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The 8 Best Tacos Along Metro’s 18 Bus Route, From East L.A. To KTown

Connecting East L.A. to the rest of Los Angeles, Metro's 18 bus is a legendary mainline to spectacular tacos, including curbside tacos de canasta, famous Baja fish tacos, insane tlayudas, and the most taco-y plate of vegan barbacoa pasta you've ever seen.

Tacos de pescado at Tacos Baja, East L.A.

Baja-style fish tacos at Tacos Baja, photo Noe Adame

These are the best tacos you can find on Metro's 18 bus.

The 18 is a workhorse of a bus connecting the working-class barrios of East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights to Downtown, Westlake, and Koreatown. It cruises through historic Whittier Boulevard, in which riders watch the vital thoroughfare metamorphose into Wilshire Boulevard, passing through the shiny new 6th Street bridge, the Arts District, and a blur of neighborhoods stretching through the shadows of the Downtown skyline.

The bus connects unincorporated East L.A. County to the rest of Los Angeles. If you grew up east of the L.A. River, riding the 18 bus line was your way of connecting to the rest of your hometown.

And it's a mainline to several spectacular tacos, including curbside tacos de canasta, famous fish tacos, tacos with pork ribs, insane tlayudas, killer cabeza, and the most taco-y plate of vegan barbacoa pasta an L.A.-based taco publication has ever featured in a guide to tacos that are reachable by public transportation.

Frequency: No need to worry about waiting forever for the bus. During peak hours, buses roll up every 10-15 minutes; during off-peak hours, they come every 20 to 30 minutes. It's reliable, convenient, and perfect for commuters, students, and taco-obsessed people alike.

Accessibility: The 18 bus line is wheelchair accessible, making it a breeze for everyone to enjoy public transportation.

Fare scoop: A single ride on the 18 bus line will cost you $1.75. But you can grab a TAP card if you're a public transit expert. It'll give you the freedom to switch between different bus lines and Metro rail services.

Hours of Operation: The 18 bus line never sleeps! It operates 24/7, all week long. So, whether you're an early bird or a night owl, this bus has got your back.

Now on to the tacos!

Baja-style fish tacos at Tacos Baja in Whittier, covered in chopped chiles and cabbage
Baja-style fish tacos at Tacos Baja in Whittier, photo: Noe Adame

Tacos Baja ~ Whittier / Goodrich

Way up there in venerated OG-ness, Tacos Baja stands on East L.A.'s Whittier Boulevard. The fish taco is perfect every time it's ordered: one battered piece of catfish that is still crispy on the edges, yet flaky on the inside, served with minced cabbage and a chipotle crema with little bit of mayonnaise mixed in for extra richness.

An exterior view of Tacos Baja in Whittier, California, at night
Tacos Baja, photo: Noe Adame

If you're tight on budget, go on Wednesday when each fish taco is only $1.50, but plan accordingly because the line can get up to 30 minutes long. But it's all worth it as soon as you take that first bite. Nonetheless, we suspect this taquería's popularity also has something to do with their all-you-can-eat chile güero bar. Warning Some hit like bell peppers and some are blindingly spicy. Good luck!

5385 Whittier Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90022

Tacos de cabeza at Yuri's Restaurant
Tacos de cabeza at Yuri's Restaurant. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

Tacos Yuri’s Restaurant ~ Whittier/ Vancouver

Yuri's Restaurante is the kind of strip mall gem that could become an endangered species in gentrifying Los Angeles. It's the kind of hole-in-the-wall where customers drop in five times a week to eat because it's so affordable and the food tastes as home-style as a restaurant can get. Customers even greet each other when familiar faces walk in.

The art inside Yuri's Restaurante. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.
The art inside Yuri's Restaurante. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

There is no physical menu. You just sit down and place your order. Anything you decide on has the power to soothe your soul, especially the cabeza, which we dare to say is the best in the city. Whereas so many other taquerías serve the head meat shredded, here it's sliced into delicate strips to maintains its gelatinous, melt-in-your-mouth goodness—whether placed on a plate of tacos or into a torta or burrito.

5165 Whittier Blvd. # 105, Los Angeles, CA 90022

A tlayuda half-open and showing cheese, cabbage, and meat from Tacos Oaxaca in Los Angeles
A tlayuda de tasajo at Tacos Los De Oaxaca. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

Tacos Oaxaca ~ Whittier / Indiana

An easy way to stand out in L.A.'s cutthroat taco scene is to specialize in Oaxacan tlayudas. This is the what Lucy Antunez, who is from the Mexican state's Sierra Sur, an Indigenous Mixe region, does just this on the corner of Whittier Boulevard. At 3:30 PM as she and her partner get ready to open, she usually already has a line of seven people waiting to order.

Customers keep returning for the thick salsas and generous tacos overflowing with asada, al pastor, or Oaxacan chorizo. Their tlayudas are made with heirloom, hubcap-sized tortillas that are lightly brushed with asiento (chicharrón paste) that she brings from Oaxaca. Then they're layered high with briny, unpasteurized quesillo, which has the delightful, barnyard-like funk of real cheese. Next comes the paper-thin, salted tasajo beef that is seared on the plancha. Finally, you'll dress those with salsa and dream of the day when such streetside tlayudas become as common as curbside tacos.

3801 Whittier Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90023

Marcisco Mar-Es's blue and yellow mariscos truck in Downtown L.A.
The Mariscos Mares truck. Photo by John Reardon Dowd.

