and refreshing salsa roja and buttery avocado slice, this taco has been recognized time and time again as one of L.A.’s best since the late great Jonathan Gold praised it as one of his favorites. While they now have a truck in West L.A. and a restaurant in Pomona, this original location in Boyle Heights still has the most charm, with its spacious indoor dining area and bathrooms. All these decades later, it's still an addictive taco with an unforgettable taste. Warning: After you have this taco, a craving for it will creep up when you least expect it.

3040 E Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90023. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 62 - “Olympic/Dacotah” or Bus Line 605 - "Grande Vista/Olympic."

falafel at xtiousu
Falafel and taco spread at X'tiousu. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

X'tiousu

This paisa-owned Oaxacan-Lebanese concept in the outskirts where Boyle Heights meets City Terrace is one of the neighborhood’s most delicious and vital 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 of 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. and 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. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 106 - "Wabash/Evergreen" or Bus Lines 251 and 605 - "Soto/Wabash."

Burritos from La Palma. Photo via L.A. TACO archives.

Burritos La Palma

A plancha-kissed, Zacatecas-style burrito from Burritos La Palma is quite possibly the easiest taco to eat in Boyle Heights. The flour tortilla is thin, slightly browned, and crispy, yet bursting with whichever juicy guisado makes your heart flutter the most: deliciously spongy chicharrón en salsa verde, birria, or a timeless bean-and-cheese. It's not an understatement to say that these slender burritos changed burrito culture in Los Angeles forever. This minimalist beauty of a taco immediately etched itself into the burrito pantheon of California, wedged in between San Francisco's Mission-style burrito, San Diego's California-style burrito, and wet burritos. The best part about these burritos is that they also hold up well in takeout form. That fresh chile serrano in the box is for eating as—is. Just take that bite.

2811 E Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90023. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 62 - "Olympic/Orme" or Bus Lines 66 and 251 - "Soto/Olympic."

taco plate at la guera
Al pastor at La Güera topped with that special salsa verde. Photo by Diego Guerrero for L.A. TACO.

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 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 to sonidero DJ Diego Fuego for showing us this locals-only spot. 

1569 N Soto St, Los Angeles, CA 90033. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 76 - "Valley/San Pablo."

Tacos y Birra La Única
Tacos y Birra La Única. Photo from L.A. TACO archives.

Tacos y Birria La Única 

Not too many birrieros offer equally tasty versions of birria de chivo and beef, but Tacos y Birria La Única is one of those ambidextrous birrieros. They also won our hearts for making and using handmade corn tortillas for all their tacos. The result is one of the most consistently delicious and iconic tacos de birria in Los Angeles. It takes a lot to stand out in cutthroat Birria Wars but Tacos y Birria knows what's up. Catch me swimming in their clavo-intensive consomé.

2840 E. Olympic Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90023Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 62 - “Olympic/Camulos” or Bus Lines 66 or 251 - "Soto/Olympic."

Picaditas de cecina being made at Tacos San Juditas by the Soto Station. Photo by Brian Feinzimer for L.A. TACO.

Tacos San Juditas 

L.A.’s Taco Life is extremely competitive. There are taco stands and restaurants on nearly every other corner here, which is a beautiful sight to behold. To stand out, taqueros often rely on their regional approach to tacos, like Tacos San Juditas’ Puebla-style picadita. It’s perhaps the rarest of all late-night taco variations: a thick handmade tortilla with slightly creased-up edges that is toasted until lightly crispy on a flattop grill, ladled with half red salsa and half green salsa, topped with queso fresco, and your favorite meat. It goes nicely with cecina, another relatively hard-to-find protein when taco’ing your way across the streets of Los Angeles. It is a paper-thin cut of salted beef that is seared until tender. This stand also has taquería-style grilled pork ribs that you can snack on in between bites of your picadita. 

2400 E. 1st St. Los Angeles, CA 90033. Closest Metro lines and stop: Metro E Line or Bus Lines 106, 251, and 605 - "Soto Station."

Birria tatemada from Birria El Jaliciense. Photo by Javier Cabral.
Birria tatemada from Birria El Jaliciense. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

Birria El Jalisciense

All they have at this stand, open only for one morning a week, is birria tatemada—freshly slaughtered goat meat that is steamed for four hours before finishing in the oven to achieve a type of birria-flavored bark not unlike the bark you’ll find on a good piece of BBQ. You can get it on a plate with a ladle of a tomato-rich consomé and a pile of corn tortillas or tucked inside tortillas in taco dorado form; we prefer the latter, but it's all juicy goaty greatness. This broth is more tomato-heavy because Hector prepares it in the style of his hometown, Belén del Refugio, Jalisco. This region is closer to Aguascalientes, where they are known to use more tomatoes in the broth than Jalisco.

Only open on Saturday mornings from 8 A.M. to sell out. 3442 E Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90023. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 62 - "Olympic/Spence", Bus Line 66 - "8th/Spence", or Bus Line 605 - "Lorena/Olympic."

Photo via Tacos Árabes De Puebla.

