Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
The Best Tacos In LA | Best Of The Best

The Best Tacos In LA | Best Of The Best

Joe Avella: Oh man, that’s so good! Sydney Kramer: We’re here in Los Angeles for the best of the best tacos. Joe: Syd, if I had to
guess, I’d say there was, I don’t know, about a million
taco places in Los Angeles. So we went through “best of” lists on Thrillist, Eater LA, Infatuation, Sydney: Wow. Joe: And also we reached
out to Bill Esparza, the Los Angeles taco expert. Bill Esparza is a James
Beard Award-winning writer who literally wrote the
book on LA’s Mexican food. With his help, we whittled the list down to four of the best tacos in this city. Bill Esparza: Tacos are
important to Los Angeles ’cause Los Angeles is a Mexican city. We’re in a Latino city, tacos are one of those
foods that stand out. Joe: Syd, we got the best carne asada, we got the best carnitas, we got the best shrimp taco, and, of course, the best fish taco. Sydney: So, isn’t comparing all of these different proteins and tacos kind of like comparing apples to oranges? Joe: Great point. We wanted to make sure
that we well represented the variety and cultural depth of tacos that LA has to offer. Sydney: Sounds delicious.
Let’s get started. Joe: Our first stop is Sonoratown in downtown Los Angeles. Sydney: They make the most
amazing flour tortillas, I’m really excited to try them. They drive to Mexico
at least twice a month to get special flour to make them. Joe: They also cook the carne asada over a mesquite grill. Which is actually pretty
unique for Los Angeles. Jennifer Feltham: We
serve tacos estilo Sonora, which is to say from northern Mexico rather than central or south. It’s a little different style. We do tortillas de harina, made by hand fresh every day with flour that we bring
from his hometown in Mexico, in San Luis Río Colorado. And we grill over a fire,
a mesquite wood fire. We use charcoal, and that
adds the sort of, like, signature flavor to all of our food. Bill: Sonoratown is a
game-changing restaurant because they really introduced
northern-style tacos. Carne asada, the verb,
“asar,” means to roast, and you don’t roast meat on a flattop. What Sonoratown did, by
investing and putting a grill and a hood inside their restaurant, made it possible for them to cook the way people do in the north. Customer: We’ve been here before, we went, my mom’s actually from Sonora, so this is the only place that has tacos like back there, and they’re amazing. The tortillas are the best. Tortillas, they’re homemade, you can taste the difference from store-bought, flour tortillas. Jennifer: We use short
ribs, instead of, just, sort of, like, a cheaper cut, because Sonora reps really hard with their carne asada and
we have to do it right. It’s a very expensive choice to make, but it’s worth it when
you taste the flavor. When you cook over a fire, too, you end up with crispy fat, instead of sort of,
like, gummy or chewy fat, which is beautiful in a taco. We’re slicing the short rib up and putting the steaks onto the grill. And we’re waiting to see a little bit of bubbling in the fat, and we’re cooking it all the way through ’cause it is a true carne asada. And then we’re dicing it up very fine so that every bite that you
have has a little bit of fat and then a little bit of meat, a little chew to it. We’re dressing it with a
spicy chile de árbol salsa and an avocado puree and cabbage, and then we dress it with grilled green cebollitas
on the side and rábanos. Twice per month, I travel five hours to Sonora to cross the border and bring over as many
sacks of flour as I can. Sonoran wheat is known
to be a little softer, and it makes a more
delicate, airy tortilla. Joe: You can smell that meat
cooking down the street. Walking up here, I was like, “I think I’m close.” The tacos are flying off of that grill, line’s still out the door. Sydney: I mean, you can hear it. Joe: Yeah.
Sydney: Yeah. Joe: So great. They got the loudest chairs possible, which I think was a smart move. Is this us? Employee: Yes, here we
go, two steak tacos. Joe: Just in time. This is the first time, Syd, that I’ve been served tacos with a side of charred scallion. Sydney: Really?
