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Your Guide to L.A.’s Best Carne Asada

4:35 PM PDT on August 29, 2018

    [dropcap size=big]H[/dropcap]ere in L.A., carne asada is an essential part of the lifeblood to our backyard parties to culminate every celebration you can think of. From birthdays to kickbacks, weddings, baby showers, and even occasional funeral. The smell of smoke combined with seared meats is very much a part of who we are from the cradle to the grave.

    Because of that fact, it hard to imagine the plentiful amount of options off the block to satisfy that special craving. But it's true. The city of Los Angeles makes for a wide variety of the different regional takes on the essential grilled meat. And in terms of options, it keeps getting better and better – ranging from Tijuana all the way down to Oaxaca, and everything in between. All perfect selections to wash down with an ice-cold Tecate and enjoy the good life. And for that reason, we've got you covered with our roundup of some of the best carne asada spots our fair city has to offer.

    Tacos Los Guichos

    Located on a block just off the 110 freeway on Slauson in a lot that it shares with a tire shop, Los Guichos serves up their D.F. style tacos which are a cut above anything else. With an array of meats to choose from such as the sometimes hard to find suadero (braised brisket).

    But we are here for the carne asada today, which comes with small hunks of meat that is equal parts tender and juicy. The meat itself is cut with precision – leaving no excess fat – with the perfect amount of sear. It's sprinkled with similarly sized bits of raw white onion, mixed in unison with cilantro and a perfect dollop of their house salsa. Making proper nods to their D.F. roots, it's served with the customary grilled onion and jalapeno on the side.

    The meal itself would pair perfectly with a Tecate with lime, sprinkled to create the perfect marriage, or even to cool your pallet from their fiery habanero salsa which you can add for that extra kick. Don’t forget on the weekends – when the lines can get long – there’s also churro vendor right there to satisfy your sweet tooth.

    Tire Shop Taqueria

    Further up the road, we make our inroads to Tijuana style tacos. When you arrive, what you will find is neither a truck or a cart, and definitely not a restaurant, but more a series of canopies with some of the hardest working kitchen staff grilling up carne asada. 

    You are greeted with two young women making fresh corn tortillas by hand, followed by a gentleman working the mesquite grill while adding slabs of raw carne asada and chorizo. What you end up with is nothing short of perfection: salivating-inducing asada meat enveloped in a warm soft handmade tortilla. It's topped off with just the right amount of cool avocado salsa.  

    If you really want to get the full experience, order one of their signature vampiros, which is similar to a tostada. It consists of a fresh tortilla placed on a grill until it becomes toasted crispy, and then topped with a small amount of cheese in its center. It is followed with a pile of asada or chorizo, as well as a cool-tasting salsa casera, and more of that delicious avocado salsa slathered atop. You know it's Tijuana-style because it is all wrapped in paper to hold its contents together, like your own personal taco bouquet. This is a winning combination to wash down with an ice-cold Tecate light.

    El Parian

    Moving further north towards downtown, we now arrive at the institution for all things estilo Jalisco. It is a place immortalized by Jonathan Gold. And canonized again more recently by our editor/jefe-in chief on KCRW’s Good Food when discussing the impact that Goldster’s review had on them.

    While El Parian is most known for it birra de chivo for good reason, the carne asada itself holds its own on the menu. The tacos themselves are gigantic when they arrive, filled to the brim with asada and topped with the necessary amount of cilantro and onions. It's also topped with fat and juicy chunks of tomatoes and wrapped in a warm, soft tortilla that gives you a meaty kiss with each bite. Don’t forget to ask for their fiery chile de arbol sauce to round out the experience. And for the complete experience, order the cubeta of Tecate to feel like royalty. You deserve this.   

    Guelaguetza

    Speaking of L.A. institutions... In terms of Oaxacan food, Guelaguetza holds the crown for being in a category all its own. The James Beard Award-winning restaurant was founded in 1994 by the Lopez Family and has since become a mainstay in our city’s culinary landscape. It has become the go-to place for all things mole and micheladas.

