LA TACO has embarked on its biggest mission yet: to create a taco guide for every neighborhood in Los Angeles! Along the way, we will also publish short stories about each neighborhood to understand LA a little more and why each and every neighborhood that makes our fine city is unique in its own way. Check out ours neighborhood side to find out why Los Angeles is the best damn city in the world.
Koreatown is a neighborhood in the center of Los Angeles County, roughly 2.7 square kilometers in all, and for its small size, it has had a significant impact on LA’s rich history With all its rich racial history, the neighborhood has also had its history of racial tension, most notoriously The ’92 riots and most recently the scandal surrounding a leaked recording of council members making derogatory remarks against blacks and Oaxacans while trying to exchange Koreatown to weaken the tenants’ voting power. Oaxacan residents of Koreatown did not take the racist remarks lightly, turning out to march in protest at City Hall, urging everyone to support locally Native ownedrestaurants.
Koreatown has a bustling nightlife filled with karaoke, chic cocktail bars, dive bars, restaurants and one of the most historic music venues throughout the city. You can find food from three largest social groups in Koreatown: Mexico, Central America and South Korea. But certain parts of South America and even Greece is also represented.
Since there are so many malls and major streets that run through Koreatown, there are many important areas to set up taco stands. I’m from Koreatown and I’ll be the first to admit that the best tacos in LA are most likely in Historical South-Central and East LA That said, Koreatown has always been important to the history of tacos in Los Angeles, as the owners of the bullfight brought the 4-inch tortilla punched out of Mexico City back in the 70s in a suitcase. Without further ado, here’s an honest Koreatowner’s list of the best taco places to eat while in the most excellent neighborhood in Los Angeles County.
This Korean-Mexican fusion truck is run by cousins Xavier Velasco and Misael Torres. Originally started by chef Richard “The Changster” Chang after falling in love with birria in Sinaloa and spending ten years in Mexico perfecting his recipe and bringing it over to the states. Their birria is tender and their consommé is some of the best I’ve had in the whole city; with the perfect blend of warm spices, the deep broth alone is worth the trip. Now pair that with their vegetarian-friendly kimchi taco, bulgogi beef marinated taco, 4-cheese quesorollo taco (mozzarella, Monterrey jack, parmesan, cotija) and classic birria topped with their bright orange homemade salsa, and you’ve got yourself one of the most colorful and delicious tacos dominate the city. Even well-known influencer chocolate one gotta admit this place is one of the top three trucks [he’s] tried all over LA,” who happened to be there to record his own review of the place when I was there. Keep an eye out for a brick and mortar coming soon from 7th and Broadway in DTLA. Tell them Vlad sent you.
Located off Serrano and Wilshire. In front of or across from Starbucks 3680 Wilshire Boulevard Aroma, Los Angeles, CA 90010, USA.
Tacos El Parillon
This is my daily – or should I say nightly – place to grab one of the best bites in Koreatown. For $3 you can get grilled tacos, burritos and tortas of juicy pork ribs, tender asada and flavorful and charred l pastor, chorizo and pollo. These guys don’t play around with their meat, so look no further if you’re in the mood for something hearty and packed with all the proper Tijuana-inspired charcoal-grilled tacos.
Located right in front of the Radio Korea building on Wilshire between Serrano and Oxford.
Ttechnically, these are chef Mario Alberto’s plantain and roasted eggplant dobladas, but they’re very much in the spirit of what makes a taco a taco: quick and tasty bites between a tortilla. This doblada is an off-menu secret and already impressive menu at this vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurant, which boasts some of the most exciting dishes being made in Koreatown at the moment. The eggplant is seared over an open fire and then mixed with fried sweet plantains used to make the filling of the handmade corn tortilla, which is then deep fried and topped with a brown chipotle with chile árbol salsa, cotija and finally turmeric pickled onions for the much needed acidity for such an incredibly complex bite. Again, this is off the menu, so tell owner Daniel Oh that Vlad sent you.
