23 Essential Mexican Restaurants in Los Angeles You Need to Try Right Now
Because it’s always taco time.
You’ll know you’re a true Angeleno when you’ve started complaining about traffic on the 405 and debating which taco truck makes the most killer al pastor. After all, Mexican food’s practically our birthright—LA was part of Mexico for nearly three decades, until 1848 (the more you know)! While we can’t possibly include every deserving Mexican restaurant in our city, this list of essential spots has a little something for everyone: old-school joints established by immigrants and run by the second generation; modern restaurants with interesting, new, Cali-inspired takes on the cuisine; and of course, plenty of taco trucks and stands. Check out 23 spots that serve LA’s best Mexican food, just in time for Cinco de Mayo.
Hermanito took over the former Flores + Sons space, turning it into a stunning restaurant with an expansive back patio that offers the most aesthetically pleasing alfresco dining experience on Sawtelle. The menu includes the expected (like grilled street corn and tasty tacos starring house-made, Sonoran-style tortillas) and several delicious surprises (such as the Asian-inflected chicken tinga bao buns and Peking duck with mole sauce), complete with a range of phenomenal cocktails and a moist, must-order tres leches cake. Come Cinco de Mayo, Hermanito’s celebrating with a half-pig pibil using Peads & Barnetts pork, smoked in banana leaves with fresh oranges and aromatics. Bring your date or a group of friends for the 5-for-$28 pibil tacos special.
How to book: Walk-ins accepted, but reservations via Opentable are highly recommended, especially for Friday and Saturday nights. Order delivery or pickup online.
Brothers Cousins Tacos
If you don’t want to ruin tacos al pastor everywhere else, don’t go to this unassuming stand operating out of a Staples parking lot. Because once you try it—fresh off the spit, bursting with juices, served with pineapple—you may never be able to enjoy it elsewhere. If it’s sold out, as is often the case by night’s end, the slightly more rare buche (pork stomach) is outstanding—chopped into teeny-tiny pieces and fried until nearly crispy. Get it as a taco, burrito, quesadilla, or mulita, but whatever you do, take full advantage of the generous toppings bar with pickled onions, radishes, legit spicy salsa verde, and all the fixings. Brothers Cousins simmers all their proteins—except for al pastor—in a large vat, melding the rich flavors together before depositing their marinated meats on palm-sized tortillas that look small but act sturdy. Pro tip: Get here early to beat out long lines.
How to book: For hours of operation, follow them on Instagram.
El Tauro Tacos Truck
Pre-pandemic, there was nothing better than a night out that ended with a 3 am “snack” at El Tauro—which almost always revolved around their famous, fresh-out-the-fryer empanadas. Featuring flaky, fall-apart crusts, these crunchy, puffed-up shells are served piping hot and brimming with gooey cheese and meat. But it’s hard to go wrong with anything on the menu here. From the loaded asada fries to the torta cubanas, which are large, unwieldy beasts stuffed with lettuce, tomato, avocado, cheese, egg, and several kinds of pork, everything tastes just as good when you’re stone-cold sober (the mark of a truly great taco truck). You can usually find El Tauro parked in Koreatown, although they’re known to cruise around Glendale and North Hollywood too.
How to book: For location and hours of operation, follow them on Instagram.
El Flamin' Taco
Operating in Koreatown, Los Feliz, and Echo Park, this distinctive flame-painted truck whips up some of LA’s best al pastor and cabeza (beef head). In addition to all the standard taco truck favorites, they’ve got a few playful twists on the menu—like French-fry-stuffed California burritos or Hawaiian-style tortas built around pineapple, ham, al pastor, and refried beans. El Flamin’s red sauce is key here. It’s legitimately spicy—not the weak, watered-down version you might expect—and lends mouth-numbing, slow-burning heat to whatever’s on your plate.
How to book: Check the truck’s schedule here.
Leos Tacos Truck
With seven trucks positioned around Los Angeles, Leo’s is one of the city’s most prolific taco trucks. At $1.50 a pop, their tacos are budget-friendly and appetizing—with al pastor among the most popular choices. But the alambre takes the win for best value; the dish includes a huge portion of meat blanketed with melty cheese and grilled veggies, served with several tortillas on the side (a little like a highly shareable make-your-own-taco kit). If you feel like branching off from the classics, opt for the Hawaiian quesadilla or salchichas torta—a sandwich filled with griddled hot dog sausages that’s about the best late-night drunchies we can think of.
How to book: For hours of operation, follow them on Instagram.