Los Originales Tacos Árabes De Puebla

As you might have guessed, Lebanese-influenced, Puebla-style tacos árabes are the specialty of this Boyle Heights lonchera. The "especial taco" adds stringy quesillo, which is the real thing, meaning the cheese is unpasteurized and delightfully barnyard-forward. There's also a slice of avocado and their thicker flour tortillas known as "pan árabes," filled with marinated pork. Even though the pork is shaved from a trompo, it is not the same as al pastor. This pork recipe is one of the Villegas family’s most guarded secrets, receiving offers of up to $15,000 to sell it. They didn’t, so their lonchera is the only place to taste it for yourself.

3600 E. Olympic Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90023Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 62 - “Olympic/Mirasol” or Bus Line 66 - "8th/Mirasol."

Breakfast tacos from Macheen. Photo by Cesar Hernandez
Breakfast tacos from Macheen. Photo by Cesar Hernandez

Macheen

Macheen is known for making wildly creative tacos, like the hongos al pastor breakfast tacos, which place mushrooms in a silky adobo over fluffy scrambled eggs, emanating waves of acidity and heat. He may have started his cooking career at Yoshinoya, but he's been L.A.'s born-and-raised champion of the evolution of tacos through every new spot he's opened through the years. This taco is the current iteration of Macheen's neverending hustle, and of course, each taco is served on a handmade corn tortilla. If you eat meat, his pork belly breakfast burrito is a bonafide L.A. classic. Every taco has the same amount of love and care put into it.

Currently popping up 8 A.M. - 2 P.M., Mon.-Sat. at Milpa Grille, 2633 East Cesar E. Chavez Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90033, and 10 AM - 4 PM at Smorgasburg L.A.

Milpa Grille: Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 70 - “Cesar E Chavez/Mott” or Bus Line 251 - "Soto/Cesar E Chavez."

Smorgasburg LA: Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 53, 60, or 62 - “7th/Central.”

Taco de tripa dorada at Santa Cecilia Restaurant by the Mariachi Station. Photo by Brian Feinzimer for L.A. TACO.

Santa Cecilia Restaurant

This unassuming storefront that may hold L.A.’s best taco de tripas is nestled in a hidden corner of Mariachi Plaza with hand-painted signage. Why? Because the tripas themselves, when requested “extra crispy,” are nothing short of a revelation. The tripa is so addictively crispy that it borders on chicharrón levels; it is seasoned magnificently—with the haunting flavor of tripa as the backbone. We suspect dried chile and cumin. Whatever Don Armando Salazar uses, the tripa taco will convert even the most squeamish into a fiend for tripas. This study in savoriness is underscored by a soft, warm, handmade white corn tortilla, which is a rarity in the tripa taco game in L.A. It’s the kind of taco you think about days after eating it.

1707 Mariachi Plaza de Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90033. Closest Metro lines and stop: Metro E Line or Bus Line 106 - "Mariachi Plaza Station."

'All-meat' burrito de carne asada from King Taco with their famous salsa roja. Photo by Oscar Zapata Rodriguez for L.A. TACO.

King Taco #9

The salsa roja at King Taco is the salsa that started it all. It's been more than 50 years of chile lore. Speculation abounds about its exact ingredients and proportions, with suggestions like chicken bouillon and tamarind, among many other theoretical ingredients, thrown on the wall to see if they’ll stick. It's rich in color and speckled with notes of some kind of undisclosed pepper. It can elevate anything it touches, from its famous all-meat asada burritos to its tacos de lengua, buche, or suadero. All this to say: Don't argue with the cashier about paying a little extra if you want more tiny containers of this iconic salsa. It is worth it.

2400 E Cesar E Chavez Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90033. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 70, 251, and 605 - "Soto/Cesar E. Chavez" or Metro E Line and Bus Line 106 - "Soto Station."

Tacos dorados de pollo. Photo via Tenampal.

Tenampal

There is a taco for every mood of the day. In a part of town stacked with amazing taco stands and food trucks, it's important to remember the neighborhood's brick-and-mortar shops that hold it down during the day and also offer delivery whenever you're too busy with work or just feeling like ordering in. Whenever that urge strikes, Tenampal is your spot. They offer a slightly modern approach to taquería classics. In particular, their tacos dorados de suadero (confit beef) or pollo. The secret to this crunchy taco's success is the double-crunch provided by the salsa macha nestled in with the minced cabbage and avocado salsa. If you're a brunch person, their brunch is always worth wrestling for parking for on 1st Street.

1859 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90033. Closest Metro lines and stop: Metro E Line - "Mariachi Plaza Station" or Bus Line 106 - "1st/State."

Tacos El Pecas

Sometimes, all you need is a reliable, neighborhood-trusted taco truck that is open late and makes textbook-perfect L.A.-style tacos parked inside a car wash. All these factors are a proven recipe for success in the streets of Los Angeles. Tacos El Pecas is that truck if you're cruising around Soto. Opened since 1998 with a taquero from the highlands of Jalisco (Santiaguito de Velásquez), this lonchera makes juicy, fully-dressed up two-bite tacos with the usual meats: [plancha-seared] asada, in-truck trompo al pastor, lengua, and buche. There's usually a line, so you know it's good, timeless stuff.

999 S Soto St. Los Angeles, CA 90033. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 251 - "Soto/7th", Bus Line 18 - "Whittier/Soto" or Bus Line 62 - "7th/Boyle."

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