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The Seven Best Tacos Across the J Line (Formerly Known as The Silver Line), From La Puente to Gardena

From calamari tacos to Oaxacan-style braised goat on handmade freshly nixtamalized corn tortillas and Mexicali-style "cooler burritos," this may be the best Metro bus line to take for tacos in the county.

12:21 PM PDT on March 28, 2024

    A taco de barbacoa de chivo. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A TACO.

    A taco de barbacoa de chivo. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A TACO.

    Is it a bus? Is it a certified Metro "line" that used to be distinguished as a color?

    It's both!

    Step aboard the J Line, one of L.A.'s most unique commuting vessels, starting in the east-of-the-east badlands of the San Gabriel Valley on a route that stretches to the heart of the South Bay.

    It also has perhaps the most stacked Metro line-taco lineup yet.

    From calamari tacos to Oaxacan-style braised goat on handmade, freshly nixtamalized corn tortillas, to the elusive, Mexicali-style "cooler burritos," this may be the best Metro bus line for regional taco styles in the whole county.

    Its freeway-boosted route—along a traffic-free, bus-only lane on both the 60 and 110 freeways—coasts through a taco designed for every palate, including a spot known for veggie-friendly carne asada, a taco recognized by the Michelin guide, and arguably L.A.'s best Mexican seafood restaurant.

    Photo via Metro Los Angeles.

    The best part? All these spots are found within a 15-minute walk or less from their stops. Let's get to it!

    A plate of carnitas tacos at Ixtaco in El Monte. Photo via L.A. TACO archives.

    Ixtaco ~ El Monte Bus Station

    This 420-themed, dog-friendly taquería has one of the most eclectic menus in Los Angeles. Aside from the usual taquería meats, you can get tacos with calamari, lobster, duck, Korean BBQ, scallops, and several vegetable-based options. They even have “dog-friendly tacos” for firulaís (including fish tacos and tacos with ground turkey, potatoes, and carrots). Their aguas frescas are just as creative, with a revolving menu that changes from the more traditional to wild drinks like purple horchata or a mango-and-CBD agua. ~ Francisco Reyes

    10021 Valley Blvd. El Monte, CA 91731

    Tacos de Camarones by Correa's Market: Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. Taco

    Correa’s Mariscos & Cocina ~ LA General Medical Ctr Busway Station

    Correa's Mariscos started inside a carnicería in Lincoln Heights, until a sudden rent hike caused owner Edgar Nava—a contender for the nicest taquero in Los Angeles—to leave that community-beloved location for this bonafide restaurant space they're at now. What a come-up for all of Keck Hospital, USC students, and medical workers. You’ll be satisfied with their aguachile tostada, but their Mariscos Jalisco-inspired shrimp taco is the menu's star. These crispy tacos are filled with Nava's own interpretation of L.A.’s most popular daytime seafood taco, both similar and just different enough to make it a destination for these tacos alone.

    1917 Zonal Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90033

    A taco covered in salsas, guacamole, and pickled onions from Villa's Tacos
    A taco covered in salsas, guacamole, and pickled onions from Villa's Tacos. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.

    Villa’s Tacos ~ Olive / 5th

    No other taquero in Los Angeles wakes up as happy as Victor Villa does every morning. He stays high on life and pours every ounce of his energy into making the most deliciously messy tacos around at his Michelin-rated taco institution, Villa's Tacos. If you are in the maximalist school of L.A.’s Taco Life, you will find your happy place in a plate of Villa's overstuffed “Dodger-blue” tacos. Besides the usual diced onions and cilantro, your tacos will have a fat drizzle of crema, a hefty sprinkle of cotija, hibiscus-pickled red onion, and a special Michocán-style salsa passed down through the Villa family over many generations. Oh yeah, plus a generous dollop of non-watered down, extra chunky guacamole.

    Victor Villa may be the GOAT to come out of Highland Park. To this day, he is the only taquero ever to win back-to-back TACO MADNESS championships, and he's out to prove that he has one more trophy left in him this year. He just opened a new location at Grand Central Market, which is perfect for all transit users. Just follow the long line of his devout fans to taco glory.

    317 S Broadway St. Los Angeles, CA 90013

    Dirt Dog taco de carnitas.
    Dirt Dog taco de carnitas. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.

