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The 11 Best Backyard Restaurants in Los Angeles

Despite many requests to publish this guide, L.A. TACO has been somewhat protective of these gems to not "burn out the spots." However, we wanted to share it with our small, loyal pool of paid members, as we appreciate your support (and know you to be okay, non-NARCs). Please enjoy responsibly and keep these 'hood secrets...secrets.

Comedor Tenchita spread. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.

Comedor Tenchita spread. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.

Eating in an ad hoc restaurant in some stranger’s backyard is one of the most “only-in-L.A.” experiences you can have. Whether you live here or are just visiting, it’s absolutely thrilling to partake in the hospitality offered by a nondescript house fronting a full-scale food service operation specializing in a family recipe or regional classic.

These back-and-front yard food operations can be found in almost every block of Los Angeles, helping further distinguish it as an objective contender for the most exciting food city in the world. Working quietly below the buzz of our heavy-hitting brick-and-mortar restaurants, streetside taco stands, and legions of street food vendors, these backyard restaurants are also the most low-key food establishments in L.A., typically spread through word of mouth long before they’re exposed by food writers.

These hidden culinary treasures are rare. Locating them can feel like a treasure hunt, as you follow handpainted signage dotting a neighborhood or approaching a front door you silently pray is connected to the right address.

Once you arrive, you’ll likely be greeted with a limited menu of regional dishes, from birria to grilled, whole pescado zarandeado to southern barbecue, and even third-wave coffee. Everything will be crafted from scratch and plenty of sazón. These places often escape the radar of Google or Yelp because they focus on serving their immediate communities, acting as a lifeline for underrepresented cooks, chefs, and micro-entrepreneurs.       

If you’ve been lucky enough to stumble into these informal establishments, you’ve probably felt a responsibility not to burn out these precious bastions of L.A.’s food culture by telling the whole world or making viral videos. They are meant to be enjoyed in person and mindfully.

Despite many requests to publish this guide, L.A. TACO has been somewhat protective of the places herein due to this feeling. However, we wanted to share it with our small, loyal pool of paid members, as we appreciate your support (and know you to be fine, non-NARCs).

Here is our guide to the best backyard (and front yard) restaurants in Los Angeles County. 

Note: Many of these places shut down or close for other reasons, so always have a plan B spot ready to go in case you show up and it’s closed. Remember, this is part of the fun. 

Vibe at A Tí Pop-Up dinner series in West Adams. Photo by Javier Cabral at L.A. TACO.
Vibe at A Tí Pop-Up dinner series in West Adams. Photo by Javier Cabral at L.A. TACO.
Date Mole with duck confit
Date Mole with duck confit. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

A Tí (West Adams)

Through dishes like crispy pig ear chilaquiles, a grilled fish taco with a koji-enriched guacamole salsa, and duck confit draped with a hauntingly smokey, spicy date mole that creeps up on you, Andrew Ponce, the former Chef de Cuisine at Bestia is finding his own cooking voice over an open fire in the backyard of Cento Pasta Bar on his days off. For two years, Ponce and his partner, Anna Kawanishi, have flown low, growing a loyal following for their A Tí Los Angeles dinner series. It’s not a cheap taco pop-up trying to be a street vendor; it’s a sit-down modern Mexican concept that operates once or twice a month around Los Angeles, but recently in West Adams. 

Follow their Instagram account to see when their pop-up dinner date. They accept reservations. 

Evil Cook's octopus al pastor taco. Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. TACO.
Photo via Evil Cooks.
Evil Cooks' original front yard operation in El Sereno. Photo via Evil Cooks.

Evil Cooks (El Sereno)

We can (and often do) go on about Evil Cooks for days. We love Taqueros Elvia Huerta and Alex Garcia’s personal death-rock and punk rock taco imagery of their El Sereno front yard stand. More to the point, we like their menu of edgy, original specialties like tacos, burritos, and tortas stuffed with black pastor and black asada, trompo-roasted octopus al pastor, vegan chicharron, and green Toluca-style chorizo, as well as its ever more idiosyncratic peanut mazapan agua fresca, McSatan burger taco, and subversive flan taco dessert. But don’t just take our word for it. They’re nominated for a James Beard Award this year. We were (ahem) only the first to herald their greatness.

2461 N. Eastern Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90032. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 665 - "Eastern/Klamath."

Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
A freshly baked pizza at Hugo's. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
A freshly baked pizza at Hugo's. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

Hugo’s Wood-Fire Pizza (Boyle Heights)

Hugo Zamora from Hugo’s Wood-Fired Pizza in Boyle Heights had no idea that his side hustle would quickly become his full-time job. Zamora opened his wood-fired pizza stand in his front yard in 2020 after losing his job. Having worked at multiple kitchens throughout Los Angeles Zamora turned to what he knew and loved, cooking. 

“I used to work at a restaurant in Beverly Hills, which shut down because of COVID, so I had to start something on my own,” said Zamora in 2020. 

