The 20 Best Places To Get Tacos In Southern California

From carnitas to al pastor, Southern California is home to some of the best street tacos in the country. That being said, the diverse and innovative culinary scene also encourages more upscale and unique concepts and creations, resulting in a rich array of restaurants, taco trucks, and street vendors. According to LA Weekly, the taco made its grand debut in Southern California in the early 1900s and has been a beloved favorite since.

Social media also helped expand the taco scene in LA and beyond, making it easier for taco trucks and vendors without a brick-and-mortar spot to get their name out and spread the word about their business (via Spoon University). Whether you're craving fresh fish tacos by the beach or crispy, late-night chicken tacos with salsa, the possibilities are endless. That being said, here are some of our top picks for the best places to get tacos in Southern California.

Pedro's Tacos

With two locations in San Clemente, one in Fallbrook, and one in Oceanside, Pedro's Tacos has proven itself to be a SoCal staple. Having been a part of the coastal community for more than 30 years, Pedro's Tacos is best known for its flaky and fresh fish tacos. Thanks to the secret spices, high-quality tortillas and proteins, and the fact that everything is made fresh daily, Pedro's Tacos has been loved by Orange County locals and visitors since opening its first taco stand in 1986.

Many of the taco options and flavors at Pedro's are inspired by the Baja Peninsula in Mexico, making it a great option for those who prefer lighter proteins like fish and chicken. The fast-and-casual service makes it a convenient option for those looking to grab food on the go. If you catch a craving in the morning, Pedro's Tacos makes a variety of breakfast burritos that range from egg and bean to chorizo.

Los 5 Puntos

Los 5 Puntos is regularly named as one of the best places to grab a taco on the westside of the country, according to us and many ranking lists online. The menu is straightforward while still providing several options including affordable tacos, burritos, tortas, quesadillas, flautas, and more. When it comes to condiments, guests are able to choose between different sizes of homemade salsa, nopales, guacamole, and sangre. Los 5 Puntos is also famous for its rice and beans, which are available in three different sizes.

Keep in mind that the tacos here are super thick, starting with the tortillas. You'll most likely need a fork to eat them properly, leading Katherine Spiers at LA Weekly to write: "These start with thick tortillas, handmade on-site. Los Cinco Puntos has a huge staff of workers, most running around slicing meat and making sandwiches, but the people working the giant griddle, slapping on the masa scooped from waist-tall buckets and creating these most perfect tortillas, may be the soul of the operation."

City Tacos

City Tacos has taken over Southern California with locations at the Ballpark, Encinitas, Imperial Beach, La Mesa, Village at USC, North Park, Pacific Beach, and Sorrento Valley. Enjoy amazing deals on Taco Tuesday with 10% off every single food item along with $2.50 beers (except at the Imperial Beach location. Sorry!). Each taco is inspired by the recipes found at taquerias in Mexico, but City Tacos uses a California twist when it comes to flavor.

If you are vegan or vegetarian, enjoy plant-based options like the beer-battered chile relleno or the avocado city tacos. In addition to traditional tacos like chicken, carnitas, and carne asada, City Tacos also serves up creations like the Cali Munch Burrito, featuring asadero cheese, french fries, and jalapeño rings with your choice of protein. Seafood lovers will appreciate menu highlights like the Scallop Dreams Taco, which uses a flambéed scallop, Mexican squash, and crispy bacon to create a savory and succulent take on the taco.

Teddy's Red Tacos

There is nothing quite as mouth-watering as a succulent and savory birria taco. Thankfully, Teddy's Red Tacos is here to cure your craving. With locations ranging from Anaheim to Venice, Teddy's Red Tacos has expanded across Southern California and has become an incredibly popular spot for decadent, slow-cooked birria. The tacos are flavorful and have the perfect amount of spice. The recipes behind them have been passed down through the owner's family.

The tacos come with a caldo broth that is warm and savory, and dunking your tacos into the broth results in a flavor-blasting sensation that will have you coming back for more and more. Though birria tacos are traditionally made with goat meat, Teddy's Red Tacos uses beef birria. The basic taco features the red tortilla, beef birria, onion, cilantro, and salsa. Other menu highlights include its vampiro-style taco and mulita, both of which add melted cheese to the mix.