Owner Raul Ortega immigrated to LA from a small town in Jalisco, a Mexican state on the Pacific Coast, so he knows a thing or two about seafood. His tacos de camarón are consistently hailed as some of the city’s best—a melty mass of fried shrimp, red salsa, and thin-sliced avocado heaped into satisfyingly crunchy taco shells. From shockingly spicy aguachile to fresh, flavorful ceviche and octopus-topped tostadas, the rest of the marine-centric menu is just as mouthwatering. You can find Mariscos Jalisco trucks in Boyle Heights, downtown, Pomona, and West LA (Gardena is closed until further notice).
How to book: For location and hours of operation, follow them on Instagram.
Loqui found its legs as a weekly popup out of the back of San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery— thankfully, they eventually headed south and quickly became one of LA’s hottest taco spots. Their tightly edited menu of tacos and plates—starring Loqui’s handmade, ultra-thin, crisp tortillas—has expanded to include family meals. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, all three locations (including Culver City, downtown, and a newly opened spot at Free Market in Playa Vista) will offer an $80 takeout family meal that brings the party home with gifts like Mexican candy, Loqui stickers, and pins.
How to book: Walk-ins only. Order delivery or pickup online.
Azule feels like a beachy taco stand that belongs right on the shore. Luckily, as part of the SocialEats food hall on Third Street Promenade, it’s only a few blocks from the ocean. Their streamlined menu sports an array of tacos, bowls, quesadillas, and nachos, customized with your choice of protein: charred pork belly, garlic shrimp, even some solid vegetarian-friendly options, like cauliflower al pastor and slow-roasted wild mushrooms with manchego and salsa. Chips and guac, ice-cold cervezas, and cinnamon-dusted churros round out their offerings. On Cinco de Mayo, make sure to take advantage of Azule’s 6-for-$35 Estrella Jalisco micheladas—the perfect way to start or end a day of surf and sand.
How to book: Order online for free local delivery within an eight-mile radius or pickup.
Date nights and special occasions call for dinner at Old Town Pasadena’s Maestro, where the exposed brick walls, mosaic-tiled bar, and cozy banquette seating create just the right atmosphere. The upscale institution merges authentic Mexican cooking with elevated presentation: fancy oysters swimming in aguachile-filled shells, beautifully plated enchiladas and taquitos, perfectly grilled octopus served with chile de arbol aioli. The list of spirits is longer than your arm and includes rare and vintage tequilas you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. Offered on Sundays from 11 am–2:30 pm, brunch is also a serious affair here—involving savory plates like chilaquiles and chorizo hash, as well as a range of sophisticated cocktails. If you’re booking dinner for Cinco de Mayo, enjoy the live mariachi band and margarita specials!
How to book: Make reservations online or by calling 626-787-1512.
Chef Wes Avila (who penned this charming ode to LA) elevated the street taco into an art form with Guerilla Tacos, which he left in the hands of restaurant partner Britney Valles, Executive Chef Jason Beberman and Chef de Cuisine Steven Londono in August of last year to helm his Chinatown sandwich shop Angry Egret Dinette. But don’t worry—the tacos are still crafted with top-grade ingredients that freely interpret the myriad, multicultural flavors that Avila grew up with in east Los Angeles. This year, they’re poking fun at the Americanization of Cinco de Mayo with a Taco Bell-inspired menu—creating their version of the Crunchwrap Supreme and Doritos Locos Tacos, which you can guzzle down with Baja Blast cocktails. All proceeds from Guerrilla’s holiday menu will go to Save the Children, which supports the wellbeing of families and unaccompanied children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
How to book: Walk-ins accepted. Reservations via Resy. Order delivery or pickup online and via Postmates or Caviar.
Madre’s menu is an unforgettable tribute to Oaxacan cuisine—often utilizing ingredients like chiles, cheese, and spices imported from owner Ivan Vasquez’s native Oaxaca and family recipes passed down from his mother. The restaurant’s renowned for its rich moles, goat barbacoa, and tlayudas, served with thick masa tortillas called memelas, in addition to an extensive bar program at its three locations: Torrance, Palms, and West Hollywood, where Vasquez recently launched a $65-per-person seasonal tasting menu (limited reservations via Resy). Cinco de Mayo calls for some seriously festive deals, including $5 tequila and mezcal shots, $9 margaritas, and specials like a $7 chile relleno and $12 lamb-goat-beef barbacoa. The Torrance and WeHo restaurants will even host a mariachi band for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
How to book: Walks-in only at Palms. Reservations recommended for Torrance and WeHo, although both accept walk-ins. Order delivery or pickup online.
