Los Cinco Puntos is as authentic a taquería as they come. It’s in the heart of East LA and has been preparing tacos with love since 1967. Every one of its crusty, chewy corn tortillas is hand-prepared by a team of old ladies who have been honing their craft for decades. Cinco Punto’s specialty is tacos de carnitas, which come greasy, crispy and full of savory flavor; not to be missed. These go great with guacamole and salsa verde and, of course, an ice cold Modelo.
Continuing with the burrito motif, LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold named Al & Bea’s as his number one place for burritos in LA, and who are we to argue? Al & Bea’s is a simple, down-to-earth food stall. Seating is limited, and the line often runs around the block. Nevertheless, the wait is well worth it. Do not leave without trying the combination, which is a classic bean and cheese burrito with lean, slow-cooked brisket. Apparently the beans are cooked with lard, which is what makes them taste oh-so-good.
Guisados serves a robust array of tacos made with freshly ground corn masa. The space itself is simple, homey, and inviting. In an effort to keep the spirit of Boyle Heights alive, Guisados regularly showcases the work of local artists. It might be tough deciding between the delicious braises, so try the sampler of six tacos. A common favorite is the mole poblano, which has succulent shredded chicken breast in a rich, sticky dark sauce with effervescent spices.
Specializing in Ensenada cuisine, Tacos Baja specializes in sublime fish tacos which are full of succulent white fishy flesh inside delicately fried batter. As well as fish, Tacos Baja excels in all things shrimp: shrimp tacos, shrimp cocktails, and ceviche tostadas. Go on Wednesdays, when the fish tacos are just $0.99 (Except Ash Wednesday, lest you be damned).
Good desserts are what separate the good restaurants from the great, and La Serenata offers an exquisite range of Mexican desserts which are baked daily by the resident pâtissier. These include Mexican guava in light cream, which is a traditional dish from San Juan del Rio; and Cajeta, a thick goat’s milk caramel from Celaya. East LA is still LA and, with that in mind, La Serenata strives to keep things clean and healthy and uses no lard in its cooking.
If you’re a stickler for authenticity, Un Solo Sol is probably not the place for you. Un Solo Sol is a restaurant on a mission: to innovate ethical, sustainable, and, of course, delicious variations on classic Mexican dishes. Located right next to Mariachi Plaza (which itself is worth visiting for the beautiful murals and captivating mariachi bands), Un Solo Sol’s menu includes a range of vegetarian and vegan friendly options (carnivores are catered to, as well).
Complete with Chicano murals, La Azteca Tortilleria is every inch an East LA joint. It sticks to a few dishes but does them well. The specialty is the chile relleno burrito, which comes with carne asada. This is a novel twist on a poblano classic: a burrito with a stuffed poblano chili fried in egg batter inside as well as slices of marinated and grilled chuck roast (diezmillio in Spanish), as well as the customary beans, pico de gallo, and hot sauce.