For taco addicts, Pomona and its environs offer Angelenos a last frontier of sorts. The tacos here likely won’t rattle your universe; none of them will be anointed on a glamorous list or make you question your devotion to Mariscos Jalisco and Colonia Taco Lounge. But in Pomona, tacos are as sacred as they are anywhere and so integral to the local diet that there are seemingly one or two options available at every intersection. Accordingly, they tend to be very good: simply made with no gimmicks, adorned with smoky meats or lightly battered fish. There are worse places to be hungry.
Tijuana’s Tacos: Tijuana’s is the most likely taco joint in the area to have a line stretching out the door, and justly so. The space has that quality that makes the taco scene in Los Angeles so endlessly appealing: the discordant color palette, the distinctive absence of English, the slight haze of grill smoke drifting above your head, and ultimately the perceptible feeling that you could just as easily be eating on a Tijuana street corner as at a Pomona strip mall.
And the food: The al pastor is wonderful, probably the best within miles, stained bright red from the marinade. There's an impressive salsa bar and many other body parts available -- stomach, lips, tongue, head, cheek. Then there are founder Hector Arami’s creations, of which the most impressive is the chile taco, a smorgasbord of Mexican comfort foods highlighted by a slice of a grilled poblano chile pepper lightly coated in melted cheese. If you like free things, ask for additional nopalitos and onions, which will arrive sizzling from the grill. 485 W Holt Ave., Pomona, (909) 469-4730, Four other locations in the San Bernardino area.
Lily’s Tacos: The parking lot surrounding Lily’s has been undergoing construction recently, but the tiny building, a taco oasis amid upturned asphalt, dirt and fluttering caution tape, still draws its crowds. Lily’s has been serving the standards — al pastor, asada, carnitas — for over two decades. The tacos are neither sophisticated nor extraordinary, but they are good and well-loved. The fish tacos, served fresh from the fryer, crisp and hot to the touch, are particularly delightful.
The devastation surrounding the place will apparently extend to Lily’s itself in the next month, when the old shack is to be knocked down. The tacos will remain, though, temporarily in a truck next to the nearby post officer, and later, maybe by August, in a new permanent location down the street. 2128 N Garey Ave., Pomona, (909) 593-5674.
Alex’s Tacos: Alex’s is a small place, sandwiched next to two larger buildings with a parking entrance barely wide enough for a Prius and a sharply slanted roof that makes the cramped space feel like Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs. But you'll feel comfortable enough after your first bite of the birria taco, served dorado here, the outer tortilla pan-fried and sturdy, and the inside saturated with rich goat drippings and slathered in a roasty salsa. The other tacos are good too, and they sell for a dollar each. 941 E. Mission Blvd., Pomona, (909) 237-4708.
The Taco Man: The man in question is Israel Miranda, and at his taco shack, al pastor is king. You may have your taco autentico, served with a splatter of creamy guacamole and plated with substantial chunks of pineapple, cilantro and onion. Or you may opt for the ludicrously large Killer Taco, with all of the above plus grated cheese, shredded lettuce and a bit of sour cream. You may even have it mixed with intriguingly spicy chorizo. The constants are the marinated pork, bright red and still bubbling from its time on the revolving shawarma spit, and the fiercely hot pineapple habanero salsa that arrives alongside it. 9617 Central Ave., Montclair, (909) 398-4000.
Señor Baja: Señor Baja, one of the many small taco chains in the area, is not particularly beloved -- except on Wednesdays, when it offers its Baja-style fish or shrimp tacos for a dollar. The fish taco is not what you will find at Ricky’s, but it’s a decent enough creation, fresh and served at an appropriately warm temperature. Señor Baja may be fast food, but it’s fast food even Eric Schlosser can probably get behind. 320 E. Foothill Blvd., Pomona, (909) 593-9926, and other locations in the San Bernardino area.
Taqueria de Anda: The drive-through here tends to have a line, and most days enough families will gather to force the kitchen into a practiced frenzy. The assembly line is disciplined; one of the younger dudes -- everyone in the kitchen is male -- is in charge of the salsa. The tacos themselves are small but cheap, and people tend to get four or five at a time, piled high onto flimsy plates with enough ground meat -- asada, al pastor, buche, lengua -- to bury the tiny tortillas. And should you want them in the middle of the night, that’s a possibility; Taqueria de Anda is open 24 hours. 1690 S Garey Ave., Pomona, and five other locations in and around Orange County.
Juanita’s Drive-In: It’s said that Juanita’s inspired Pomona’s taco drive-through craze when it opened decades ago. For many, that passion lingers, even if the taco stand -- a diminutive building with two picnic tables -- is probably operating as much on nostalgia as quality. There’s both chicken and asada tacos, and there’s a good chance there will be someone next to you happily eating the same taco as you are -- and reminiscing about another one just like it, eaten in 1985. 1735 Indian Hill Blvd., Pomona, (909) 624-1272.