By Colleen Dunn Bates, Editor of Eat: Los Angeles
The whole country now seems to know about L.A.'s food-truck mania, triggered by the phenomenal success of the Kogi Truck. But the food truck is nothing new in this car-focused town, and the better taco trucks had already elevated portable dining to a new level art long before Kogi came along.
So herewith are ten favorite trucks of the EAT: Los Angeles team, with a particular focus on the classics and just a few of the modern trucks that are drawing crowds. We love many others, too, from the Let's Be Frank hot dog cart to the Coolhaus ice cream sandwich truck on the hipster end to about a dozen great old-school Mexican taco trucks in Highland Park and East L.A., but this list of ten represents a great mix, both geographically and culinarily. Enjoy!
Border Grill Truck
WHY Border Grill's excellent tacos (the Yucatan pork, potato and Baja-style fish are our faves) and quesadillas, served from a truck window all over town.
WHAT At this writing, the truck from star L.A. chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken was doing a lot of private events and showing up consistently at several spots, including in front of the Venice bar the Brig some Thursday nights and the first Friday of the month; at UCLA's Court of Sciences for some lunchtimes; and at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market twice a month. It's also starting to hit Hollywood more. Check the site or the Twitter feed for details.
WHO Young foodies in hip little hats.
Citywide. bordergrill.com. @BorderGrill. Mexican. Cash only. $ - $$
El Pique Taco Truck
WHY Meltingly tender al pastor and savory chorizo tacos and burritos, served late into the night.
WHAT One of L.A.'s finest taco trucks lives in the parking lot of the car wash at the corner of York and Avenue 53, and it has a devoted following. The al pastor is smoky and richly spicy, the carne asada is lean and savory, and the chorizo is addictive.
WHO Locals, workers from the car wash that shares this parking lot, and Mexican futbol fans (the truck bears its allegiance to Chivas).
Parking lot at York Blvd. & Ave. 53, Highland Park. Mexican/Taqueria. L & D daily. Cash only. $
El Taquito Mexicano
WHY Sopes made with fat masa cakes, richly flavorful beans and tender chicken; all the meats (carne asada, lengua, carnitas) are good. First-rate tacos and burritos, too.
WHAT Pasadena's hungry night owls have shockingly few options, so we're grateful for this fine taco truck, which is parked in the Nishikawa auto-repair shop lot every night -- it's open until at least midnight during the week and 3 a.m. on weekends.
WHO Caltech and Art Center students and inebriated middle-aged Pasadenans hungry after another boring cocktail party.
Nishikawa Auto, 510 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, 626.577.3918, eltaquitomexicano.com. Mexican/Taqueria. D nightly. Cash only. $
WHY Fresh, organic salads, soups, wraps and sandwiches, served out of two catering trucks at several locations.
WHAT These sustainable twists on the roach coach, fueled by recycled vegetable oil, cruise Culver City, Santa Monica and the Wilshire/La Brea area on weekdays. Your ahi poke tacos, vegan sesame-tofu wraps and sweet potato fries are served in biodegradable packaging. To see where the trucks are parked, go to the web site's GPS tracker or follow it on Twitter. Note that Green Truck was L.A.'s first hybrid-hip food truck, before Kogi.
WHO Culver City studio folks, Miracle Mile office toilers and health-conscious Santa Monica office workers.
Citywide. greentruckonthego.com, @Green_Truck. Modern American/Vegetarian. Cash only. $ - $$
Grilled Cheese Truck
WHY The comfort of grilled cheese with the sophistication of quality ingredients and modern combinations -- but be prepared to wait in line.