Joe: Yes, really. Sydney: I mean, that’s kind
of one of my favorite parts about getting tacos, like, good tacos, that they should come with
a side of charred scallion. That’s, like, a big part of it for me. Joe: No onions, no tomatoes? Sydney: No onions, no tomatoes. Joe: No cilantro? Sydney: I would never
put a tomato on my taco, ever, ever, ever. But we need lime, obviously,
we need lots and lots of lime. We got the radish. Which I also love. Joe: No, thanks. Sydney: Really? Joe: I don’t like radishes. Sydney: This guy is so from
Chicago it’s, like, not a joke. Joe: These also don’t have cheese on them, I want to point out. Sydney: Who wants cheese on a taco? Joe: See what I’m dealing with over here? Sydney: It’s the carne
asada and the tortilla, I don’t want anything to
get in the way of that. Joe: OK. Sydney: All right, let’s take a bite. Joe: All right, do it. Sydney: Mmm.
Joe: That’s so good. Sydney: That’s very good. Joe: The char on that meat is so flavorful.
Sydney: Wow. Joe: And you can taste the
difference in those tortillas. I don’t think I’ve ever
had a tortilla like that. Sydney: Yeah, if you don’t
like flour tortillas, it’s because you haven’t
had a good flour tortilla. These are absolutely amazing. They’re soft, they’re a little doughy, and almost, like, cake-like. And it melts together with the meat, and the salsa adds, like,
that much-needed acid from the richness of the
meat and the tortilla. It’s really, really good. I can see why they’ve won the
LA Taco Best Taco in LA award. So two times. Not once, twice. Now let’s head over to Boyle Heights to check out Mariscos Jalisco. Raul Ortega: Mariscos, it translates as, in Spanish, as “seafood.” And our name actually is Jalisco. My state in Mexico, where I am from. We do nothing but seafood. Joe: The most popular
is the taco de camaron, a deep-fried shrimp taco. It was recently featured in
David Chang’s “Ugly Delicious.” And Chrissy Teigen had
them come to her house. Raul: What I can let you guys see is when we just deep-fry the taco. Not the process of making it before that. That’s what I can show you guys. Joe: Sure. Raul: Top secret, sorry. Joe: He starts with a prestuffed taco ready for the deep fryer. What’s in them? Look, I asked him five times, but he wouldn’t say. All I know is there’s shrimp. You can try asking him yourself, but my guy was pretty tight-lipped. Once they come out of the fryer, they get topped with avocado
and their housemade salsa. Sydney: Salsa. Joe: Whatever, you know what I mean. Sydney: A side of lime,
and they’re ready to eat. Raul: I tell everybody: Be careful when you try these tacos. They’re very addictive. Customer: I’ve been coming here 20 years. Joe: I’m ready for some tacos, ah! They’re a bit heavy, I mean, they packed whatever’s in here, they
packed it in here, so. Sydney: Yeah. Should we try it? Joe: Let’s take a bite.
Sydney: All right. Joe: Good. Right? Were you expecting that? Sydney: No. Joe: Did you expect, when
you heard seafood taco, you’re just gonna be like, “Yeah, I got an idea of what that’s like.” Sydney: Mm-hmm. Joe: I’ve never tasted a
seafood taco like this. Sydney: Sweet Lord, it’s so good. Joe: And throw the toppings on. Sydney: I think they fry
what’s inside the taco and then they fry it again. ‘Cause you see, like, the
breading? Like, on the top? That’s my guess. It’s really good. It’s almost like, if you made, like, a fish-and-chips taco. Joe: Whatever he’s doing with the seafood and mixing it in there and frying it, how he is presenting it, is unlike any other taco that I’ve had. Certainly any other
seafood taco that I’ve had. Sydney: I think this is the perfect thing to give to somebody that
says they don’t like seafood. Because if you eat this, you’re
gonna be a seafood person. Joe: He was telling us that
people come from San Diego, they come from San Francisco,
they drive several hours just to come right here. And I can say, absolutely worth it. I’m dying for some carnitas, and I know just the
spot: Carnitas El Momo. Christopher Posada Rangal: We
specialize in anything pork, whether it’s ear, pig feet, snout, whatever you guys want pork, we can cook it however you want it. We’re trying to become a staple as other carnitas spots have been here, but we feel we’re just way
much above than they are. We just feel our taste is better, we feel we’ve just outgrown them, and just been more advanced
with our technique of cooking. Which is old-school, eight hours, all the way through, no
rush, and no heat lamps. Joe: Carnitas are made by
slow-cooking pork in oil or lard for several hours until
it’s nice and tender. It’s usually pork shoulder or butt because those are the fattiest cuts and make for the most
tender and juicy carnitas. Christopher: We don’t put our
carnitas under heat lamps, so it never gets dried
out, it’s always juicy. We serve three different types of cuts, which is buche, pork belly; pork skin, which is cuerito; and then pork shoulder, which is maciza. Bill: Romulo has been doing carnitas for more than half a century. He’s a master. I can go right to Boyle Heights, get the same quality carnitas
that I’ll have in Mexico. And really with his wonderful
regional touch of Guanajuato, where they just take the carnitas and they put pickled chilies on top. Maybe just a little salsa.