Famous for its tacos in the style of San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora in Northern Mexico, this pint-sized spot has a well-curated menu built around its tortillas. Made in house from melty lard and a special, soft wheat flour unique to Sonora (the key to these remarkably thin yet chewy vessels!), they’re wrapped around mesquite-grilled meat and sprinkled with scallions, lime, and salsa roja for one of LA’s best tacos, or glutted with tender beef and blistered tomatoes for a game-changing chivichanga burrito. During the pandemic, they added family-style meals ranging from $18-$48 to the menu, which are still available (no judgment if the family you’re ordering for is a party of one).
How to book: Order for delivery or pickup online.
As you can tell by its name, this beloved spot specializes in seafood—importing shrimp, whole fish, and more from the Mexican states of Sinaloa and Nayarit. Vicente “Chente” Cossio kicked off the concept in the backyard of his Inglewood home in 1987, and daughter Connie has continued the tradition of using family recipes to prepare Nayarit-style ceviche, fish, and shrimp in dozens of ways. The menu’s pièce de résistance, however, is a butterflied whole snook—grilled until its edges become crisp, and the moist, meaty parts flake away when you pick at it with your fork. It’s served with sweet caramelized onions and warm tortillas to counterbalance the salty, briney, absolutely mouthwatering bits of fish.
How to book: Walk-ins only. Order delivery or pickup via Postmates or DoorDash.
Born in Boyle Heights, Guisados focuses on a simple, straightforward menu of slow-cooked braises and homestyle tacos. Handmade with fresh ground masa, each corn tortilla boasts a tender, braised protein that tastes as if it’s been simmering on the stove for days, like slippery, fatty chicharron in chile verde, or the slightly sweet-yet-spicy shredded pork. They’ve since expanded to seven locations all over LA—including Echo Park, West Hollywood, Pasadena, and Burbank—but all of their stews and masa are still made and delivered from the original location multiple times a day to guarantee freshness. For early risers, select spots offer variations on breakfast tacos—piled with soft scrambled eggs, augmented with flavor-packed chorizo, or punched up with diced onions and jalapenos.
How to book: Walk-ins only. Order delivery or pickup via Postmates or Grubhub.
The children of Fernando Lopez and Maria Monterrubio, a retired husband-and-wife duo who immigrated to the U.S. and opened Guelaguetza in 1994, keep its legacy alive by staying true to authentic Oaxacan ingredients and time-tested family recipes. Although the restaurant’s famous for incredibly complex moles—like the green olive-infused estofado or a sweeter black version—you’d be remiss not to try the enfrijoladas, chiles rellenos, and a range of other Oaxacan plates. For Cinco de Mayo, they’re doing a limited run of cemitas poblanas (a meat sandwich made with fresh baked bread) and chiles en nogada (a festive dish of sauce-covered, pomegranate-seed-sprinkled, stuffed poblano chiles that represent the three colors of the Mexican flag). Both dishes hail from Puebla and pay homage to the Battle of Puebla, which Mexicans won on May 5, 1862.
How to book: Walk-ins only for Cinco de Mayo. Call 213-427-0608 to make a reservation on any other day, available two weeks in advance. Order delivery or pickup online.
Al & Bea's Mexican Food
Boyle Heights knows how to get down with a good bean and cheese burrito, and Al & Bea’s has some of the best. Beatrice Carreon and husband Albert founded this basic brown stand in 1966, and even during last year’s restaurant shutdown, people still flooded the ordering window. Their descendants continue to churn out steaming-hot burritos, oozing with molten yellow cheddar and creamy, refried pinto beans (it’s said that the latter is the star of the show, cooked on low for 18 hours using a secret family recipe). Ranging from $4.10 to $6.60, their bomb burritos are affordable and just-right-sized—so you’ll still have plenty of room for guacamole fries and sweet horchata.
How to book: Order for pickup by calling 323-267-8810.
The Valley’s 65-year-old beloved Mexican institution is still going strong—and a cameo in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood only boosted its profile. Along with iconic landmarks like Musso & Frank Grill and El Coyote, Casa Vega appears in the flick as one of several local historic restaurants from the ‘60s. The tufted red leather booths have endured, the lighting remains dim, and although founder Ray Vega passed away earlier this year, his daughter Christy ensures the kitchen continues to prepare amazing food based on her abuela’s recipes: wonton-crispy flour tortilla chips, lemony-garlic lobster enchiladas, and Mexican pizza. To adapt to the pandemic, she launched outdoor dining and online ordering for the first time. Her makeshift drive-thru debuted on Cinco de Mayo last year and attracted a line a third of a mile long down Ventura Blvd.