Angry Egret Dinette

From breakfast to lunch, Angry Egret Dinette is always a delicious way to start the day. Best of all, breakfast is served all day until close at 3 p.m. From breakfast burritos to classic creations like chilaquiles, those who prefer a savory breakfast will love the menu at Angry Egret Dinette — although, the menu does feature waffles in case you have a sweet tooth. However, when it comes to tacos, wild-caught fish tacos come out on top with battered and fried rockfish, mustard habanero aioli, chipotle aioli, heirloom tomato molcajete salsa, cabbage, pico de gallo, lime, cilantro, and salsa China.

Brett Keating reviewed the Angry Egret Dinette for The Infatuation, "The sandwiches being sold out of the window at Angry Egret in Chinatown are some of the most interesting tortas being made in LA...No matter which torta you pick, be sure to add in a machaca flauta, a heavily spiced beef flauta topped with very spicy red and green salsas."

Cielito Lindo

Technically, Cielito Lindo specializes in taquitos, which is a specific taco-inspired dish that is crispy, savory, and easy to eat. The mere sight of the taquitos covered in the avocado sauce will make your mouth water, and they have been loved by locals on Olvera Street since 1934. When it first opened, Cielito Lindo was nothing more than a "wooden shack" with a some benches out front and a charcoal-burning bracero that turned out the crispiest and most consistent taquitos.

Cielito Lindo is meant to be taken to-go, so don't expect to find a bunch of tables or seating options. Of course, if you can't wait to make it back home, you can dig right on the sidewalk so that the taquitos are as fresh and crispy as possible. That being said, those craving something different can enjoy a tasty burrito or a Chili Relleno. Cielito Lindo also serves refreshing aguas frescas including horchata.

Chatos Bar and Grill

Craving classic meat and cheese tacos with a modern spin? Chatos Bar and Grill is a casual yet chic eatery in Downtown Santa Ana, making it a great dinner spot before a night out on the town. From the sleek bar to the industrial accents, the vibe at Chatos Bar and Grill encourages you to unwind while still creating a lively atmosphere for guests. When it comes to flavors, most of the menu is inspired by the recipes of Central Mexico. Agave plays a huge role in both the drinks and cuisine.

Those looking to order a full spread can start with the elote tatemado, which is charred corn with a zesty aioli. The shrimp aguachile is another solid appetizer that is light and refreshing while still being packed full of flavor. Though you can't go wrong with any of the tacos, the al pastor tacos are topped with a sweet pineapple salsa that is beyond delicious.

Macheen Tacos

Macheen Tacos has taken Los Angeles by storm with killer breakfast burritos and a mixture of upscale tacos. In addition to popping up at Milpa Grille in Boyle Heights every day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., customers can also enjoy Macheen Tacos at the legendary Smorgasborg L.A. every Sunday. The creative menu is constantly evolving with creations such as beet al pastor tacos with fennel purée, feta cheese, and frisée greens.

That being said, the birria tacos were inspired by owner Jonathan Perez's mother, making the tacos a must-order item. About the recipe developed by the chef's mother, who migrated from Guatemala to Tijuana at an early age, Bill Addison says in the LA Times, "In the beef, you can taste wafts of garlic, the herbal twang of bay leaf, and the bite of Mexican beer. Perez finishes simmering the meat in a red wine demi-glaze infused with guajillo chilies. Onions marinated in citrus deliver crunch and brightness."

La Flor de Yucatan

Serving Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, and San Bernandino, La Flor de Yucatán is a Mayan bakery and restaurant that introduces Californians to the vibrant flavors and spices of Yucatán. It is an incredibly popular spot for those seeking baked goods, such as hojaldra, which is a pastry made of ham and cheese. Though, the tacos also stand apart from the competition thanks to the use of imported ingredients that come straight from the Yucatán peninsula.

Since the tables are very limited, and the restaurant is very tiny, it is best to get in and get out with a to-go order. However, if you are able to snag a table, enjoy an evening of fresh tacos and people watching as customers come in and out. Best of all, once you are done with the main course, you can order a sweet pastry to go, if you find yourself craving something sweet later on.

King Taco

King Taco keeps things simple with renowned beef and pork soft tacos and burritos. After converting an old ice cream truck into a taco truck in 1974, founders Don Raúl and Doña Lup set up on the Eastside of LA and made a name for themselves thanks to their tangy tacos. Since then, King Taco has expanded to 22 other locations across the Los Angeles area and beyond. Throughout the many ups and downs that the country has endured economically since the '70s, King Taco has survived nonetheless.