WHAT As the dust settles from the last year of food-truck mania, the Grilled Cheese Truck is coming out one of the winners -- not as much of a sensation as Kogi, perhaps, but popular enough to always attract a big crowd, and good enough to make the people who wait happy. Our favorites: the tomato soup, the tater tots and the Harvest grilled cheese with butternut squash, roasted leeks and balsamic. Our teenager's favorite: The mac 'n' cheese grilled cheese, every bit as decadent as it sounds. The truck cruises from Pasadena to the South Bay to Venice, with no set schedule, and it's had a lot of private parties lately, so you'll have to get online to find it.
WHO The usual crowd of 20somethings who have no problem standing in line for 45 minutes for a sandwich.
Citywide. grilledcheesetruck.com, @grlldcheesetruk. American. Cash only. $
WHY Taco trucks hit the big time when this Korean/Mexican fusion coach arrived on the scene.
WHAT Spicy pork and beef short-rib tacos along with kim chee quesadillas and other Kogi specialties are undoubtedly delicious Asian twists on Mexican favorites -- but whether the wait time is worth it depends on the length of the line and your patience. A pioneer of the gourmet food truck movement, Kogi has increased its fleet to three trucks, which stop all over L.A. (and will show up at your event with a $1,000 minimum order). Its food is more easily available at the Alibi Lounge in Culver City, and now at its new "real" restaurant, Chego in Mar Vista.
WHO Trend-followers and addicts willing to wait 45 minutes to an hour (down from 90 minutes last year) minutes for a couple of short-rib tacos.
Citywide. kogibbq.com, @kogibbq. Korean/Mexican. Cash only. $
Paloma Selestial Taco Truck
WHY Cemita poblana de milanesa, a Mexico City-style sandwich with thin-sliced, breaded beef, avocado and chipotle; good carnitas tacos, too.
WHAT Also known as Tacos Wamu, this truck sets up lunch shop in the Chase (formerly Washington Mutual) parking lot every day, moving to the Pep Boys lot at Pico and Manning in the later afternoon. It's a reliable truck with respectable, consistent taqueria fare, in a part of L.A. that doesn't get many good old-school taco trucks.
WHO Century City workers who don't want to spend $12 for a sandwich at the mall.
Overland Ave. at Pico Blvd. (lunchtime) & Pico Blvd. at Manning (dinnertime), West L.A.. (323) 535-3520 L & D Mon.-Sat.. Mexican/Taqueria. Cash only. $
Ricardo's Fish Tacos
WHY Excellent Baja-style fish tacos.
WHAT Ricardo (better known as Ricky) moves his poquito stand around Silver Lake, but you can reliably find him either in front of Le Bar (3922 Sunset Blvd.) or the laundromat on Saturdays during the Silver Lake Farmers' Market. He makes just one thing, fish tacos ($2.50), and they're terrific, the fish fresh from the fryer and the tortillas warmed to order. This is the real thing, made by an Ensenada native.
WHO Farmers' market shoppers and surfers pining for Baja.
Various locations, Silver Lake, @rickysfishtacos, Mexican/Taqueria. Cash only. $
Tacos la Fonda
WHY Tortillas made fresh on the truck, juicy carne asada and excellent salsas, especially the smoky, spicy roja.
WHAT Some of the best tacos in the Valley are handed through the window of this truck, which takes up residence in the car wash parking lot in the evenings.
WHO Working-class guys and students.
NW corner of Vineland Ave. & Vanowen St., North Hollywood. Mexican/Taqueria. D nightly. Cash only. $
WHY Simple, perfectly grilled pork, beef and chorizo tacos.
WHAT Some love the carne asada, others prefer the lengua (tongue), but all agree this truck parked outside the Von's market on Alvarado grills up some of the best meats in the area. Come anytime after 7 p.m., but expect crowds later in the evening when hungry clubgoers start congregating. This truck is so beloved that when it was vandalized in 2009, neighborhood musicians mounted a fundraiser to help keep the tacos coming.
WHO Echo Park families and fashionably attired young musicians and artists.
Von's parking lot, 1342 N. Alvarado St., Echo Park. Mexican/Taqueria. Nightly from 7 p.m Cash only. $