One of his dreams while working at different restaurants was to open his own pizzeria one day, so he did just that. He started with a small oven, a few chairs, and a table in his front yard. Now, he still sells in that front yard but has upgraded it to have seating where under a gazebo with string lights in the middle of East L.A., you can enjoy Zamora’s wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas. 

His slogan says it all: “Come to Hugo’s and enjoy a taste of Naples in East LA.”

He offers all sizes of pizza, and the toppings are simple and straight to the point. He has supreme, veggie, and meat lovers pizza. Here, the taste is not just in his perfectly crispy pizzas but in Zamora’s customer service. 

Pro tip: Ask for one of his empanadas; he sometimes sells them, but only locals know. 

Open Monday to Sunday, 5 P.M.- 8 P.M., 717 N Soto St, Los Angeles, CA 90033. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 251 and 605 - "Soto/Sheridan" or Bus Line 106 - "Wabash/Soto."

The backyard oasis at Mariscos Los Corchos.
The backyard oasis at Mariscos Los Corchos. Photo via Anthony Plascencia.
Pulpo zarandeado at Mariscos Los Corchos.
Pulpo zarandeado at Mariscos Los Corchos. Photo via Anthony Plascencia.

Mariscos Los Corchos (Rialto) 

Some of the best pescado zarandeado outside of Mexico is found deep in the Inland Empire at Mariscos Los Corchos. The chef is a punk rocker from Nayarit doing everything right: the fish (robalo/snook) is gently smoked over an open fire until it is tender and flakey. His family brings in top-shelf camarones secos from Nayarit for his [masa] empanadas de camarón, and he also serves it with tortillas de maíz hechos a mano, which is extremely hard to find. If you love smoked seafood, he offers an option to have fish, shrimp, and octopus (pulpo zarandeado) stacked on each other. Suppose you love busting missions for hard-to-find regional coastal Mexican specialties. In that case, it’s time to cruise over to the buchón badlands of the I.E. This vato is also a DIY, doing it all in his backyard overlooking the peaks of the San Bernardino mountains.

303 N Brampton Ave. Rialto CA 92376. Closest transit line and stop: Omnitrans Line 14 - "Foothill/Spruce."

Chef Alan Cruz, center, with Eddie Fregoso, right, and Ricardo Ramos. Photo by Erick Galindo for L.A. TACO.
A's BBQ Brisket. Photo by Erick Galindo for L.A. TACO.

A’s BBQ (City Terrace)

You’re in East L.A., scaling a steep hill to arrive at the home of pitmaster Alan Cruz. Your work is done. Now you can sit back and enjoy some of L.A.’s snappiest smoked sausages in recipes inspired by the infamous chile relleno burritos of La Azteca, pork al pastor, Oaxacan mole, and beef birria through a true artisan’s process that begins with a cold-smoke and ice bath to build a more pronounced snap. If they sell out before you surmount that hill, you’ve still got a damn good brisket that’s been smoked for 16 hours, as well as tamarindo-glazed spare ribs, smoked chicken, al pastor burnt ends, and the occasional Chicano-style smashburger. Everything from the lengthy prep of your meats to you sitting there beside the smoked, giving a satisfied, stomach-stuffed thumbs up to the chef, goes down right here in Cruz’s City Terrace backyard, where everybody is welcome.

Follow A’s BBQ on Instagram to find out when he is popping up next, and DM for the address.

Photo via @campoecarbon/Instagram.

Campo é Carbón Pop-Up (La Puente)

Looking for a romantic dinner in a La Puente backyard over wood-grilled chicken, chicharrón de Wagyu, kimchi-pork belly carnitas, and wild mushroom and truffle cream-bone marrow cavatelli? Then you’re looking for Campo é Carbón. Chef Ulysses Gálvez and Adriana Alvarez brought Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe and its popular al fresco fine dining restaurants straight to their suburbs in The Bridge for this twice-a-month pop-up that sets up a stirring scene of elegance and honest, inspired cooking for friends, neighbors, and lovers to enjoy their changing menus under a string of lights, bounded in by a cinderblock wall and the orange exterior of their house. The next date is this Saturday, should you wish to join the fun. They host dinners often.

Follow Campo é Carbon to see when they are popping up next and for address.

Don Tavo's Tejuino. Photo by Eli Lopez Beltra for L.A TACO.

Tejuino’s Don Tavo (Compton)

Tejuinos are one of Mexico’s most unique beverage traditions. It is essentially a made-to-order limeade blended with fermented nixtamal and sweetened with piloncillo, with a spoonful of rock salt for electrolyte goodness. It’s a flavor bomb of a libation that fortifies you and quenches your thirst at the same damn time. Don Tavo’s Tejuino has been around for ten years, serving some of the city's best tejuinos. Their business is run out of the front yard of their home by couple Gustavo Diaz and Guillermina Ochoa, with the help of their children and extended family members. This particular tejuino is fermented for three months, with a new batch made every day. “Everyone gets together to make the tejuino,” Gustavo Diaz Jr. says, “it’s a family business.” The front yard is a bonafide underground oasis in Compton, with low-hanging banana trees that are heavy with tree-ripened banana bunches and other trees offering their shady canopy as a respite from the Rosecrans’ traffic. If you are a tejuino O.G., ask Don Tavo to add a pinch of baking soda to your tejuino, a traditional way of adding light carbonation to your limey, salty masa shake.  

