20 Spots for the Best Street Food in Los Angeles
Los Angeles, you love your street food. From a diverse collection of food trucks to an open-air grill set up in a business’s parking lot after hours, casual food prepped and served outdoors is affordable, delicious and often a badge of foodie honor for knowing exactly which corner dishes up the best goat tacos in the Valley. The best street food in Los Angeles includes something for everyone: fried chicken, ceviche, ice cream, and of course, a lifetime’s worth of tacos. So whether you're eating right where you order, on a folding card table, leaning against the trunk of your car, or taking your order home for the hungry family, these are the spots to check out. Please note: Although we’re impressed with the social distancing and mask protocols being observed by patrons of these spots, we’ve noticed the waiting line getting crowded at some locations during peak lunch and dinner times so you might want to consider going early (and having a backup plan in case you arrive and you don't feel good about the crowd density).
1. Tacos Arizas - Echo Park
A classic Los Angeles late-night stop after Dodgers games, this spot is known for its flavorful carnitas and chorizo tacos served off Sunset Boulevard at Logan Street near the stadium. This is part of a trio of taco trucks (the others are El Flamin’ Taco and Taco Zone) on this stretch that operate until around 3 a.m. to satiate late night partyers’ need for noshing. While all are going to do the trick to quell early morning munchies, the crunch on the grilled chorizo here is the real winner.
2. Mystyx Cafe - Boyle Heights
This wooden stand has the homespun vibe of a Peanuts cartoon reading “The Doctor is In” (if Lucy were a Goth who cast spells). Recently opened by a Goth enthusiast and barista (he's worked at Urth Cafe and Starbucks, among other coffee purveyors) and his girlfriend, this stand serves top-quality caffeinated concoctions to rival the chichiest restaurants. Try the Nocturnal Latte with caramel and mocha dripping down your go-cup walls. Or order a Horchata coffee (White Magic) with an avocado toast or churro cheesecake along with it. The cafe changes location frequently, most recently on Cesar Chavez Avenue between Gage and Record streets. DM the cafe to get the 11 p.m. location and pre-order from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
3. Mariscos Jalisco - Various Locations
It’s known as the best shrimp taco in town for a reason—it’s served in a crispy-fresh shell, with big chunks of shrimp all topped by red salsa and fresh avocado. There are a handful of locations (Boyle Heights, downtown, Gardena, Pomona and West L.A.), and though the service is fast, you’ll run into lines due to this place’s deserved O.G. iconic status. Brave the lines. Order the shrimp taco, and throw in an order of fresh oysters and ceviche while you’re at it. You live once, and all this delicious seafood isn’t going to eat itself.
4. Bungkus Bagus - Glendale
Two young women born in Ubud, Bali are now serving authentic Balinese food from the driveway of the Glendale home where they grew up. Standouts are the bungkus, or Balinese tamales, which are delicious coconut rice wrapped in banana leaves. They are best enjoyed with coconut-cooked spinach, fish or chicken, a fritter and the spicy sambal sauce. Their food carries the aroma of Balinese staples such as lemongrass and gingery galangal. Curries and soybeans prepared with lime show up in the ever-rotating list of menu items that the sisters learned from their ibu, or Balinese nanny. Weekly pre-orders are announced via Instagram, where a quick DM lets you plan ahead to pickup for the weekend. It’s the next best thing to a Balinese getaway.
5. Dollar Hits - Filipinotown
In a nod to authentic Pinoy street food, you select your skewered food (mostly proteins like pork or chicken) which is already half-cooked, then take it to the parking lot to finish cooking over one of the grills set up just like in the Manila food stalls this is patterned after. While social distancing-cautious diners might want to take their skewers home to finish cooking on their patio grill, there's so much reason to stop here, even without the festive chat around the grills. Each skewer costs only $1, so you can experiment out of your comfort zone, adding tenga (pork ears), adidas (chicken feet) and other nose-to-tail cuts to dependable crowd pleasers like pork butt, chicken thigh and camote (potato fritter), all brushed with soy sauce, sugar and garlic. Be sure not to leave without some of the vinegar dipping sauce.