    Dirt Dog ~ Flower / Adams 

    Dirt Dog, a hot dog chain with locations in Southern California and Nevada, was hoping to add birria to its menu, just as almost everyone in L.A. has been doing of late. But those ambitions were quickly put to rest during a birria taste test pitted against the carnitas recipe of one of its managers, Yanet Vazquez. The pork is perfectly rendered to a sticky and gelatinous masterpiece that come out juicy, tender, and meaty, with a colorful flavor that hints at citrus peels. The recipe and technique behind Vazquez's carnitas are straight from Michoacán, just as her mother and grandmother taught her. But she tells us that her carnitas sazón is pure CDMX.

    PRO TIP: Ask for the "Tragon special," a carnitas torta Vazquez and I made together using their lobster roll smeared with creamy guacamole and topped with her pickled onions. It will make your toes curl. ~ Memo Torres

    2528 S. Figueroa St. Los Angeles, CA 90007

    Holbox's Taco de Pulpo. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.
    Holbox's Taco de Pulpo. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.

    Holbox ~ 37th Street / USC 

    Stop at the Expo Park/USC station and walk or ride a half mile east over to Downtown’s popping Mercado Paloma. You’ll find Holbox reveling in Yucatán's coastal recipes and culinary treasures. Located inside of Downtown’s Mercado Paloma, it is one of the city’s most unforgettable seafood experiences, with superlative fish tacos, luscious and bright ceviches and cocteles, mesquite-grilled lobsters, and raw delicacies like Baja’s almejas chocolates (chocolate clams), patas de mulas (blood clams), and live Santa Barbara uni with Baja Bay scallops.

    You can take our word for it. Or that of the L.A. Times, which just named it “Restaurant of the Year.” Better yet, sink your teeth into a hot and ingenious taco de pulpo made with octopus from the Gulf, braised and fried, and accompanied by a sinful sofrito stained in calamari ink. And let the taco do the talking.

    3655 S. Grand Ave. #C9 Los Angeles, CA 90007

    taco de chivo and totopos
    A taco de barbacoa de chivo and totopos at La Mayordomia. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A TACO.

    La Mayordomia ~ Harbor Transitway / Slauson

    OaxaCalifornia is one of L.A.'s most powerful foodways. When it comes Oaxacan-style Mexican food in Los Angeles, there is no border. All the staples of Oaxaca like quesillo made with unpasteurized milk, hoja santa leaves, and tlayuda tortillas made with heirloom corn are widely available and affordable in Los Angeles, if you know where to look.

    If you live in South-Central close to 110, La Mayordomia is your spot for all these essentials. They are a one-stop shop for tasajo (air-dried, thinly sliced beef), Oaxacan-style chorizo, and more. They also function as a community molino, bakery, and restaurant boasting some of the most full-flavored Oaxacan food in this part of L.A. That includes tacos, of course.

    Their "taco de la abuela" has been their top-selling menu item since they opened ten years ago, but if you love goat like we do, their tacos de barbacoa de chivo, which come served with consomé, is their MVP taco of the menu. It also showcases their freshly nixtamalized corn tortillas.

    5892 S. Broadway Los Angeles, CA 90003

    Burritos el Cachanilla
    El Cachanilla Burritos. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

    El Cachanilla Burritos ~ Harbor Gateway Transit Center

    Finding a new regional taco style in the streets of L.A. is an instant way of achieving taco euphoria. This was the case when we drove by the E-Z Up canopy tent and made a quick U-turn to investigate, only to find that they are quite possibly L.A.'s first specimen of a Mexicali-style "burrito de hielera."

    Filled with guisados like bistec (steak with peppers and onions), eggs with chorizo, or carne con papa (shredded beef with potato), these border-style burritos (which are kept in a cooler) are the workhorse of the burrito kingdom because they are meant to be enjoyed slightly warm to room temperature after the flavors and ingredients have happily married have melded into each other. The resulting "sweaty burrito" is mouthwatering and hearty at the same time.

    This stand opened after Jesús Mendoza injured himself at his construction job, forcing his wife Esmeralda to earn money to feed their family. Two years later, they expanded into this second location. Their first one is at the Wilmington Night Market.

    Regarding that superimposed "Tijuana-style" sign over the original font, Esmeralda tells L.A. TACO that they changed it, since no one knew what Cachanilla meant. Since switching out the signs, they've been selling more and more everyday, setting up shop at 6:30 AM and typically running out by 9:30 AM. So get here early if you want a taste.

    17800 Vermont Ave. Gardena, CA 90248

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