There’s nothing quite like ending a night on the town standing under the bright fluorescent lights of a food truck, carelessly consuming a warm, beautifully arranged plastic foam plate of tacos al pastor.
L.A. offers a vast array of options on the ever-expanding taco spectrum. There are artisanal carnitas at Carnitas El Momo, Puerto Vallarta-style crab tacos at Guerrilla Tacos, clams and lardo tacos at B.S. Taqueria and Tijuana-style carne asada from Tacos Los Poblanos, to name a few. But finding taco trucks or stands worth visiting late at night can be a bit more challenging. Thankfully, a number of quintessential spots are open later than 1 a.m., capable of properly satisfying those ever-present nighttime taco cravings.
If options are what you’re looking for, look no further than Tacos Cuernavaca, a brightly lit, neon green and orange painted truck in Boyle Heights. Chef-owner Juan Martinez serves a plethora of items that range from tacos, tortas and burritos to lesser known regional specialties such as picaditas and alambres. One absolute must-order is the thinly-sliced cecina (cured beef) taco. This perfectly-grilled, savory beef comes topped with a bright orange, nutty salsa that will make you wish they bottled the stuff to purchase. Or you can order the alambres, which is a combination of your choice of protein (asada, cecina, shrimp, chicken or chorizo), grilled peppers and onions, served with a stack of tortillas. Open nightly from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. 5523 Whittier Blvd., Commerce.
Leo’s Taco Truck
It’s difficult to find a more popular taco truck than the orange one parked in Mid-City at a gas station on La Brea Avenue and Venice Boulevard. The giant trompo (a vertical rotating spit) at Leo’s, covered in layers of al pastor, attracts hungry Angelenos like moths to a flame. The tender, juicy meat is topped with chunks of pineapple that are flung onto each taco in ninja-like fashion by the gentleman manning the spit. If you prefer your al pastor meat crisp around the edges, ask to have your tacos bien dorados (well-crisped) and the taquero will plant your taco meat-side-down on the griddle, until the perfect level of crispiness is achieved. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. 1515 S. La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, (323) 346-2001, www.leostacostruck.com.
Santa Rita Jalisco Truck
Sometimes, all you need after a night of partying is an order of deep fried pescuezos (chicken necks). This lesser-known, late-night snack is surprisingly meaty. The crispy neck skin, with just a squeeze of fresh lime, makes this truck worth a visit. Each order is served with a spicy, chunky tomato salsa, a side of refreshing cucumbers and warm corn tortillas. If for some reason you’re not into fried, crispy deliciousness, this truck also offers killer al pastor tacos and quesadillas. 3900 E. 1st St. Los Angeles, (323) 261-2738.
Tacos La Güera
This stand in Walnut Park offers the typical meat options such as asada, chorizo, lengua and al pastor on the trompo. However, it’s the tender, juicy suadero (brisket) that makes this stand worth visiting over others in the area. The suadero is slow-simmered along with whole white onions in a round, dome-shaped comal (griddle) with deep channels along the perimeter to contain that bubbling beef liquid. Don’t forget the condiments. The sliced white onion with slivers of habanero are always the first to go — so act quickly. Open 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Thursday and 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. Friday to Sunday. 8015 Santa Fe Ave., Walnut Park.
Oaxaca on Wheels
This giant food truck serves up quite the variety of Oaxacan offerings. One of the most popular items is the taco guila with tasajo, a thin cut of grilled beef that is topped with shredded cabbage and salsa verde. Or order the classic chorizo taco with melty quesillo, or Oaxacan cheese, served on a handmade corn tortilla. They also dish out Oaxacan alambres, which is a combination of tasajo, bell peppers and onions tossed on the grill with mounds of Oaxacan string cheese, served with a side of corn tortillas. Be sure to check the truck’s Twitter feed (@oaxacaonwheels) for updates on the schedule. Open 6 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Tuesday to Friday, 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. 11975 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, (424) 200-3126, www.oaxacaonwheels.com.
Jorge’s Tacos truck, parked nightly on Whittier Boulevard, in the heart of cemita alley (named after a popular Puebla-style sandwich), serves quality, mesquite-grilled carne asada tacos to the masses. They also have great pinto beans, which come standard on top of each taco. Finish off the tacos with a spicy habanero salsa from a squeeze bottle stored at the pick-up window, and it’s game over. Consider your taco fix crushed. Open 3 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Monday to Thursday and 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday to Sunday. 3428 Whittier Blvd Los Angeles.
El Taquito Mexicano Truck
This truck has been parked in front of an auto repair shop, providing late-night tacos since 1979. While they do serve the customary carne asada, al pastor and lengua, it’s the chicharrón tacos that truly make this truck special. The deep fried meaty pork rinds are slow-simmered in chile verde, but manage to maintain some of their crispness, offering a nice textural contrast to the soft, warm corn tortillas. Open 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday to Thursday, 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday. 510 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, (480) 505-8877.
Tacos Los Primos
This classic lonchera, parked just outside of the Whittier DMV, offers some of the best al pastor tacos in the area. After the marinated pork is sliced from the trompo, the meat is packed tightly on warm corn tortillas and topped with grilled onions. You can also order burritos and quesadillas stuffed with carne asada, cabeza (beef head), lengua and chorizo. Los Primos also makes al pastor fries topped with melted cheese and grilled onions. Open 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday to Thursday and 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday. 13498 Mulberry Dr., Whittier.
Guisados has thick, warm, handmade tortillas featuring fresh masa from Boyle Heights, a variety of rich, slow-stewed homestyle braises and refreshing horchata made in-house. You can’t go wrong ordering the popular taco sampler, or choose full-sized versions of the tender chicharrón in chile verde, cochinita pibil, mole poblano with pepitas or grilled shrimp tacos with peppers and onions. Open 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday. 541 S Spring St. #101, Los Angeles, (213) 627-7656, www.guisados.co.
El Chato Truck
El Chato offers al pastor (from a vertical spit inside the truck), asada, chicken, lengua and chorizo. And while the coaster-sized tacos are gone after two to three bites, the dollar-a-taco price tag allows you to order as many as you’d like, without breaking the bank. All tacos, if ordered con todo (with everything), come with a smoky red salsa or tangy salsa verde, chopped cilantro and onions and are also accompanied with a side of cucumber slices and grilled onions. You’ll often find a long line of people, but if you’re willing to wait an average of 20 minutes, load up on five or 10 tacos with a refreshing horchata to cap the night. Open 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Tuesday to Thursday and 9 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday. 5300 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 202-6936.