The Five Best Tacos in Lincoln Heights
L.A. TACO is embarking on its biggest mission yet: to create a taco guide for every single neighborhood in Los Angeles! Along the way, we will also be releasing brief histories of each neighborhood to understand L.A. a little more and why each and every neighborhood that makes our fine city is unique in its own way. Check out our Artesia guide and history on our neighborhood page.
Today we’re in Lincoln Heights.
Lincoln Heights is one of L.A.’s oldest neighborhoods with a history as rich and underappreciated as its food. It was called East L.A. before East L.A. It’s home to several historical landmarks, and it was once known as “The Bedroom of The Pueblo.”
It was also home to the largest impromptu pandemic-defying night market of every street-food-loving person’s dream. The Avenue 26 market grew from a legendary taco stand to over 120 vendors faster than a drive up the hill to Dodger Stadium. That legendary taco stand, Avenue 26 Tacos, and all the vendors are gone now. After one L.A. Times writer called for it to be shut down, current Council Member, Gill Cedillo, obliged quicker than his still pending resignation over his now infamous recorded remarks in the anti-black, anti-indigenous, anti-Armenian, antisemitic, and homophobic-driven vile shit-talking during a redistricting meeting with Kevin De Leon, Ron Herrera, and Nury Martinez.
Even though Avenue 26 Tacos has moved on to Eagle Rock and the Arts District, and the rest of the vendors have found home in Pico Rivera and Imperial Highway, there are still plenty of tacos and places to enjoy if you find yourself lucky enough to spend some time in this peaceful nook and cranny of L.A.
Since this is purely a taco list, we can’t tell you to go enjoy some of L.A.’s best Texas BBQ at Moos Craft BBQ or to try some festive sours and beers from the neighborhood’s newest resident, Benny Boy Brewing. Or about ordering a michelada at La Chupería. There’s no room on a list to give you simple hacks like grabbing a torta from Wendy’s Tortas or an Italian sub and pizza from The Height’s Deli before heading to Lincoln Park. Neither can we explain how to upgrade your fries to guacamole-smothered carne asada fries with your burger and orange bang at El Rodeo.
No, this list isn’t about those wonderful places, but we will give Esther Margarito a shout-out. She owns El Huarachito restaurant. If Lincoln Heights was once the “The Bedroom of the Pueblo,” Esther is the one welcoming you into the home. Esther radiates tía (aunt) energy, happy to see you even though you just met, and ready to sit down with anyone and make you feel like her sibling. She’ll shoot the shit quickly with folks walking by. She might bring out some enchiladas or something random for you to try; more than likely, something vegan (she’s proud of her vegan options). But it’s not only as close to a homecooked meal as you can get at a restaurant; Esther and the staff will also make you feel right at home. Oh, and get their café de olla; it’s a serious contender for best café de olla in L.A.
Now, on to the tacos!
These are Lincoln Heights’ top five tacos, both during nighttime and daytime.
Los Garduños Barbacoa (Lamb Barbacoa)
Saturday and Sunday mornings only, on the corner of Ave 24 and Pasadena Street, outside Smart & Final
Every week, Josefina Garduño purchases four live lambs to make a traditional barbacoa in the style of the town of Capuhualc in the state of Mexico. As the youngest sibling, Josefina learned her father’s technique and recipe almost 20 years ago from her oldest brother, Ricardo, who serves the same barbacoa from his restaurant, Taquería Capuhualc, in South Central. Garduño graced Lincoln Heights with her family’s barbacoa when she moved there four years ago. The steamy barbacoa is simply seasoned with salt rather than marinated in spices or chiles, except for la pansita (the stomach), which is boldened with added flavor. At the stand, you’ll see her husband, Carlos Sanchez, pulling meat off the lamb head—the most prized—and preparing tacos. Her son Ryan is helping with orders while her daughter Shanty makes fresh tortillas. Order a cup of consomé filled with bits of stringy meat crumbs, garbanzo beans, rice, and veggies. And if you like your tacos crispy, they make tacos dorados too. They’re not just the best tacos in Lincoln Heights; their barbacoa should rank amongst the best in L.A.
Carnitas Los Tres Hermanos Ramirez (Chicharrones)
Saturday & Sunday mornings only in front of 134 W Ave 26, Los Angeles, CA 90031
On Saturday and Sunday mornings, this family pulls out big steel cazuelas. Benches are set up along the fence, and a tent provides shelter on the sidewalk in front of their apartment building. On this stretch of Avenue 26, carnitas that could rival some of L.A.s best are quietly being sold by taco, or by the pound. Maciza, cueritos, buche, and ribs are on the menu. But do not, under any circumstance, pass up their chicharrones. A crispy seasoned pork skin holds tender bits of pork belly together. Structurally, it’s a perfect bite of chicharrón. It’s a recipe that goes back to Michoacán, where their dad is a carnitas professional back home.
Correa’s Market & Mariscos (Shrimp Taco)
2707 N. Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90031
Carnicerías are an interesting breed of local markets. It’s like finding a new pokemon; each has a different surprise and superpower. The surprise of Correa’s Market & Mariscos is that it’s a carnicería that’s added a small mariscos bar inside. You’ll be more than content with their aguachile tostada. In a different feature, we’d rave about their brilliant fried shrimp po’boy sandwich with chiltepin-infused breading. But their Mariscos Jalisco-inspired shrimp taco is what gives those items a chance for attention. These crispy tacos are filled with their interpretation of L.A.’s most popular taco. The owner of the carnicería has previously worked inside of mariscos trucks, which explains why the shrimp taco tastes so good.
Tacos Lupita.VR (Street Tacos)
2415 Pasadena Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90031. Nighttime.
With a trompo on one end, pan stewing with meats on the other, and a salsa bar off to the side, Tacos Lupita is serving the nighttime street tacos that Ave 26 left behind. With several locations around Los Angeles, this location has become a go-to spot for late-night beer soakers and families craving a taco instead of cooking. You’ll find your typical array of meats besides the al pastor and asada, like steamed Cabeza, and stewed buche. This spot will satisfy the everyday taco lovers’ craving.
The Original Carnitas Michoacán
1901 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90031.
For the past 45 years and for 24 hours a day, this taco spot never stops. It has a full ‘Berto’s-esque menu and a complement of tacos for your hungry needs. It’s also a popular destination spot for local Dodger fans before and after the game. They don’t carry the full assortment of carnitas meats, just maciza, and buche, but they do offer a thorough selection of other meat choices. It’s the one spot in Lincoln Heights that will always have a decent taco waiting for you, no matter what time of the day. There’s plenty of seating for you and your friends.
Stay tuned for our history guide dropping on Thursday, and make sure to check back next week to see what city we hit next!
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