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L.A. Taco Guides

The Five Best Tacos in South Gate

From a spot that uses a unique Michoacán-style "salsa agridulce" to a fish taquería where the batter stays crispy, next time you're in SELA, now you know! Southeast Los Angeles, presente!

Tacos Ensenada

Tacos Ensenada. Photo by Valeria Macias for L.A. TACO.

Back in June of 2023, the city of South Gate laid out strict ground rules for street vending to be permitted throughout the city. The city prohibited roaming vendors from 6 P.M. to 9 A.M. or anytime before sunrise and after sunset. Following a backlash from residents and street vendors, the city department decided to cut back on its rigid rules. 

Nonetheless, street vending in South Gate has not returned to its previous state, nor to anything resembling that of adjacent cities like Cudahy or Huntington Park. 

Despite the lack of traditional, high-demand taquerias and curbside taco spots, these five restaurants help make up for the scarcity of street food here in L.A. County’s 19th largest city. 

These are the five best tacos in South Gate.

Tacos El Negro.
Tacos El Negro. Photo by Valeria Macias for L.A. TACO.

Tacos El Negro

Compared to the up-and-coming spots that use elaborate gimmicks to catch a TikTok-er’s eye, Tacos El Negro does the exact opposite. Taking pride in its non-extensive menu, the local L.A. taquería only serves straightforward Mexican classics. El Negro only has four items on its menu: tacos de labío (beef lips), cachete (beef cheek), cabeza (beef head), and asada.

Using steamed tortillas and finely chopped meats, these are some of the most authentically Mexican tacos you will get in southeast LA. The taqueria sticks to its basics; truthfully, that makes them stand out from the rest. They prove that you don't need variety or gimmicks; you just need quality. You have your tortilla, meat, cebolla, and cilantro, and classic salsas roja y verde - all you need for a life-affirming taco.

Besides their stand-alone red and green salsas, which have just the ideal amount of kick, El Negro offers a sala habanero that makes for the cherry on top of your taco. Although the spot is located on the city's outskirts, it is a must-stop if you want to try what South Gate has to offer for yourself. 

5720 Imperial Hwy. South Gate, CA 90280

Tacos de birria at Teddy's Red Tacos.
Tacos de birria at Teddy's Red Tacos. Photo from L.A. TACO archives.

Teddy's Red Tacos

A solid birria spot is necessary for any de rigueur L.A. taco tour. Following the quesabirria craze of recent years, it’s often hard to tell the hundreds of new birria restaurants apart. Yet the meat quality at this local birria de res chain is good enough to make it stand out, beyond the usual modern birriero’s bag of tricks full of ramen birria and birria fries.

Despite being one of many Teddy’s locations, this spot maintains the home-cooked flavors found at the original. It’s been over five years since "Teddy’s Red Tacos" made it out of the founder’s trunk. The tender, juicy, and smoky meat it offers still stands alone today. Although the business is famous for setting off a social media frenzy among its 190k followers, you only need a bite of their taco suave de birria with onion and cilantro and some of their red salsa to understand the hype.

8527 Long Beach Blvd. South Gate, CA 90280

Tacos Ensenada
Tacos Ensenada. Photo by Valeria Macias for L.A. TACO.

Tacos Ensenada

Although some skepticism may arise when driving through Firestone Boulevard and seeing the lines of people stacking up here at any given time of day, Tacos Ensenada is a Southeast LA destination for Baja fish and shrimp tacos for good reason. Their serving window in South Gate is no exception. The usual problem with fried fish tacos like these is that, by the time you take a bite, the sour cream and water from the vegetables have made your taco soggy, turning the breaded fish, cabbage, and salsa into a combined mush.

However, these tacos remain crispy throughout the entire experience. Even to the last bite, the fish and shrimp maintain their crunch. Although the tacos are the star on the menu, they also offer an extensive list of dishes that do not fall short of delicious. Their ceviche and coctel de camarón are must-tries, especially for this nascent summer season. 

Tacos Ensenada continues to honor “Taco Tuesday” by offering its fish tacos for just $1.25 on this day of the week, something that’s relatively rare to find nowadays. For only a buck and a quarter, you can simmer down in the L.A. heat with a fish taco that embodies all the best flavors of Baja California.

3900 Firestone Blvd. South Gate, CA 90280

Tacos MX.
Tacos MX. Photo via Yelp.

Tacos DF

Tacos DF is a hidden gem in the heart of South Gate, right on Tweedy Boulevard, and mimics our moms’ home-style cooking. This brick-and-mortar restaurant serves Mexican classics like menudo, mole, and huaraches. However, their taco de chicharrón prensado is probably one of the best tacos in the entire city.

This dish offers the perfect balance between crispiness and tenderness, all mixed into one and combined with a sufficiently spicy red salsa. Tacos de chicharrón are not something you can get at every restaurant or taco stand in the city, but at this spot, they beat out any typical taco meat, like carnitas or asada.

These tacos de chicharron offer an explosion of different flavors with each bite. Besides these mouthwatering tacos, Tacos DF specializes in Mexican antojitos and fritanguería (fried foods). If you try this spot, you can not leave without ordering a pambazo or quesadilla de maiz. The Mexico City delicacy, pambazos, hits all the right notes and comes slathered with a red chile sauce, giving them the perfect crispiness. Their mixture of potato and chorizo is cleverly executed, unlike many other places, in which the potato overpowers the chorizo to skimp out on the amount of meat used.

3342 Tweedy Blvd. South Gate, CA 90280

Taquería Tepeque
Taquería Tepeque. Photo by Valeria Macias for L.A. TACO.

Taquería Tepeque

Morisqueta and uchepos aren't typically found at most Mexican restaurants, but Taquería Tepeque offers all the Michoacan classics and antojitos native to the western state. Although tacos aren’t the star of the show at this small restaurant down Tweedy Boulevard, these Michoacanos have a different take on taco meat. A regular al pastor taco here tastes very different than one you would order at any corner in Los Angeles. The meat is tender, with that pineapple taste already seasoned within instead of marinating from the crown of the trompo. The tortillas are grilled nicely to where they aren't soft but rather a bit crispy, with grill marks. 

Despite the great taste of the meat, the kick that sends this dish over the top is the salsa they pair their tacos with. Besides the typical salsas verde y roja, this taqueria offers a ‘salsa agridulce y picante’ with a sweet, sour, and spicy balance called “Salsa Tia Janny” and hiding a spicy kick until the end. 

To say that this salsa, combined with the adobo from the al pastor, is flavorful is a terrible understatement. This salsa could take any taco in town to the next level.

4321 Tweedy Blvd. South Gate, CA 90280

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