6. Cravin' Crab Cakes - Studio City
This mobile eatery specializes in Maryland-style crab cakes—that means large chunks of crab meat just barely held together with filler (not like those wimpy shredded-crab cakes that are all bread and barely any crab). Made exclusively with blue crab flown in from the Chesapeake Bay and seasoned with a healthy amount of Old Bay seasoning, these hearty plates are just the thing to warm the heart of any transplanted East Coast seafood lover. Of course, there’s also beer-steamed peel-and-eat shrimp, as well as waffle fries, corn on the cob slathered with butter and Southern-style coleslaw. Sure, it may not be the tidiest plate to eat in your car, but we dare you to drive home without sampling at least a little.
7. CVT Soft Serve - Sherman Oaks
We know what you’re thinking...soft serve, what’s the big whoop? Oh, but you’re so so wrong. This super-creamy and deliciously full-fat soft serve is best served in a chocolate-and-vanilla swirl. And during high summer, in a cup, so that it doesn’t melt in the Valley heat pulsating off Ventura Boulevard. Besides the truck’s tightly edited menu (you can get vanilla or chocolate, in a cup or in a cone and maybe with sprinkles), CVT Soft Serve is famed for its sense of humor, namely the sign at the window that says “Influencers Pay Double.” This funny-but-he's-not-kidding sign went up a few years ago when owner Joe Nicchi tired of social media influencers’ requests for free $4 cones, culminating in one person's request to cater an entire party for “exposure.” Small business owner Nicchi has since gone on a take-no-prisoners campaign against freebie seekers (he was even written up in Time). Trust us: You’ll be happy to cough up the cash for these sweets.
8. Baby’s Bad Ass Burger - DTLA
Smiling ladies slinging fat juicy burgers out of a bright pink food truck: What’s not to love? This girly burger wagon is the brainchild of a former New York restaurateur and a Cali-based event planner. The “Simple Original Beauty” burger (Swiss cheese, grilled onions, sautéed mushrooms and special sauce) is the keystone to the whole menu, which includes a vegan option. But there’s also blue cheese, smoked cheddar, bacon, avocado and a range of other toppings to put with your eight-ounce beef on a Kings Hawaiian roll. Enjoy with curly fries and a soda.
9. Pablitos Tacos - NoHo
This food truck has your classic Tijuana taco, but with a Peruvian touch. Hand-made tortillas and proteins grilled on a mesquite grill are served with free guacamole. Located across from the Valley's famous Circus Liquor shop (perfect for Instagram shots), come for the Chile Relleno Burrito along with tacos, mulitas, queso tacos and quesadillas. Enjoy with one of their seasonal agua frescas.
10. Poncho's Tlayudas - South Los Angeles
Behind the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations on South Main Street on Friday nights, a Oaxacan native is making news with large thin crispy tortilla known as tlayudas, as different from the thicker palm-sized tortillas found at taquerias as gauze is to canvas. Inside, a pressed helping of handmade morongo, or blood sausage spiced wth chilis. Seasoned black beans and cabbage and cheese are melted into the folded-over savory meal, which has become a favorite of foodie Angelenos looking for an authentic meal who are willing to plan ahead and order from Poncho’s web site.
11. Perros 110 - South Los Angeles
Two brothers import their mom’s huge flour tortillas from Tijuana each week for their tacos, which revolve around marinated ranchera beef that’s local and cooked over mesquite fires. These aren’t your typical palm-sized mini-tacos: the brothers’ perrones (tacos) are the size of a styrofoam to-go container, loaded with white pinto beans, chipotle crema, grilled mozzarella cheese and salsa roja. The smokiness of the carne asada is fragrant, mixed wth the perfume of onions and cilantro. It’s a meal unto itself, and you can find the pair on Central Avenue just below Vernon Avenue on Saturdays and Sunday.
12. Blazin' Burgers - Burbank
Cheeseburgers, milkshakes and French fries from a 1950s-era fast-food window on Victory Boulevard seem like an unexceptional blast from the past until you find out that this mom-and-daughters operation recently opened and serves nothing made with meat or cheese. Plant-based fast food served in a no-contact space—what could be more 2020 than that? Instead of beef, you’re chomping on Impossible burgers. Instead of fried chicken sandwiches, you’re eating brioche full of battered protein from San Francisco-based Atlas Monroe. Order online and pick up until 8 p.m.; stop by on weekends, and a car hop will bring your food right to you, in the final ironic throwback touch.
13. Villas Tacos - Highland Park
This pop-up street stand is known for its seven layer taco on a blue corn tortilla. You’ll work your way through melted cheese, black refried beans, a protein, diced onions, crema, cortija and guacamole, with a sprinkling of cilantro. Choose among carne ranchera, chicken chorizo, or chicharrón or go vegetarian with potato as your centerpiece. And with all this richness, be sure to top with a bit of hibiscus pickled red onion, for an acidic note to balance it all out.