And it’s just beautiful when that pickling juice
blends in with the fat, and the sweetness of the carnitas, it’s like, it’s perfect. Customer: We live pretty
close by. Chris is the man. Joe: I’m looking at this carnitas, I don’t think I’ve ever
seen a carnitas like this. What do you think? Sydney: This is piled high. Like, I’ve never seen a taco with so much filling in it before. Joe: They have so many different varieties of carnitas that they have here. This is, I think, like, a
blend of everything, they say? Sydney: Yeah.
Joe: I think I heard shoulder…
Sydney: The mix. Joe: The mix, they got ear, shoulder, probably some butt,
skin, all the good stuff. Sydney: Oh, my God, they weigh, like, it’s the size of a newborn baby. Both: All right. Joe: Oh, man! That’s so good! Oh, my goodness! Sydney: Mmm. Joe: Thank you.
Sydney: It melts in your mouth. Joe: Thank you for doing this. Wow. The onion and the cilantro
with this pork, perfect. If anything else was on it, it would be taking away too much of it. Sydney: Mm-hmm, yeah. Joe: I’m just…this is incredible. You can taste this
crispiness in the texture, the burnt little crispy ends
with the fat that’s in here just coming together, it’s like, mmm. It’s just delicious. Sydney: The fat melts in your mouth, and I added some of their salsa, which is really bright and
acidic, that I love on my tacos. And the tortilla stays together,
which is super important when you’re putting this much
meat inside of a tortilla. There’s a lot of fat in these tacos, because they dip the
tortillas in what I assume is some kind of fat. Joe: Yeah. Sydney: It’s excellent. Dip everything in fat, always. For our final stop, we’re
getting an authentic taste of Ensenada at Ricky’s Fish Tacos. Customer: I’ve been here
more times than I can count. I’m from London, I come
here every time I’m in LA. This won best fish taco. Ricky Piña: It all started with the need of an Ensenada fish taco
with a authentic recipe, and I thought I could do it. So I asked for Grandma’s and Mom’s recipe and put it together. I brought the recipe
from Ensenada authentic, I started doing it with Mexican oregano, the flour, all the ingredients
imported from Mexico. It’s very simple, it’s just
a five-ingredient recipe for the batter, and water to it. We use just lots of good
old American mustard, oregano, salt, baking
powder, and wheat flour. We get the 22-pound box of swai filet, it’s a type of catfish that is very lean. We just have to add a bunch
of garlic powder and salt and brine it overnight. Strain it, pack it, and
have it ready to throw it into the batter and
deep-fry it on lard. Joe: Now, we’ve already had, technically, a fish taco already for this. Sydney: Yeah. Joe: But these are completely different. Sydney: Well, the Mariscos
Jalisco was shrimp. Joe: Yeah, that’s also a fish. Right?
