Taco Nirvana

Todd Coleman

With its motherland just three hours south, the taco is the ultimate LA street food. An exemplary version is served at El Parian (1528 West Pico Boulevard; 213/386-7361), a 40-year-old restaurant in the Pico Union neighborhood, where the beef for the carne asada taco is seasoned with salt and lime, charred, and then piled onto a handmade tortilla with onion, cilantro, and a red chile salsa. At Los Cinco Puntos (3300 East Cesar E. Chavez Avenue; 323/261-4084), an East LA standby that's been in the same family for 42 years, the carnitas tacos are filled with seasoned pork that's braised until tender and garnished with tart nopales (cactus). Want more pork? Try the al pastor tacos from El Taurino (1104 South Hoover; 213/738-9197); the meat is spiced lavishly with chiles and a citrusy adobo marinade before it's pit-roasted for several hours.

And, while Angelenos will always love classic Mexican tacos, innovative cooks have looked elsewhere recently for inspiration. The Nom Nom truck serves tacos with Vietnamese flavors, like the lemongrass chicken topped with carrots, daikon, cucumber, and cilantro. Another relatively new offering is the tofu taco, grilled tofu flavored with chile oil, soy sauce, and garlic, from the LA FuXion truck, which specializes in Asian-Mexican fusion. Among other meatless standouts is the potato rajas taco (roasted potatoes topped with pickled onions, chiles, and guacamole), from the Border Grill truck , the latest venture from restaurateurs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. Check the websites before hunting down these trucks for location updates. —Javier Cabral