6HWbNHN-show-poster2x3-c7tgE2Y.png

Artbound

Start watching
MJ250sC-show-poster2x3-Bflky7i.png

Tending Nature

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
HvlSxHY-show-poster2x3-4ik43uV.png

Earth Focus

Start watching
5LQmQJY-show-poster2x3-MRWBpAK.jpg

Reporter Roundup

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

6 Fantastic Mexican Restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley

Support Provided By
Bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with cheese at El Cristalazo | Photo by Clarissa Wei
Bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with cheese at El Cristalazo | Photo by Clarissa Wei

For many, the San Gabriel Valley is synonymous with Chinese food. And while Chinese restaurants are no doubt one of the first things that you'll see when you drive through Valley Boulevard, look closely as you head east. In time, you'll spot just as many Mexican restaurants.

However, the cuisine is sometimes overlooked in this part of town. According to the 2010 Census, Latinos make up the largest ethnic group in the San Gabriel Valley with a total of 775,400 residents.

Like the Chinese food scene in this area, the Mexican cuisine is just as varied and complex. I tapped into the vast knowledge of food writer Bill Esparza of Street Gourmet LA who pointed me to some brilliant selections:

Quesadilla and tacos | Photo by Clarissa Wei
Quesadilla and tacos | Photo by Clarissa Wei

Birrieria Calvillo Aguascalientes
As the name indicates, this regional Mexican eatery is all about the birria -- a spicy shredded goat stew. They do it in the style of Aguascalientes; it's cooked with tomatoes, onions, and oregano. The dish is nuanced and hearty, paired with a side of spicy salsa. If stew isn't your thing, you can also get the birria in a quesadilla or taco. The owners have been at this for nearly a decade now. 12056 Valley Boulevard, South El Monte; 626-443-1942.

El Taquito Mexicano Truck
El Taquito is my go-to late night destination in the San Gabriel Valley. On the weekdays they close at 1 a.m. and 3 a.m on the weekends. It's parked in a Pasadena lot and they dole out great lengua and carne asada tacos for just $1.40 a piece. Say yes to the complimentary sliced radishes. Wash it down with a lovely cup of horchata. 510 S. Fair Oaks Ave. Pasadena, CA 91105;(626) 355-941.

Taco spread | Photo by Clarissa Wei
Taco spread | Photo by Clarissa Wei

Colonia Taco Lounge

Ever since I found out about this place, Colonia has become a regular destination for my friends and me. Hit Colonia up on Taco Tuesdays, where each taco -- giant and handmade -- is a reasonable $2. Brought to you by the same people behind Guisados, Colonia's corn tortillas are the best in town. I adore the shrimp and coconut taco with aji sauce, and the cauliflower taco which is deep-fried and dressed in crema and caper salsa. 13030 Valley Blvd., La Puente, CA 91746; (626) 363-4691.

Taquizas Gilberto
Gilberto is the place to get Hidalgo-style cuisine in the greater Los Angeles area. Plan ahead because this pop-up eatery is only open on weekends from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. It's well worth the trek for a taste of their signature barbacoa -- pit-roasted lamb head. They also do fantastic flautas, which are long flute-like tacos stuffed with goat stew. Inside Leyva's Bakery, 551 E Francisquito Ave. #C, Valinda; 626-917-4095.

Birria Burrito | Photo by Clarissa Wei
Birria Burrito | Photo by Clarissa Wei

Burritos La Palma

You won't find giant, over-stuffed cheese and bean burritos here. Burritos La Palma makes burritos with a homemade flour tortilla rolled around an earthy stew. According to Esparza, the restaurant hails from Jerez, Zacatecas where they have multiple branches. This El Monte location, right in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley, is their 10th branch. Burritos, as one would expect, is their bread and butter. The signature item is the birria -- made with beef instead of goat. It's spiced and shredded, rolled in a tortilla. 5120 N Peck Rd., El Monte, CA 91732; (626) 350-8286.

Ceviche | Photo by Clarissa Wei
Ceviche | Photo by Clarissa Wei

El Cristalazo

This is the place for seafood aficionados. They specialize in giant Cristalazos -- an impressive and photo-worthy ceviche of shrimp, scallops, onions and cucumbers served in a giant cup. This family-owned shop is a Sinaloan cuisine specialist with a strong emphasis on seafood. For something spicy, try the shrimp tamale or the tlaxtihuille -- an earthy mole with shrimp and one of the best variations of this dish in the county. 1665 N Hacienda Blvd., La Puente, CA 91744; (626) 918-0863.

Support Provided By
Read More
Close-up view of cherry blossoms in Little Tokyo.

Where to Find the Most Beautiful Blooming Trees in the L.A. Area

While L.A. may be more closely associated with palm trees lining its sidewalks and streets, this sprawling city and its surrounding municipalities is actually a horticultural delight of varied treescapes. Here are seven spots to get a glimpse of great blossoms.
A cup of ginjo sake paired with Tsubaki's kanpachi sashimi

Sake 101 Taught by Courtney Kaplan of Tsubaki and Ototo

Sake has existed for thousands of years. To help introduce and better understand this storied beverage, we turn to Courtney Kaplan, sommelier, sake aficionado and co-owner of restaurants Tsubaki and Ototo in Los Angeles.
An image of the French district in downtown Los Angeles. The image shows Aliso Street in downtown Los Angeles, California, with signs labeling buildings "Griffins Transfer and Storage Co." and "Cafe des Alpes" next to "Eden Hotel," which are located on opposite corners of Aliso and Alameda Streets. A Pacific Electric streetcar sign reads "Sierra Madre" and automobiles and horse-drawn wagons are seen in the dirt road.

What Cinco de Mayo Has to do with the French in Early L.A.

Cinco de Mayo is often celebrated wrongly as Mexican Independence Day, but a dig into the historical landscape of Los Angeles in the early 19th century reveals a complex relationship of French émigrés with a Mexican Los Angeles.