One of the best things about King Taco is that it is literally fast food, making it a solid option to turn to when you're looking for quality Mexican food on the go. Each order of tacos is served on warm corn tortillas and is topped with cilantro, onion, and King Taco's house-made salsa. There are also tons of protein options, including chicharron, carnitas, and al pastor.

Tacos Por Favor

One visit to Tacos Por Favor will seriously have you begging for more. This family-owned and operated restaurant has been serving the residents on the Westside of LA since the '90s. The recipes are all rooted in Pueblan recipes, bringing a true taste of Mexico to the city. With three different locations, customers can find Tacos Por Favor in Venice, Santa Monica, and West LA off of Olympic Boulevard.

From hard tacos to tostadas to taquitos, Tacos Por Favor truly has it all. The soft tacos are served with the simple and classic fixings of cilantro, onion, and salsa. Whether you're craving fresh fish tacos with Mahi Mahi or a quesabirria taco, this beloved Mexican restaurant has you covered. The hard tacos, on the other hand, are served with guacamole, sour cream, lettuce, pico de gallo, and cheese. Just be sure to get a side of refried beans and rice for the full experience.

Paco's Tacos Cantina

Located in Westchester, Paco's Cantina has a fun and colorful patio where guests can enjoy hearty Mexican cuisine and refreshing margaritas. Though it has delicious combos and large portions, you can also order off the a la carte menu to create your feast featuring all of your favorites like chimichangas and taquitos. When it comes to tacos, guests can't go wrong with Paco's classic chicken tacos, which are served with a savory side of rice and beans.

If you're looking to indulge in a full spread, start off with some guacamole or mouthwatering queso fundido with chorizo. Though rice and beans are typically served on the side with tacos, you can also enjoy a cup of soup, salad, or even nachos. Got a sweet tooth? Despite the fact that the dessert menu is pretty small (the only dessert available is flan), this custard treat is 100% worth it.

Mariscos Jaliscos

Between the vast menu and the zesty flavors of San Juan de Los Lagos, Mariscos Jalisco has been serving the Los Angeles community since 2002. If you're a fan of seafood, you'll love the fresh and tasty options that range from freshly shucked oysters with spicy red sauce to the spicy and decadent shrimp cocktail. That being said, Mariscos Jalisco is most famous for its crispy shrimp taco, making it a must-order item.

Despite the fact that the food is served on styrofoam plates, the quality is incredibly high. Start your meal off with those fresh oysters and hot sauce before exploring the other menu items like shrimp tacos, aguachile, and even shrimp-topped oysters. If you're looking to indulge in as much seafood as possible, top any of your tacos with octopus and experience a whole new range of flavors and textures. A simple squeeze of lime juice is all you need for a tangy twist.

Los Originales Tacos Arabes de Puebla

Looking for something fast yet delicious? Los Originales Tacos Árabes de Puebla in Los Angeles has mastered the art of quick Mexican cuisine without losing the beloved flavors and spices found in Pueblan-style tacos with Arab influence from immigrants who relocated from the Middle East to Mexico (via Eater LA). 

According to Lucas Peterson at Eater, "The specialty at Tacos Árabes is, well, the taco árabe ... which is like a thin pita bread, is smothered in a generous amount of pork de trompo, or from a rotating spit, like tacos al pastor. Unlike al pastor, however, where the flavors are chile and pineapple-based, the tacos árabes have a flavor profile that leans slightly more toward the Middle East."

This beloved street vendor provides a truly special experience. Keep in mind that Los Originales Tacos Árabes de Puebla adds and changes pop-up locations, so always check the truck's Instagram so that you know where it will be and the hours.

El Ruso

El Ruso has two popular LA locations in Silver Lake and Boyle Heights. From the fresh produce to the meats that are purchased fresh every day, El Ruso prioritizes quality cuisine and spice-forward marinades that feature Mexican flavors and spices. All dishes are served with simple accompaniments like radish, cucumber, spicy red sauce, cilantro, onion, and lemon for some extra zest. Whether you're getting tacos or a burrito, the handmade flour tortillas will have your mouthwatering. You'll also be able to rest easy knowing that all of their tortillas are made with zero preservatives.