14. Tenraku - Koreatown
Thinking that the ban on indoor dining means that you can’t enjoy Korean barbecue? That’s not the case now that Koreatown has erected outdoor tents which are reminiscent of the tented street stalls of Seoul. “Ponchas” are short for pojangmacha, the covered street eateries that sprang up in South Korea to cater to businesspeople looking for a light meal and drinks after work. Upscale Tenraku has set up butane burners on a makeshift set of tables outside its dining room where you can enjoy thickly sliced marinated beef and vegetables along with an ice-cold beer.
15. Kogi BBQ - Various Locations
Over ten years ago, chef Roy Choi started operating his first Kogi BBQ truck tooling around Los Angeles, selling Korean tacos and spicy pork quesadillas distinctive in their inclusion of kimchi, a lively Twitter feed and long lines of hipster clients waiting for an hour for a meal. While Choi's brick-and-mortar operations have contracted along with the rest of the restaurant industry, the trucks are still going strong, with crowd-pleasing offerings such as this quesadilla with short rib, spicy pork and chicken, topped with sesame mayo, salsa roja, verde and blue berry habanero. It’s a lot of flavor, which fans like to enjoy best with a tall cold one.
16. All Flavor, No Grease - Leimert Park
What’s not to love about quesadillas, tacos and burritos smothered in queso? Try the chicken taco, where marinated chicken is beribboned with sour cream, green sauce and pico de gallo, all on a corn tortilla. Be prepared to wait, however—this popular spot attracts some long lines with its easy-to-love fare.
17. A & J Seafood Shack - Long Beach
First-generation Cambodian immigrant Vannak Tan is adding to his family’s mini-empire of noodle restaurants in Long Beach with his new seafood joint containing dishes from across Asia. There's Hawaiian garlic shrimp served with pineapple slices, smoky Khmer sausages over rice and lobster tossed with herbs in a wok. We’re fans of the lemongrass beef sandwich with pickled papayas, as well as the lime-and-pepper sauce served over the grilled oysters. Enjoy with a strong and refreshing Thai iced tea.
18. Tortas Hula Hula - Vernon
South of downtown Los Angeles, a cook who works weekdays in the staff cafeteria at Kaiser Permanente is turning his side hustle—a mouth-watering sammie from his native El Salvador—into a destination for food lovers across the city. It’s called Tortas Hula Hula, named after the Parque Hula Hula where the sandwiches were first served. A 10-inch pan flauta is filled with mayonnaise, mustard, mashed avocado, beef patties and strips of ham, drizzled with sweet-and-sour sauce. Then the whole thing is grilled. There are also mata nino sandwiches, which have steak, sausage and pickled cabbage, dressed with ketchup and mayonnaise. This is the sort of street food that’s not fancy, but perfectly balanced with flavor.
19. Prince of Venice Food Truck - Venice
Woman cannot live by tacos and sandwiches alone. Sometimes, she needs her carbs in little rounded shapes with sauce. So thanks, Prince of Venice, for serving up locally sourced organic vegetables, cage-free eggs and free-range meats from California farms, and using Italian flour, olive oil and truffles in your pastas. Choose among truffle butter, Bolognese, or lighter spaghetti di limone among other fare. And along with your orecchiette al pomodoro, you can get an arugula or caprese salad. All that’s missing is an empty Chianti bottle dripping candle wax all over the checkered red table vinyl and we’re in Italy.
20. Salsizzle Alta California Grill - Hollywood
On Sundays, just past the Walk of Fame in a parking lot off Cahuenga, it’s worth searching out parking to eat some of the most thoughtful and delicious food being prepared anywhere in town, indoors or out. It’s chef Daniel Salcido’s street stall specializing in Alta California food, a contemporary blending of traditional Mexican fare interpreted using fine-dining prep. Salcido, a Pasadena native, learned the hautiest of haute cuisine techniques in cooking school and working with award-winning chef Hugh Molina, so you'll find the best of the best here. For example, grilled lobster served on flatbread with Chihuahua cheese, or salmon tostadas, or duck “carnitas.” He's researched what native Tongva people ate, and how they cooked, so go expecting to be surprised by what seasonal fare Chef is tending over his wood-fired grill.