How to book: Walk-ins accepted, but reservations via Resy are highly recommended. Order for pickup online or by calling 818-788-4868.
No old-school Mexican list is complete without a nod to LA’s first street—literally. Spanish settlers installed Olvera St in 1781, and the tourist destination still has a number of restaurants. Aurora Guerrero served food in front of an Olvera Street bar before opening this casual spot in 1934, specializing in shredded beef taquitos that are pan-fried to order and doused in a tangy green avocado-garlic-chile sauce (a secret family recipe). New generations of Guerrero women continue to run Cielito Lindo—where you can pick up the city’s tastiest taquitos (it’s said that in the ‘40s, Hollywood legend Orson Welles evidently engulfed 44 during one meal) either raw or cooked to crisp, golden perfection.
How to book: Pre-order for pickup by calling 213-687-4391. Free parking for pickup only located behind the restaurant at Parking Lot #3.
Sonora natives Alejandro Borquez and wife Rosa opened the first El Cholo in 1923, originally billing it as a “Spanish café.” These days, their grandson Ron Salisbury carries on family traditions at six outposts in LA and OC, where dependably delicious menu items—like the much-lauded green corn tamales and enchilada suiza—appear alongside their years of introduction. To this day, the restaurant’s committed to Rosa and Alejandro’s method of buying 60-pound cheese wheels and aging them for at least a year—ensuring the best-tasting, highly meltable cheese. If you want to bring the party home, El Cholo’s also got you covered with their to-go margaritas available in single, pint, quart, or gallon.
How to book: Walk-ins accepted or call any location to make a reservation. Order delivery or pickup online.
El Parian is a Jalisco-style restaurant from owner Maria Garcia that has thrived for over five decades in Pico-Union. They specialize in birria—intensely flavored roasted goat meat that’s simultaneously crusty, juicy, and tender. Each order typically comes with plenty of onions, cilantro, and a tangy, vinegar-rich habanero sauce that you’ll happily lick off your fingers. Tacos are constructed with thick, chewy, house-made flour tortillas that arrive at your table doubled up—the better to soak in all the delicious drippings. Pro tips: Don’t wear your favorite white shirt (things are bound to get messy) and remember to bring cash.
How to book: Walk-ins only. Order pickup or delivery via Grubhub.
La Azteca Tortilleria
This East LA classic has been making tortillas and using them as fuel for fantastic burritos, quesadillas, and tacos for over seven decades. Ownership has changed over the years, but now the Villa family—including father Juan, wife Candy, son Juan, and daughter Cynthia—is making the most of La Azteca’s masa. The quesadillas feature griddled flour tortillas, molten Monterey Jack cheese, sautéed pico de gallo, and if you’re smart, chicharrones. Burritos get no better than La Azteca’s version with egg-battered, Jack-filled chile relleno, pinto beans, pico de gallo, and nopales.
How to book: Walk-ins only or order for pickup by calling 323-262-5977.
Sparr Heights, a north Glendale neighborhood that very few Angelenos visit, has one of the city’s most memorable Mexican restaurants. (It even scored an A-list shoutout from Jake Gyllenhaal’s character in the Academy Award-nominated film Nightcrawler!) Francisco Jimenez and wife Patricia opened this “little cabin” in 1989, and since then, they’ve been making standout dishes: pork chops baked in pasilla chile sauce, a variety of chiles rellenos, and massive meatballs filled with hard-boiled eggs and cooked in spicy chipotle sauce. The loud, happy ambiance and incredibly warm service make you feel as if you’re enjoying a home-cooked meal in your aunt’s kitchen—if your aunt was an exceptionally good cook.
How to book: Walk-ins only. Order for pickup online or by calling 818-957-2711.
El Tepeyac Cafe
Laughably large burritos are the claim to fame at this Boyle Heights institution that’s been near Evergreen Cemetery since 1955. Manuel Rojas passed away in 2013, and daughter Elena persists with football-sized burritos like the Hollenbeck, named for prominent 19th-century real estate developer John Edward Hollenbeck who played a key role in the foundation of Boyle Heights. The cafe honors him with seared pork simmered in chile verde, rice, bean, and guac, all wrapped in a flour tortilla and smothered in more chile verde. Enchiladas, nachos, and sandwiches help round out the menu (and your stomach).
How to book: Walk-ins only or order for pickup online.