Sydney: No. Absolutely not, it’s seafood. Joe: Shrimp is fish. Sydney: Can we like, do a check on that? Is shrimp fish? The tortilla doesn’t look like
it’s gonna be my favorite. I’m not the biggest fan of corn, and, like, it feels a little dry. Joe: OK, fair enough. But we were in there when we
watched him make this batter. and fried his fish. Sydney: Uh-huh. Joe: And it just looks incredible. When that fish came out and
he dumped it, I was like, “I want that so bad,” so…. Sydney: It feels like there’s
a lot of fish in here. Joe: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He did not skimp on
the fish, which I like. Most fish tacos, they are
kind of light on the fish. Sydney: Yeah, and then
I got all the toppings, no lime here, funny enough. Joe: All right. Sydney: And it smells spicy. Joe: Let’s bite.
Sydney: Let’s do it. Joe: Wow. This is incredible, man. Sydney: Mmm. It is,
like, can you see, like, how much fish is in this taco? That’s a lot. Joe: Yeah. Sydney: You know when you
get, like, fish and chips, like battered fish? Joe: Yeah. Sydney: That’s what this is like. You get a big piece of fish. Joe: He would take them out
of the fryer occasionally to stab them, to, like, get
the heat in there faster. Sydney: OK. Joe: Yeah, because the pieces are so big. Sydney: Yeah, it’s, like, super tender, nice and flaky, almost,
like, tempura-like. Joe: Mm-hmm. Sydney: Really, really delicious. And honestly, I used the mild salsa, and it’s still kinda
spicy. How are you doing? Joe: Mind is kinda spicy. Incredibly flavorful. His blend of veggies and
the salsas that he make together make this thing incredible. Sydney: It is incredibly flavorful, that’s true.
Joe: Yeah. Sydney: So we’re here at Salazar, and we’re having a couple of cocktails, and we’re gonna talk tacos. Joe: Now, Sydney, we went to
four of the best taco places in Los Angeles, and now
we must decide together which one was the best taco. I’ve never made a decision
this hard in my entire life. Sydney: Between your wedding,
Joe: Easy. Sydney: moving to LA,
Joe: No question. Sydney: this is the hardest one? Joe: The hardest. But we
have to do it for you guys, and I wanna see what was your favorite, so let’s do it right now. Sydney: OK. Sydney: All right.
Joe: OK, ready. In a count of three, we
will reveal to each other and to the world our favorites. One, two, three. Really? Sydney: Really? I’m actually shocked by that. Joe: Why? Sydney: I just…I don’t know. That wasn’t even like…I
mean, it was delicious, but not, like, on my list. Joe: Oh, no way. This one, like, totally blew me away. So, obviously, we have a disagreement, so it’s taco-talk time. With these guys, that
carnitas was, like, something I’ve never had before in my entire life. And after we did these four taco tastings, this is the one that I
have, like, thought about, and, like, when I think of
tacos, I think of this one. And I already have, like, planned to go back to get more. Sydney: I mean, it is very
good, it’s, like, fatty, it’s greasy, it’s rich, it’s
delicious, it’s filling, but I think as far as, like,
what I want to eat, like, regularly, what I want
to go get and, like, feel good about eating and maybe have, like, one or two and not feel, like, heavy and sleepy. Joe: That’s funny, ’cause we’re thinking two different things. I’m thinking, like, what’s
the best one I’ve ever had, you’re thinking of the one you would want to have frequently. Sydney: Yes. I think the
time and effort put into Sonoratown, like, all in,
is so different and unique compared to everything
else you can get in LA. Like, I’ve had, like,
lots of good carnitas. But as far as an all-around taco, the tortilla, the meats,
the way they chop it, the way she goes to
Mexico to get the flour, Joe: Yeah. Sydney: I think, like,
overall, this is my favorite, and the best one in LA. Joe: Fine. I change my mind. Sydney: Did you really? Joe: Sonoratown’s the best. Sydney: Sonoratown’s the best. Joe: Can we just get
graphics to put Sonoratown across there instead? OK, well that was fun. Sydney: All right, that was
easy. Sonoratown, winner. This guy, are you freaking kidding me? They don’t know who he is.

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