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Five Street Vendors By L.A. Metro Stations That Feed Their Public Transit Community

Where to find L.A.'s best street food vendors cooking for their community in transit, from the realest pad thai in the city to Puebla-style picaditas in Boyle Heights. All accessible by L.A. Metro.

2:01 PM PST on February 15, 2024

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

    Beyond getting people from point A to point B, L.A. Metro’s train and bus stops act as the city’s epicenters for some of the best street food in the County.

    Day in and day out, these informal chefs get up early in the morning and stay up late at night cooking some of the most wholesome home-style dishes for those times when you need a life-affirming morale and energy boost. If you’ve ever taken public transit in the early morning hours in Los Angeles, you know who these vendors are. 

    It’s L.A. Metro’s secret. If you know, you know.   

    L.A.’s street vendors are always there for their immediate in-transit community—not for the benefits of becoming another stunt food spectacle on social media.

    Whether they've got tamales or noodles, they feed L.A.'s daily transit users with efficiency and warmth. The best part, however, is that they keep their prices accessible for L.A.’s working communities.     

    Over the last four years, L.A. has painstakingly made strides in decriminalizing and providing pathways for people to become legal street vendors. These are some of our favorite street vendors around town you can visit today on L.A. Metro. 

    Tiny tamales in the hands of vendor Irma Yolanda Perez
    Irma Y. Perez holding Tamal Samples: Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. Taco

    Irma Yolanda Perez Tamal Street Vendor ~ Culver City 

    Irma Yolanda Perez, a 60-year-old woman from Guatemala, makes 80 Guadalajara-inspired tamales daily. She makes them petite, and as she folds her corn husk over the soft masa, she cuts off the extra ends then uses those to make the cutest little tamal samples you’ll ever find. 

    She gets a ride to Venice Boulevard, props up an umbrella and a small table for the tamales, pulls out a book, and sits there reading, hoping someone will come by to try her cooking. And if someone is hesitant, she’s ready with her blazing smile, bubbly personality, and the tiny tamal samples that are as cute as her jokes.

    Surprisingly, the tamal samplers aren’t a sales or marketing strategy, as brilliant as they seem to be. Irma Yolanda Perez loves samples and getting free samples because “it feels nice.” She would go to Trader Joe’s and just thought about how lovely it was and how nice it felt to get free samples, so she also decided to do the same.

    “I’m going to make samples too. People need to be able to taste what they’re buying, and it feels nice,” she tells L.A. TACO.

    - Memo Torres

    10935 Venice Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90034. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 33 - "Venice/Midvale (westbound)" or "Venice/Girard (eastbound)." 

    A plate of pad thai with bean sprouts and dried shrimp at Radna Silom
    Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO. The tofu pad thai at Radna Silom is cooked fresh and packed with flavor. Their dried shrimp adds the perfect crunch to their already delicious noodles.

    Radna Silom ~ Thai Town 

    Radna Silom sets up its network of tables and woks in front of Silom Market in East Hollywood nightly to feed Metro riders who get off on the Metro B Line and stroll into Thai Town for a meal.

    It’s a sidewalk operation from the Sathirathathiwati siblings and their mom that aims to upset Angelenos' expectations of what pad thai, pad see ew, and Thai stir fry favorites should look and taste like.

    Cooked on the spot and served hot from their wok to your hands with your choice of flat or thin rice noodles, the crushed peanut-and-dried-shrimp-sprinkled, bean sprout-showered pad thai is springier, its flavors more nuanced than what you find in your typical Thai-Chinese diner, with none of the cloying nor clumps.

    Similarly, when one eats its fried egg-topped ka pao, pad see ew, or gravy-soaked namesake pork dish, radna, there's the sense that everything they’ve had in the U.S. up until that point could be unworthy of their names.

    If you miss your stop or simply find the lines too long for your schedule, you can also ride the 53, 60, or 62 bus to Smorgasburg, where they pop-up on Sundays.

    - Hadley Tomicki

    6 PM – 12 AM daily, 5321 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90027; Closest Metro lines and stop: Metro B Line - "Hollywood/Western Station" or Bus Lines 180 and 217 - "Hollywood/Harvard."

    Onion-topped garnachas at MacArthur Park.
    Garnachas at MacArthur Park. Photo by Esteban Jimenez for L.A. TACO.

    Central American Garnacha Vendor ~ Westlake

    There are plenty of places in L.A. to duck into if you want to feel like you’re in the actual country their menus represent, such as the open-air Thai street food market at the Wat Thai Temple in the Valley, or Central and Olympic’s extravagant Mexican street food mercado running through L.A.’s piñata district.

    If you want the same for the crispy, savory, sweet world of Central American street food, you go to the collective of vendors that some have called the Guatemalan Night Market near MacArthur Park, where the streets and intersections around its northeastern corner mark L.A.’s epicenter of Guatemalan and Salvadoran street food.

    Stop at Wilshire and Alvarado for a plate of garnachas, fried thick tortillas topped with seasoned ground beef, minced cabbage, and zippy tomato salsa. Fried plantains, unripe green mango sliced and served with lime and alguashte (pepita powder), hand-patted pupusas stuffed with chicharrón and cheese, aguas frescas, and much more will tempt you from all directions.

    Like any other night market, there are more vendors and dishes on weekends. 

    Closest Metro lines and stop: Metro B and D Lines - "Westlake/MacArthur Park Station."

    An open flour tortilla filled with beef
    A big burrito under construction at Taquería Nopal, photo by Noe Adame for L.A. TACO

    Taquería Nopal ~ Northridge

    If you're driving down Balboa and Roscoe Boulevards to get to your place of employment and see a large crowd hunched under a green tent, chances are you've been hit in the face with the smell of griddle-smoking meats and cheese.

    Welcome to Taquerˆa Nopal in the San Fernando Valley. Started by lifelong friends Ruben Duarte and Eddie Alarcon, this morning taco spot has quickly gained a large amount of die-hard fans.

    The taquería was born with the goal of creating and mixing new flavors, especially in the saturated taco climate of Los Angeles. They decided to focus on breakfast tacos, which no one in the Valley had yet to try. What they didn't know was that their most requested dish would come from a customer who was in a rush and wanted a burrito to take for the road. The duo, having extra flour tortillas that day, obliged and created a monster breakfast burrito for said client. While other patrons were standing around, they all noticed the girth and potential for a full stomach. Before they knew it, customers started requesting burritos that were not on the menu. Their fried cheese-collared quesadillas were next to explode with patrons.

    A warning: the portion sizes they're serving are pretty big and will satiate any hunger. Placing an order with the duo would be a lifesaver after a night of hard partying and pogo'ing in the pit. Did I mention they also do fresh squeezed orange juice to accompany your order?

    8400 Balboa Blvd. Northridge, CA 91329. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 152, 235, and 236 - “Roscoe/Balboa.”

    -Noe Adame 

    Green salsa being ladled onto a picadita de cecina that's on the griddle
    Picaditas de cecina being made at Tacos San Juditas by the Soto Station. (Brian Feinzimer for L.A. Taco)

    Tacos San Juditas ~ Boyle Heights

    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 line and stop: Metro E Line - "Soto Station."

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