In a recent issue of Gwyneth Paltrow's goop magazine -- her lack of capitalization, not mine -- there's a special guide to The Best Food Trucks in L.A. On the list are the usual fashionable choices like Kogi, Coolhaus, The Grilled Cheese Truck, and The Lobsta Truck. But there's something to be desired in goop's selections. (Not the least of which has to do with their sampling method, which took place during one day out on Abbot Kinney.)
While I certainly love the explosion of food trucks into the cultural mainstream, it pays to keep in mind that there are two very different tiers of trucks roaming the streets: The plushier, social media-friendly trucks that charge a premium, and the mom-and-pop taco stands that set up shop on a daily basis (generally as the sun goes down) and give their customers delicious eats for cheap prices. This list is about that latter group.
While, admittedly, I have not eaten at every single taco stand in the greater Los Angeles area, I have consumed my fair share of burritos, quesadillas, and tortas in my day. And these are the ten best. In no specific order:
Ricky's Fish Tacos
What began as a tiny stand in Sunset Junction back in 2009 has grown into perhaps the tastiest fish taco truck on the West Coast. While the hours leave something to be desired for the night owls -- it's only open for lunch from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. -- head over to Ricky's on a Wednesday and they have a special "buy three, get one free" deal.
Here's a secret: If nearby Taco Zone -- which we'll get to later, don't you worry -- has a line of partiers stretching as far as the eye can see, make a little detour to nearby Tacos Arizas instead and get an equally high-quality meal. Get the carne asada!
Nearly every taco truck sticks a generous bucket of spiced carrots and jalapenos on the sideboard of their truck as a bonus. (If they don't, they're not a true taco truck.) But for whatever reason, El Paisano's spiced freebies, which can be had at Everett and Sunset in Echo Park, are just a tad better than the rest.
For tortas, it's all about the bread. If the bread's just right, it's going to take a really awful piece of meat to mess it up. If the bread's stale or hard, it doesn't matter if the inside is full of the leanest and most choice grass-fed meats. Rambo's in Eagle Rock has great bread and, thusly, great tortas.
There are only a few reasons to be strolling around downtown at night. The first is that you live there, in which case, you probably have enough money to throw on more luxurious late night meals. The second is if you're still working, in which case, bill the office! The third is if you've been drinking. That last scenario is when I encountered Danny's Tacos on Grand and Olympic, so keep that in mind with this recommendation. But I do remember being pleased with my meal!
Armando's Lunch Truck
Armando's serves the breakfast and lunch crowd on the USC campus. That means that it not only offers the standard tacos and quesadillas, but also breakfast burritos and chicken sandwiches, the two most important of the food groups.
While the look of Doña Garnacha may be a bit off-putting -- with their bright TV screens and flames painted on the truck's side -- one meal while standing in the car wash parking lot on Sunset and Alvarado is enough to put this gaudy truck in your regular rotation.
Whatever you get at Leo's, constantly parked at Venice and La Brea, make sure it has a little bit of their freshly-sliced pineapple on top.
While it may be "against the rules," I'm a big proponent of sneaking outside food into theaters. (Especially when the only options are popcorn and over-cooked/over-priced hot dogs.) So, if you're ever heading to the Highland Theater for a cheap screening, you'd be wise to first stop at nearby Tacos Sinaloa. While they have a habit of changing locations now and then, they're generally parked at Avenue 55 and Figueroa in Highland Park.
No list of L.A. taco trucks would be complete without a mention of the fine offerings from Echo Park's Taco Zone, parked outside of the Von's on Alvarado on a nightly basis. A recent Yelp review perhaps sums it up best: "Best everything. Ever and always." The only downside is that due to its popularity, the line can stretch well into the parking lot after a show from a nearby concert venue lets out. Heading over there before 10 p.m. is a recipe for perfection.
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