    While there isn’t a dish specific referred to as “carne asada” on the menu there, there is something called Tasajo which is a thinly sliced beef that is cured and grilled. The dish itself is found in many forms on the menu, mostly served on a platter with rice and black beans and sauteed along with onions, tomatoes, and jalapenos. A great excuse to try something new the next time you’re there.

    B.S. Taqueria

    Now serving in the heart of downtown, B.S. Taqueria is the brainchild of Chef Ray Garcia. Upon your arrival, you are greeted by brightly colored walls, cumbia, and the largest collection of molinillos hanging from the ceiling that you’ve ever seen. The effect of the wooden whisks used to froth Mexican hot chocolate sway as if it was a living breathing entity.

    The carne asada tacos carry just as much life. With a fresh blue corn tortilla, and plump, juicy pieces of meat that carry so much flavor that you almost transported to another place. Throw in a mix of grilled nopal, onion, and tomato, for the complete tasty experience. You also have the option for opting for larger entree plate made with hanger steak, and served with fried fingerling potatoes, black beans, and chile güero.  

    Sonoratown tacos

    Sonoratown

    Amidst a bustling storefront of the fashion district, Sonoratown has only been around for a period of a little over two years. The impact its made in that short period of time feels monumental, ushering in the conversation of a reconsideration of the flour tortilla and its place in Mexican cuisine.

    Their northern-Mexican style of carne asada grilled over mesquite wood has already become the stuff of legend. Despite their menu being small, the offerings run deep in the way of grilled meats. Their carne asada is a grilled short rib and comes in the form of orders of both tacos and quesadillas. But if you are really looking for the full experience, try either the Caramelo, which essentially is a larger scale taco with Monterey jack and whole pinto beans, or the Lorenza.

    Salazar

    You can not mention the other semi-new flour tortilla kid on the block. Located in Frogtown, Salazar has been offering some of the best carne asada this side of the L.A. River. It is a temple of grilled meats in its own right. Their carne asada taco on a flour tortilla is marinated to a certain degree of perfection with plump and flavorful bits of steak.

    And just for good measure, come enjoy one of the best outdoor area in Los Angeles that is perfect for these warms summer nights and enjoy those Instagram worthy sunsets. You know? The ones that are filled cinematic pink and blue-ish hues that clog your feed every evening. But this time you can be the best photo, with a carne asada taco as the star. 

    Cacao Mexicatessen

    Located in Eagle Rock on Colorado Boulevard just west of Pasadena, Cacao has quietly been serving a wide array of offerings. Their Baja-inspired fare comes in the form of tacos, burritos, and sopes. It’s easy to get lost in terms of the selections when it comes such items as the duck carnitas and uni tostadas. But make no mistake that the asada here is a stunner. A great local hangout spot, where families and couples all sit down to enjoy Cacao’s offerings. Come with friends and toast with a bottle of Tecate to each other and to this well prepared meal.

    Mercado

    When you are feeling like putting on those fancy pants or if you are feeling like having a “treat yo’ self” evening out, go to Mercado.

    The marinated skirt steak — arrachera — is more along the lines of something you might find in a steakhouse rather than your local taqueria but don’t let that dissuade you from trying it. It's perfect to share or for yourself, if you're a proud carnivore. This carne asada plate is a memorable one that will make you happy, especially if you are leaving with leftovers to add to your homemade breakfast burrito the next morning.

    El Chato

    How have we made it this far and not mentioned one burrito? Well, we wanted to save the best for last. At the end of the carne asada taco trail, we arrive at El Chato, one of the premier late night destinations. Making for the perfect companion for when you’ve finished off that tall boy of Tecate with lime at the bar and you get those drunk munchies. The carne asada burrito has the remedy for what ails you and those beer-induced hunger pains. The contents of the burrito itself offer a melange of savory perfection. You won’t go home hungry at the end of night.

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