While Cinco de Mayo originated in California and isn’t widely celebrated in Mexico, it’s still a great excuse to try a new taco spot.
In honor of what has become an American tradition, some of our staff got together ahead of the holiday to share their all-time go-to tacos in and around Long Beach. (If you’re more interested in an offbeat way to mark the occasion, we have you covered there, as well.)
When it comes to taco recs, here’s what the team had to say.
Andrea Estrada, advertising manager: Long Beach Taco Co.’s fried avocado taco. It sounds really healthy if you remove the word “fried” and is so delicious with one of their 40 brews. Outdoor seating is lively with good people watching.
Brandon Richardson, reporter: I love a hard-shell taco, and Baja Sonora (celebrating its 25th anniversary this year) does it right. It’s big as far as tacos go, and the freshly deep-fried shell is filled with lettuce, cheese, hot sauce and your choice of shredded or ground beef, chicken, carnitas or potatoes. Since it’s a larger taco, you do pay a bit more at $4.25 each. But on Taco Tuesday, from 3 p.m. to close, they go for $2.05.
Fernando Haro Garcia, breaking news reporter: If you’re looking for rich, authentic Mexican flavors, look no further than La Chancla. They serve tacos with stewed meats such as lengua (beef tongue), birria and chicken tinga on their handmade tortillas. Very popular, right now, according to employees, are their birria tacos, served with their rich consomé (well seasoned meat broth). For vegetarian and pescatarians, they also have veggie and seafood options. But why stop at good food, when you can also serve some of the best agua frescas (fresh fruit water) in town? The flavors can change each day from cucumber to mango, but they’re delicious. I highly recommend getting chamoy (chili, lime and fruit sauce) on the rim.
Jackie Rae, multimedia producer and columnist: Savage Tacos food truck—the “wild fish tacos,” and it sounds a little weird, but the “Asian wanton tacos” are bomb. Vegan options are also available.
Jake Gotta, social media manager: El Sauz because they give you the real authentic late-night taco experience.
Jason Ruiz, city hall reporter: Amorcito inside The Hangar at LBX. The traditional street tacos are stuffed with your choice of meats (I like asada, carnitas and their chicken ones), but they also have options for non-meat eaters like charred Brussels sprouts and chipotle garlic mushrooms. These filling tacos are just $3 each.
Josh Reed, lead programmer: I like the “Cali elote” taco from Solita. Good mix of sweet/savory and the crispy potatoes add some variety to the texture. The only problem is sometimes you have to start by eating it with a fork because of how loaded it is.
Jeremiah Dobruck, managing editor: My favorite taco is a little outside of Long Beach at Balam Mexican Kitchen, but I’m going to make an executive decision and say it counts because the restaurant is on Long Beach Boulevard in Lynwood. Every taco there is amazing. They manage to hit this perfect blend of experimental and traditional with tacos like their Korean asada or their rajas, which has a soupy, gooey blend of roasted poblanos, garlic, onion, lime and cream cheese. But their best is a take on the fish taco: the La Paz, with beer-battered tilapia, slaw, chipotle sauce and cranberries on a thick, fluffy blue corn tortilla.
Kat Schuster, assistant editor: Before committing to a roughly 80% vegetarian, 20% pescatarian diet over the past six months, I likely would have plugged the birria tacos at El Sauz. Just thinking about sipping that rich consomé is making me question my recent dietary pivot. These days, I’m going to have to go with Playa Amor’s tacos champinones, which includes a deeply flavorful mushroom medley with charred brussels, grilled onions, chile lime peanuts ahi verde and chipotle salsa. (Pro-tip: Playa Amor’s margaritas are delicious—and they’re $8 on Taco Tuesday).
Kate Karp, columnist: I don’t usually eat tacos, but when I do, it’s the mushroom ones at Panama Joe’s. Tangy and better for the weight. They don’t seem to have them on the new menu, but they do have a vegan “soft tacos picadillo” with salsa, corn, “picadillo vegano” (picadillo is traditionally made with ground meat), which I’ll try next time we’re in.
Thomas Cordova, visuals editor: “Birria taco” from Long Beach Taco Co., a cup of consomé on the side is a must. And honorable mention to Leo’s Mexican Grill’s potato tacos.
Tim Grobaty, senior columnist: I’d go with Los Compadres for authenticity; Lola’s Mexican Cuisine for the salsa, especially the “green crack salsa.”
Here’s a helpful map of the locations mentioned (note: Savage Tacos is a food truck, follow their social media to find out where they’ll be):