Julia Silva, the woman behind the legendary tortillas, has truly mastered the art. Bill Addison at the LA Times says, "If she doesn't seem too inundated, ask nicely for a sobaquera — a supple, thin tortilla the size of an 18-wheeler's hubcap filled and rolled like a burrito. It's a specialty of Sonora rarely seen in Los Angeles."

The Taco Stand

The Taco Stand has seven locations across the country, four of which are in the San Diego and Orange County areas. The entire concept behind The Taco Stand was inspired by the street vendors and taco stands in Tijuana, Mexico, giving the restaurant a transportive appeal. From the handmade tortillas to the quality meats, everything at The Taco Stand is made fresh daily, inducing the vibrant salsa and guacamole.

When it comes to drinks, enjoy everything from imported Mexican beers or spice things up with a Michelada. If you're looking to cool off from the Southern California heat, The Taco Stand's all-natural paletas (or popsicles) are the perfect remedy. For dessert, cure your sweet tooth with cinnamon churro that is prepared fresh just as they are in Rosarito, Mexico. If you're not able to make it to SoCal for The Taco Stand, there are also locations in Las Vegas and Miami.

Lola 55

Spend the weekend enjoying tacos and cocktails at Lola 55 in sunny San Diego. The tacos at Lola 55 have a contemporary-California spin on tacos with plant-based options and including techniques, or terminology, typically found in European fine-dining kitchens to make avocado mousse, pork shoulder confit, and almond cream cheese. The menu focuses on ingredients that create a dynamic flavor profile. When it comes to sides, Lola 55 has everything from creamy beans to chipotle rice.

The homemade corn tortillas have a dense yet melt-in-your-mouth texture, and as any taco expert knows, the tortilla is one of (if not THE) the most important parts of a solid taco. If you are vegan or vegetarian, the cauliflower taco, mindful mushroom taco, and squash blossom relleno taco are all completely plant-based, and don't skimp on taste. If you are dining with kids, all of the tacos are available in a "mini plate" version at a lower price, ensuring that the whole family can enjoy them.

Aqui es Texcoco

Looking for a place that focuses on the quality of its cuisine rather than the decor or flashiness of the space and setting? Aqui es Texcoco has locations in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Tijuana. Though Aqui es Texcoco does offer dishes made with chicken, pork, and beef, it is most famous for its mastering of Mexican-style lamb barbeque, or barbacoa. The lamb is a traditional method that dates back hundreds of years, and this restaurant aims to maintain traditional recipes and flavors that what you are getting is exactly what you would get in the Texcoco region of Mexico.

The barbacoa at Aqui es Texcoco truly transports diners thanks to the tender texture and rich flavor. Los Angeles Magazine says rather than roasting the lamb in a pit underground (which is the traditional method), Aqui es Texcoco's owner, Paco Perez, invented an oven that results in succulent and savory meat that pairs perfectly with nothing more than a handmade tortilla and a side of consommé.

Tacos La Carreta

Any true SoCal resident knows that food trucks are home to some of the best tacos in the state. Tacos La Carreta specializes in tacos, quesadillas, and vampiros, completing each dish with fresh and vibrant salsa and a charred pepper. The truck primarily posts up in Long Beach, and its hours of operation are dependent on each day. If you are planning a visit, keep in mind that the truck is usually closed Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before opening at 5 p.m. on Thursdays.

Though they might a bit a little different than you'll find elsewhere, the chorreadas at Tacos La Carreta are super popular. According to Bill Esparza at Eater LA, "La Carreta's chorreadas are made with a pair of corn tortillas rather than the traditional sope-style tortillas, but they're still a fatty mess of lard and melted cheese covered in steak, balanced by acidic pico de gallo and other salsas."

Leo's Taco Truck

Leo's Taco Truck has seven different locations across Los Angeles, making it easier to find one close to you so that you can cure your craving. The trucks are posted up from the east to the west, serving LA residents and visitors for more than nine years. Leo's keeps things affordable, classic, and tasty. That being said, the menu item that really put this taco truck on the map is the al pastor taco, which features pork that comes directly off the spit and into a warm, melt-in-your-mouth tortilla.

One of the best parts of visiting Leo's Taco Truck is that there are so many different meat options. In addition to the pork off the spit (or al pastor), customers can also choose between chopped beef, chicken, pork stomach, braised beef head, sausage, braised pork, and beef tripe. Though you can't go wrong with any of the tacos, the torta sandwiches are just as delicious and even more filling.