4618 E. Rosecrans Ave. Compton, CA 90221. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 125 and 260 - "Rosecrans/Atlantic."

12698 S. Central Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90059. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 53 - "Central/El Segundo."

The backyard setup at Comedor Tenchita. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.
The backyard setup at Comedor Tenchita. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.
Chiles rellenos at Comedor Tenchita.
Chiles rellenos at Comedor Tenchita. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.

Comedor Tenchita (Mid-City)

Imagine your grandma has her family over every Sunday. Tables spread out under a canopy like a backyard birthday party. Ladies cook delicious Oaxacan meals uniquely authentic to their upbringing, like higaditos and tomatillo chicken broth with scrambled eggs. Rich chocolatey moles with freshly made tortillas. Chile Relleno soups, enmoladas, and fresh tepache in various colorful flavors. You’ll find this when you walk down the long driveway of this mid-city home. Every weekend, the menu changes, but the homely vibes, the fragrant cooking, and the joy of being there always remain. Expect to find families in their Sunday best. It’s become a traditional destination after church for Oaxacan families in L.A.

2124 S. Cloverdale Ave., Mid-City, on Sundays from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 35 - "Washington/Redondo" or Bus Line 212 - "La Brea/21st."

The family behind Tacos El Morenazo. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.
The family behind Tacos El Morenazo. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.
A plate of the Afro-Mex style Tacos El Morenazo. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.

Tacos El Morenazo (Mar Vista)

Consuelo Lopez was raised in the Mar Vista Gardens housing projects and spent her summers learning the art of fish tacos from her aunt in Sinaloa during the summers. Now, she and two of her siblings can be found in their Culver City backyard twice a week, breading and frying their father’s fresh Baja catches and plump shrimp to serve to devoted customers of Tacos Morenazo. The fish tacos land between Baja and Sinaloa, combining Consuelo's seasoning with a cabbage garnish from the former. She dresses them with a tastefully light chipotle crema that might be one of the better versions we’ve tasted in the city. Find them in her brother German’s backyard on Tuesday and Friday afternoons under the Morenazo name, the same one he uses for his barbershop.

12328 Braddock Dr. Culver City, CA 90230. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 108 - "Centinela/Braddock."

Photo via @SotoTacos/Instagram.
Tacos de barbacoa from Soto Tacos.

Barbacoa from Soto Tacos. Photo via @SotoTacos/Instagram.

Soto Tacos (Culver City)

The Soto family has two things: each other and their grandma’s beefy barbacoa. You’ll find some tables set up outside their unit at the Marina Gardens housing project in Culver City, where you’ll sit, and they will bring the food out to you from their apartment. Despite the name, they don’t do tacos; their specialty is fried quesadillas, often mistaken for large empanadas. They take fresh masa, press it into a tortilla, add beans and cheese, fold and close the ends, and deep fry it. They serve it “supreme style,” with grandma’s barbacoa dripping juices piled on top with all the fixings, including crema and salsa. They’re expanding their quesadilla options to include chicharrón con frijoles and papa con queso. Everything tastes like grandma’s love straight from her kitchen.

Look for their pop-up dates and DM for address on Instagram.

A mazapán latte at Cafe Niña. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
A mazapán and cajeta latte at Cafe Niña. Photos by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Janet Cerda of Cafe Niña. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

Cafe Niña (Boyle Heights)

The atmosphere at Cafe Niña is unlike any other. Janet Cerda serves her coffee straight from her yard, next to the 4th Street Bridge. Unlike stopping by any vendor's stand, arriving here feels like being welcomed at a family member's home. 

The coffee stand is an ode to her grandmother, and the colorful rag doll in her logo represents her family's origin in Guanajuato, Mexico. The name also pays tribute to her grandmother.

“At the end, she had Alzheimer's, so we would call her la niña (the little girl), and she was, she was our niña,” she says.

The 32-year-old single mom of two is trying to bring those flavors from childhood and feelings of comfort straight to her community through the lattes she makes. Her customers' favorite lattes are her Mazapan and Lolita lattes, one of which is the flavor of Maria cookies while the other has the nutty taste of the Mazapan. But the flavors range from paleta de payaso to her most recent pistachio-flavored latte. 

Ultimately, Janet's business was meant to be more than just a place to get a good cup of coffee; more importantly, it was designed to build community.

Open Tuesday to Thursday 8:30 A.M.-1:30 P.M. Saturday & Sunday 8:30 A.M. to 1 P.M. 3264 East 4th St., CA 90063. Closest Metro lines and stop: Metro E Line and Bus Line 665 - "Indiana Station", Bus Line 605 - "4th/Fresno", or Bus Line 106 - "1st/Lorena."

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