205 S Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90004
This place is a Koreatown institution for me. Although they have two other trucks in Echo Park and Los Feliz respectively, this one for me, with biased bias, is the best. Their al pastor taco is the gold standard. It’s always charred perfectly, balanced between spicy and sweet. You know it’s good when you have an entire taquero dedicated to just carving up a pastor and handing them out separately from your other tacos. Speaking of their other tacos, try their Suadero, which is both meaty and bold, their chicharrón en salsa on a handmade corn tortilla, and anything and everything on their menu. Asada fries and burritos are filling and perfect after a night of drinking. They also offer quesadillas that have their own handmade corn tortillas.
Located in front of Vermont Express Auto Spa at 505 S Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90020, USA.
This location also has two other locations, one in Huntington Park and the other in Wilmington. I’m glad they decided to bring their Tijuana-style tacos to Koreatown, and at $2 for a charcoal-grilled taco on handmade tortillas, this has to be the best deal in town. They offer medium-rare asada, tender juicy adobado, crispy and perfectly seasoned chorizo and juicy grilled chicken. What more do you really need when it’s done this well? Generously slathered with salsa tied into a molcajete and buttery guacamole, this is the closest you can get to Tijuana in Koreatown. They offer burritos as well as grilled potatoes.
Located at 162 S. Vermont Avenue.
These folks are from Durango and Veracruz and they offer all the taco stands while also serving up some great birria. They do everything well, and they do it across various well-seasoned cuts of lengua, asada, birria, al pastor, as well as chorizo and pollo. They also offer “birria ramen” which is surprisingly not that common in Koreatown. Their salsas and toppings are all plentiful and made with love. This is the place that stands out because of how flavorful their birria is, while also offering a lot of variety at a high standard.
Located on W. Olympic Blvd and Harvard, in front of Hobart Elementary School.
This place offers guisado tacos that are from Oaxaca. They do everything well here from al pastor on the trompo to cabeza, suadero and buche, all simmering in the same saucy pan. The Cabeza that is tender and silky smooth. Their salsas are not watered down, and they offer you a heaping mountain of grilled onions and pickled red onions to your onion-loving heart’s content. This is a go-to working class spot, you’ll see everyone from UPS drivers, moms looking for a quick and tasty dinner to take home, as well as your local paisa who just downed a few tall cans on the bus on his way home from that chef job in the Westside.
Located in front of the plaza at 2528 W Olympic Blvd #102, Los Angeles, CA 90006.
This is a low-key place for locals. I say this because it is on the northernmost edge of Koreatown on a side street that not many cross through. It’s not far from the Vermont/Beverly train station, so the people I’ve observed eating here are mostly off work and grabbing a quick bite on the way home. They offer great al pastor, juicy birria and amazing charcoal grilled asada. The charcoal aspect of the asada cannot be understated as it really makes any taco place stand out from the rest that just grills theirs. They also offer hamburgers and fries which is very interesting and I have to admit I didn’t try but I was very tempted. Alas, I was on a taco assignment, not a hamburger, so I couldn’t indulge. Although I saw a few orders coming out, it looked really good. They also have a small speaker blasting cumbia by the likes of Aniceto Molina (surprise these taqueros are Guatemalan!).
Located in front of Saver Liquor Store at 3940 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90004.
This place is truly a blink and you will miss it place even though it is right on Western Avenue. These taqueros are Guatemalan and Oaxacan; they stood out to me because they offer handmade flour tortillas for their queso tacos. It really blew my mind because I haven’t seen it anywhere else in LA, except for established and respected brick and mortars like Sonoratown, Loqui and Homestate, and of course El Ruso. Their regular tacos are $2 while the flour queso tacos are $4 and I’d say worth every cent. The asada is not charcoal grilled, but is still juicy. They also have suadero which was guisado style.
Located on the corner of 4th and Western.
This place is not only iconic but also very influential. You can’t tell the story of Koreatown without it, let alone the story of tacos in LA without it. This place was their before our modern culture of taco stands across Koreatown and I bet it will be there to see the next iteration of taco stands. You can’t go wrong with their staples like asada, al pastor and lengua. What you really want to do is come in on the weekend and get yourself an order of their costillas, barbcoa and cabeza de borrego. They all make excellent tacos. It’s a great weekend breakfast taco that will hold you over while you hit the other night spots that are always springing up all over Koreatown. After all, tacos are a way of life, especially in Koreatown.