The Five Best Tacos in Echo Park
Flor de calabaza quesadillas, tacos gringos, and Warren Zevon's favorite burritos can all be found in this historic, ever-shifting neighborhood that is too often and mistakenly referred to as 'the Eastside' or 'East Los Angeles' by transplants.
10:11 AM PST on January 23, 2024
These are the five best tacos in Echo Park.
Echo Park, nestled in the heart of Los Angeles, boasts a rich history intertwined with the vibrant tapestry of street vendor culture, particularly the iconic street tacos that have become a culinary hallmark of the area. As a neighborhood with a diverse and dynamic past, Echo Park has been shaped by waves of immigration, gentrification, cultural influences, and the resilient spirit of its community.
Mistakenly referred to as "the eastside" or "East Los Angeles" by transplants, the history of street tacos and vendors in Echo Park reflects not only the evolution of culinary traditions but also traces the narrative of entrepreneurial spirit, community gathering, and a fusion of flavors that have made these tacos an integral part of the neighborhood's identity.
From the early days when Echo Park emerged as a melting pot of cultures to the present, where the sizzle of grills is a familiar sound, the history of Echo Park and its street tacos is a tale of taste, tradition, and the enduring connection between food and community.
Join us as we explore the best of the best.
You've likely fallen in love with, or at least recognized, the iconic illustration of a cute, cartoony burro prancing about with a crown. That belongs to this Echo Park institution, opened in 1968 by Julian Montoya and one of over 20 locations that once sprinkled parts of California and Texas in its heyday. This last-standing location remains as an heir to the quickly fading history of Echo Park.
The bright yellow sign and red-and-yellow exterior beckon you to explore a rich and diverse menu. Pick your delicious burrito fillings, either as they are traditionally made, or in their unique Encurtido-style that comes with their homemade pickled chiles and vegetables. Burrito King is perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and vegetarian meals alike.
Chile relleno, ham-and-eggs, surf n' turf, and wet burritos are among just a few choices. Or you can always try the machaca burrito, which 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Warren Zevon once referred to as "the finest Mexican cuisine" in the Dutch-produced documentary Wonderland, which detailed the Los Angeles music scene in 1977.
It never hurts to have a solid list of places with great bean-and-cheese burritos on your back-burner of fast food joints. The one at Burrito King is a solid contender to top that list; a giant flour tortilla filled with flavorful refried beans and a very generous helping of yellow cheese and your pick of classic red or green salsa.
This neighborhood and community have changed throughout the years, but luckily, this institution has survived the decades to feed residents of all backgrounds and incomes in Echo Park. Do yourself a favor and visit this iconic location lest it ceases to be no more.
2109 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 2, 4, and 603 - “Sunset/Alvarado” or Bus Line 92 - "Glendale/Park."
I can't count the number of times I've ended a night at El Flamin' Taco after navigating less savory decisions in the area. With its bright red colored truck and captivating neon billboard luring your stomach in as the word "Open" flashes across your cerebral cortex in LED.
With a wide selection of carnivorous and vegetarian offerings, the truck has successfully adapted to the surrounding shifts in demographics. Meat-eaters can choose from the usuals, which include asada, al pastor, cabeza, pollo, buche, milanesa, tripas, chicharron en salsa verde and suadero.
New year, new you, and going Vegetarian? They got you, homie. Mushrooms, rajas, flor de calabaza, and huitlacoche will surely sober you up or fill your stomach like an indigenous god.
You know it's time to indulge whenever you see an al-pastor trompo near a raging open flame. Sitting in its little section to the side and being tended to by a skilled taquero's hand, the al pastor is a proper choice. Flame-grilled and sliced to fill a corn tortilla with a pineapple chunk as decoration, it makes for an attractive taco to please el ojo.
The chicharron taco is delectable and beautiful, absolutely drenched in a green sauce, which gives it a unique texture. Topped off with your choice of condiments and salsa, this one pairs perfectly with the vinegar-lashed taste of pickled purple onion.
You can either have your tacos prepared as expected. Or in the unique style referred to as the "Taco Gringo," which we opted for in a squash blossom taco filled with flor de calabaza and topped with lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream, and large chunks of avocado. A vegetarian delight for our senses and, apparently, to numerous gringos who have ordered their tacos in this manner.
As Flamin's name would suggest, just follow the flame (or neon lights) for this Echo Park stalwart.
2028 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 2, 4, and 603 - “Sunset/Alvarado” or Bus Line 92 - "Glendale/Park."
The assortment of Angels Tijuana-Style Taco locations make for reliable and consistent spots throughout Los Angeles, including here in Echo Park.
The quality of its proteins can not be questioned, as you can always count on the juiciest, most flavorful cuts to compliment their delicious yellow corn tortillas. It is one of the only spots on this list to feature the yellow corn tortilla as the vessel for your culinary delights, built a bit thicker and firmer to handle all of their filling options.
