One of the things we look forward to most when we visit in Los Angeles is going on a self-styled taco crawl across the city. We developed our first taco crawl – focusing specifically on our beloved al pastor tacos – in the Spring of 2022, on what was actually our first plane trip since the start of the pandemic. We crowned a winner in 2022, but we wanted to sample a few more spots before we were ready to declare a true champion. Fortunately, we returned to Los Angeles in April of 2023, allowing us to add some more contenders, and to re-test our previous winner. For the taco crawl we focused on al pastor tacos, since they are our favorite variety, and the gulf between excellent and mediocre tacos al pastor is wide.
Al pastor tacos are typically made by shaving meat from a large rotating cone stacked with marinated pork topped with a pineapple – known as a trompo – in a fashion similar to gyros. However, not all taquerias utilize this technique for al pastor, but for us it is a must, so we narrowed down our contenders to only those taquerias with a trompo. When assessing tacos we rated each on a few different parameters (admitting to some subjective preference). The parameters: 1. Trompo / Meat Quality 2. Meat Delivery Method (cut directly off the trompo vs finished on the grill) 3. Presence of pineapple 4. Tortilla quality. 5. Price 6. Other intangibles, which include general vibe and topping options. At each taqueria we ordered al pastor tacos to eat there immediately, with only the classic topping of onions and pineapple.
When deciding where to visit, we gravitated towards spots on the west side of LA, since that is where we were based. We started out by consulting “best of” lists alongside Yelp, Google Maps, and Instagram to gauge the highest-rated taquerias. But all this research notwithstanding, we were floored at how many al pastor trompos we saw simply spinning at roadside taquerias on the literal street corners. In fact, all of the tacos in our competition were street stands or food trucks. People in LA simply don’t know how good they have it. We invited our lovely hosts in LA, C and A, to come along for the taco crawl with us, and they were more than game, and helped us assess the contenders. After visiting a total of 6 spots – including a follow-up visit to our 2022 winner – we landed on a unanimous grand champion.
So, what was our favorite al pastor taco in Los Angeles? Tacos La Güera Pico (2949 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006), also our 2022 winner!
- The trompo at La Güera was a thing of beauty, as you can see in the photos. The pork was extremely flavorful, had a good color, and was and not fatty or gristly. Upon being sliced off the trompo, the meat was extremely thinly sliced, with some nice char. We loved the crispy texture, and one of our friends described this quite accurately as a “meat croissant” in terms of its thin, almost translucent, texture.
- The meat was shaved directly off the trompo into the tortilla. We consider this to be the superior delivery method, but requires some additional skill from the taquero to decide which parts of the trompo are done enough.
- We feel that pineapple is a must, and here it was included generously.
- The tacos were composed on a two small corn tortillas, not particularly memorable, but they got the job done.
- Each taco was $2.50, slightly more expensive than other places which charged $2, but ultimately worth the small difference.
- La Guera was a simple stand with a tent, and a street corner setting. One one end was the trompo, and the other, a generous toppings bar with veggies, salsa, limes, etc. However, there is not much in the way of seating, and it was cash only (or Zelle). We visited on a rainy night and simply scarfed down our tacos, so this didn’t really matter for us.
La Güera takes the al pastor trompo crown! After visiting across 2022 and 2023, La Güera was the unanimous winner amongst all 4 of the taste testers, giving us confidence in our verdict. Many of the other taquerias were nearly as delicious, and we give honorable mentions to fan favorite Leo’s (1515 S La Brea Ave., our winner prior to 2022), and Tacos Zempoal Mixe (2541 S Barrington, pictured above), an under-the-radar stand that simply caught our eye when we drove by, but was justifiably highly rated. Other contenders were: Tamix, Naomi’s, and Brother’s Cousins. Even though we have a solid winner, we feel that we only scratched the surface of the al pastor options in LA. We would encourage you all to go out on your own taco adventures, wherever you are. We are already looking forward to the 2024 edition of the LA Al Pastor Taco Crawl.