Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Taco Roundup on Cinco de Mayo

Inspired by LA Taco's recent taco tournament which anointed La Estrella as the best taqueria in town and a friend who recently moved to LA and is obsessed with tacos, I journeyed on a personal quest to try some of the more prominent taco joints in Los Angeles to see what they had to offer.

In each location (where possible) I ordered two carne asada soft tacos. I visited as many as four in one day. They were: Carnitas Michoacan, La Estrella 3, King Taco, Sky's Tacos, Tacomiendo, Tacos Por Favor, Tito's Tacos & Yuca's.

I don't eat pork or shellfish, which is why I did not sample carnitas tacos or get the famous fish tacos at Sky's.

Best of the bunch: La Estrella 3.

La Estrella is right next to where the train tracks cross Figueroa in Highland Park. It is basically a stand with three small tables connected to the ground.

The meat was just the most flavorful at La Estrella 3 and the cilantro onions and salsa were in just the right proportions.

Runners Up:

1. Tacos Por Favor

Tacos Por Favor on Olympic & 14th St is a Santa Monica institution. They operate efficiently and have tons of indoor seating. Even at prime time lunch the wait to order is relatively short as the line moves quickly. They also have a salsa bar with red, green, pico de gallo and sliced limes, which is a big asset.

The filling doesn't overwhelm the tortillas like at La Estrella. The asada had a nice grilled taste. The tacos come with tortilla chips. Tacos Por Favor uses vegetable oil and no lard.

2. Sky's Gourmet Tacos

Sky's Gourmet Tacos is a soul food take on the Mexican classic. Sky's is located on Pico Blvd near Hauser, South of the Miracle Mile. They have a small indoor dining room and several attractive tables with umbrellas outside on the sidewalk. According to their website, all of their dishes "are prepared fresh without trans fat, lard, artificial additives or preservatives."

I sampled one Authentic Taco which was a small carne asada taco with onions, cilantro and citrus juice and served with hot salsa over two corn tortillas. The salsa was legitimately spicy, which offers a good excuse to try the excellent homemade lemonade. I also got a beef "Famous Taco" which was significantly larger and came with lettuce, tomato, cilantro, cheese and Sky's sauce on two corn tortillas. The "salad" on top was unnecessary and I removed most of it (saving the sauce). Overall very good tacos and a refreshing twist on the classic without changing it beyond recognition.

The Others aka Nothing Special

Tacos from Carnitas Michoacan, King Taco, Tacomiendo & Yuca's were not worth going out of your way for. I had a hard time believing that Yuca's was the winner in LA Taco's bracket last year. Fun spot but their tacos were just fine. By far the worst tacos were at Tito's Tacos. The "tacos" there were absolutely disgusting. Despite being a native Angeleno I had never been there and wished I had kept my streak of 34 years without a Tito's Taco intact. Avoid at all costs.

Carnitas Michoacan

The tacos were extremely oniony, to the point that I could not finish them.

King Taco

King Taco is a fast food environment and the taco is not very tasty and the environment has no charm. There is a parking lot at the Pico & Alvarado location but it is difficult to find a parking space there. The least expensive but perhaps most bland/boring of the tacos sampled.


Tacomiendo is located in a strip mall on Gateway in West LA and reminded me of a bigger La Salsa but with food with less flavor. The carne asada was cut into the largest chunks of any taqueria I visited and the tacos were just boring. They also had a salsa bar. No reason to go there with Tacos Por Favor a short drive away.

Tito's Tacos

Tito's Tacos has been in business for over 50 years. I am not sure why people enjoy it. Their tacos come in a hard shell and contain enough shredded lettuce to keep a family of bunnies in food for weeks. I'd rather skip a meal than ever eat there again.


Yuca's has a great ambiance, it just feels authentic in that neighborhoody way. Bonus for outdoor tables adjacent to the parking lot. I just found the tacos to be fine (better than tacomiendo or king taco or tito's or michoacan) but certainly not worth driving out of your way for. The tacos had the least cilantro of any I sampled, maybe that is part of what holds them back.

La Estrella 3: 6103 North Figueroa Street @61st St, Highland Park. (323) 982-0179
Tacos Por Favor: 1406 Olympic Blvd @ 14th St, Santa Monica (310) 392-5768
Sky's Gourmet Tacos: 5408 West Pico Blvd @ Hauser, South Miracle Mile (323) 932-6253
Carnitas Michoacan: 1901 North Broadway (off I-5), East Los Angeles (323) 225-2729
King Taco: 2020 West Pico Blvd, Pico Union (213) 384-8115
Tacomiendo: 11462 West Gateway Blvd, West LA (310) 481-0804‎
Tacos Por Favor: 1406 Olympic Blvd, Santa Monica (310)392-5768
Tito's Tacos: 11222 Washington Place @ Sepulveda, Culver City (310) 391-5780

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