Asada, pollo, chorizo, al pastor and cabeza are the main 'glorias del baile' at these spots. Various options like quesatacos, mulitas, burritos, tortas, vampiros, and even baked potatoes will challenge your sense of decision-making. Ditto the diverse selection of salsas and toppings you'll want to finish everything off.
Asada and al-pastor are the most pressing options at an Angel's, seeing as open-flamed, grilled meats are the specialty. These two classic options will awaken your senses upon that first glorious bite.
1185 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 4 - “Sunset/Marion” or Bus Line 92 - "Bellevue/Edgeware."
Chatting with Alejandra, the eponymous owner of Alejandras Quesadilla Cart, I was surprised to find that her busiest day was a Friday evening.
"People get paid and don't want to cook after a long week of working, so they usually line up and keep me busy all night," she tells L.A. TACO.
As a stalwart vendor in Echo Park, she notes how much the neighborhood has changed. While she can no longer afford to live in Echo Park, she's happy her business is still popular with familiar faces, as well as newcomers trying her quesadillas for the first time.
Presiding over a small cart under a signature rainbow umbrella, you may catch her stretching and pounding on blue corn nixtamal that she craftily turns into beautiful handmade tortillas, soon-to-be filled with hongos, nopalitos, flor de calabaza, chorizo con papas, or chicken, as well as chorizo with flor de calabaza.
Although it sounds simple, Alejandra's menu is varied and packed with flavors. When the tortillas are handmade, you can always count on being treated to something special.
Once you select your filling, you'll customize your quesadilla with onions, cilantro, queso cotija, and red or green salsa. Don't be fooled by the beautiful hue of the salsas; these are legit and have some kick to them.
While novice Angelenos may be inclined to drench their quesadillas in the red salsa, we recommend starting with the milder, tangy, citrusy, and slightly herbal green salsa. However, If you're a masochist, or just a local who enjoys sharp burning, earthy, and rich sensations, move your taste buds to the 'Go' square on the game board of life and choose the red.
If it's your first time, you must try the flor de calabaza quesadillas. For returning diners, choosing the chorizo con papas selection is a pro move, full of the rich, complex, and savory saltiness that the sausage is known for.
Bonus tip: Buy an extra quesadilla to take home for the following morning. Pop it in the air fryer and top it with an over-easy egg for an instant-made chilaquiles-inspired breakfast.
1246 Echo Park Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90026. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 4 - “Sunset/Echo Park” or Bus Line 92 - "Glendale/Park."
1. El Ruso
In horror director George Romero's movie Land of the Dead, zombie plague-survivors ride around in a vast, industrial-sized 'mamalona' called the Dead Reckoning. Lining up to get Sonoran-style tacos from a vast, industrial-sized white 'mamalona' with red lettering, it was hard not to make the nerdy comparison.
El Ruso, one of L.A.'s more critically acclaimed taco trucks, provides a varied list of ever-changing choices for the titular owner's steady stream of clientele. Featured on Netflix's hit show "Taco Chronicles," countless best-of lists, and having won "Best New Restaurant 2020" for Food & Wine, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better stop for tacos or flour tortillas in Echo Park and beyond.
El Ruso offers the hits, like asada, chorizo, chicken, and adobada. But with a menu that changes on an almost weekly basis, you'll likely also be able to satiate your taste buds with chicharrón, chile colorado, bistec ranchero, or "El Muñeco," a hearty taco with carne asada, chicharrón, and beans.
The bistec ranchero taco is an obvious first choice if you want something different. It comes stuffed with juicy cuts of beef steak mixed with soft papas and onions in a tomato sauce, the insides wrapped in guacamole and cheese and the whole thing held together inside a soft tortilla de harina.
The bistec ranchero, a rarity in L.A.'s taco-world, makes for a messy first bite full of flavors and textures that is more than welcome. We're hoping the cut becomes a new trend for 2024.
Another pleasant surprise at El Ruso comes when biting into an asada taco and being greeted by a bed of hot refried beans and cheese. The masterpiece topped with guacamole, cilantro, and beautiful pickled purple onion pieces, showing off its flair.
The tacos are huge and filling. Still, one cannot finish their visit here without trying the delicious chile colorado. Full of color and smoky, spicy flavor, the bright reddish-orange shreds of beef, molten within a cheese and guacamole-cradled burrito, must be consumed for your Sinaloan sensory journey to truly be complete.
Better yet, come in a group to try as many of the menu's offerings as you can. Just like Romero did with his cinematic contributions, you'll be coming back again and again.
1647 W Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 4 - “Sunset/Echo Park” or Bus Line 92 - "Glendale/Park."
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