Mariscos Mar-Es ~ 6th / Mateo

At Mariscos Mar-es, you’ll find an old-school shrimp cocktail for traditionalists and “tacos for the next generation of people,” as Victor, the owner, puts it. Victor wanted to put his own spin on chorizo con papas, so he substituted the chorizo with octopus and served it up beautifully, with caramelized onions and tomatillo.

A pineapple agua fresca is the perfect way to wash down this sweet and savory taco delicacy. Mariscos Mar-es has an Instagram to let you know when they will be in the Arts District, but the current schedule has it running most days (unless a church function calls).

660 Mateo St. Los Angeles, CA 90021

A shrimp taco at Mariscos San Juan de Los Lagos in East LA
A shrimp taco at Mariscos San Juan de Los Lagos in East LA, photo: Noe Adame

Mariscos San Juan de Los Lagos ~ Whittier / Lorena

L.A.’s taco universe is multi-dynamic and ever-evolving. The latest exhibition of real-time taco-ology can be beheld at Mariscos San Juan de Los Lagos, a low-key mariscos truck on East L.A.’s iconic Whittier Boulevard that has been earning a base of loyal followers since it first opened as a seafood trailer in 2014.

The blue truck of Mariscos San Juan de Los Lagos featuring scenes from the Jalisco town of the same name
Mariscos San Juan de Los Lagos' truck features scenes from the Jalisco town of the same name, photo: Noe Adame

The chefs here have made Boyle Heights’ iconic daytime taco, the taco de camarón made famous by Mariscos Jalisco, completely its own by topping it with a chopped aguachile de camarón (red or green) and a drizzle of crema.

You may be skeptical if your loyalties are to the original at Mariscos Jalisco or if have had the regular privilege of eating aguachile around Mexico’s nearly 7,000 miles of beaches. But trust us, this seafood taco deserves to be up there with the best of them.

3450 Whittier Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90023

Salsa-drenched tacos dorados from a vendor outside of the Mexican consulate in Westlake, Los Angeles
Tacos dorados, photo: Noe Adame

Tacos de Canasta y Tacos Dorados ~ 6th / Park View

You’re on the margins of MacArthur Park, a few blocks from Alvarado Street, and standing directly in front of the Mexican consulate. There are few better sidewalk positions in this country for finding some great Central American or Mexican street food. But you don’t have to go anywhere because right before you is a standout vendor who specializes in one of Mexico’s greatest on-the-go treasures: tacos de canasta.

Tacos de canasta, photo: Noe Adame

They are not made to order, and that's the point, proudly cooked and pre-packed early in the morning to be served curbside throughout the day from the guts of a large basket, allowing the flavors to rest and cede greater deliciousness as the day passes.

This chef serves one of the better examples in town, along with crispy, savory tacos dorados covered in salsa. She offers the holy trinity of taco de canasta guisados: frijol, papa, and chicharrón. Chicharrón is usually the first taco that runs out, but the potato and bean-filled varieties will be just as good if you don’t make it in time.

10:30 A.M.-2:30 P.M., 2325 W. 6th St. Los Angeles, CA 90057

Tacos de costilla (ribs) at Wendy's Tacos & Hot Dogs in Westlake, Los Angeles
Tacos de costillas at Wendy's Tacos & Hot Dogs, photo: Hadley Tomicki

Wendy’s Tacos & Hot Dogs ~ 6th/Bonnie Brae

Whoever says you can’t have it all has clearly never been to Wendy’s, a small, white Westlake trailer with indoor seating just a few blocks down from the bus stop. It specializes in big tacos, frequently changing guisados, and hot dogs. 

That’s only grazing the surface of the ambitious menu maintained by this tiny taqueria, where the tortillas are handmade, pork ribs are sheared straight from the bone to fill them, and quesadillas ooze huitlacoche and melted cheese.

The tacos are rather huge at $4 each, packed with meat and topped with a large dollop of guacamole, with a mean, green chile on the side and a colorful salsa bar under stowed away under a picnic blanket nearby.

Inside Wendy’s trailer, you’ll see several guisados steaming in steel pots that change on the regular but may include mole negro, pollo en crema, patitas de puerco en salsa mora, albondigas, and mole de pollo verde at any given time. They’ll also make you pupusas, if that’s what you’re feeling like having.

Come weekends, Wendy’s will have birria de res and cow’s foot menudo. Any of the above, made with skilled hands and served hot, will satisfy, even wow you, especially when matched with an agua fresca of maracuya (passionfruit) or a black cherry-studded paleta.

1834 James M. Wood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90066

A plate of jackfruit barbacoa pasta from Olivia in Koreatown, Los Angeles
Jackfruit barbacoa fusili, photo: Noe Adame

Olivia ~ 6th / Vermont

Close your eyes, breathe, and enter a world of pure imagination. A world in which all the flavor profiles of an excellent barbacoa taco are sealed within a cheffy plate of plant-based pasta. Open your eyes and find that it's all real.

Barbacoa of a different breed, photo: Noe Adame

Olivia, a meat-free Italian restaurant in Koreatown from acclaimed L.A. chef and local Mario Albert (with partner Anderson Paak) is known for its pizzas and wine. It should be just as famous for its jackfruit barbacoa fusili, which is made with slow-cooked fruit that is almost indistinguishable in appearance from Mexico's dearly held pit-roasted beef, flavorful and fork-tender, too.

Crunchy yellow waxed beans cavort in the path of the pasta, which is given a rich savor and tang from a confit tomato sauce and crowing dollop of whipped ricotta.

But it's not a taco, you say. We say everything's a taco.

205 S. Vermont Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90004

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