National Taco Day is upon us, providing a great excuse to hunt down a mobile taco vendor near you. In a showdown of the most delicious proportions we’ve rounded up some of the best taco trucks from The Bay to LA to determine who really has the tastiest tacos in the Golden State. Let’s taco bout it California.
Vote for the winner by sharing the article or tell us what you think in the comments section below. Happy National Taco Day!
Taco trucks may have found their fame in Los Angeles, but once they began rolling out in Northern California, the region’s exceptional culinary reputation took over and quickly dominated all taco competition.
Here are 5 taco trucks (aka 5 pieces of evidence) that suggest that NorCal is the true street taco destination.
There’s a rumor that Northern Californians believe that their taco truck scene rivals that of LA… Sure, they do have a sufficient share of incredible taco slingers, but they mustn’t kid themselves.
Los Angeles is the mecca of taco trucks, as well as the entire evolution of the food truck phenomenon as we know it. If you’re somehow still skeptical, here are 5 of the original and straight up best taco trucks in this town.
EL TONAYENSE – SAN FRANCISCO
With over 20 years of mobile food service experience under its belt, El Tonayense has gathered a loyal following of city-prowling taco gobblers since 1993. The fleet of trucks, 3 to be exact, dish out a variety of fillings including traditional meats like asada and pollo as well as more unconventional cuts including lengua and tripe.
The Santana family keeps the recipes for their tangy homemade salsa verde and salsa roja top secret. Don’t be fooled by El Tonayense’s regular haunt (at the Best Buy on Harrison), this taco purveyor has won several awards from heavy-hitting food publications such as Sunset Magazine and Zagat.
LEO’S TACOS – LA
Since 2002, Leo’s Tacos has enticed hungry crowds with their savory fragrances of slow-roasting meat. The friendly crew greets you with warm, handcrafted corn tortillas with your choice of meat (al pastor is their signature specialty, but their pollo, carnitas, and lengua are all equally scrumptious).
Then you’re free to slather on their fresh, homemade salsas, and top it all off with chopped cilantro, onions, and peppers.
Oh, and in exchange for each amazingly flavorful taco? $1. That’s right. Leo’s Tacos encompass everything that makes eating street tacos the blissful experience that it is; accessibility, affordability, and unpretentious deliciousness.
SEOUL ON WHEELS – SAN FRANCISCO
San Francisco’s fusion food truck craze isn’t slowing down anytime soon, evidenced by the success of Seoul on Wheels. The truck is a regular on the special event circuit and readily familiar with the quality necessary to meet the high expectations of hungry Bay Area masses.
All tacos come with fiery gochujang chili sauce and sweet daikon pickled radishes. You can pick from Korean barbeque staples like boneless short rib (galbi) and rib eye (bulgogi). Don’t forget to order a side of Seoul fries topped with with spicy pork, mayo, and melted jack and cheddar if you’re feeling indulgent.
KOGI BBQ – ALL OVER LA
The iconic Kogi BBQ trucks have made taco history for positioning food trucks as a form of mainstream dining.
Their signature Short Rib Taco with homemade corn tortillas, succulent short rib, caramelized Bulgogi sauce, salsa roja, light & refreshing cilantro-onion-lime relish, and crisp romaine slaw in a tangy chili-soy vinaigrette, is all to thank.
When word caught on that hundreds of eager customers were lining up for this legendary Korean-Mexican fusion concoction, suddenly chefs around the world realized that Kogi founder Roy Choi was onto something extremely special. As several Kogi BBQ trucks still serve the masses every day, the Short Rib Taco remains the unwavering crowd favorite.
SENOR SISIG – SAN FRANCISCO
Far from the Filipino happy hour snack that calls for pig’s head and its namesake, sisig, the signature ‘Sisig Taco’ is doused in cilantro cream sauce and filled with your choice of pork, chicken, or tofu. This food truck serves a mash-up of classic Mexican-style burritos and tacos and Filipino flavors.
Styled after the Pampanga region of the Philippines, offering an alternative option for diners looking to expand their palates beyond the Americas. This truck’s success lies in the careful preparation of its ingredients like the pork, which is marinated for 24 hours.
Catch the episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives it was featured on to get a closer look at the painstaking prep process.
LA ISLA BONITA – VENICE/WESTSIDE
Established in 1987, La Isla Bonita is quite possibly the first and certainly the longest running taco truck in the city/country and its credited with introducing the Westside to authentic tacos, complete with with your choice of al pastor, carne asada, chicharron, and mariscos (seafood) too.
Each fresh ingredient comes together to create a delightfully technicolored and aromatic dish. Folks in the area, from all walks of life, have anointed themselves as die hard fans of this truck and will urge anyone who mentions having a taco craving to try La Isla Bonita asap.
SHARK BAIT – SAN JOSE
This taco operation starts with fresh, handmade tortillas and ends with a drizzle of secret orange sauce, but what’s in between is where the magic really happens. Panko-coated tilipia and spicy shrimp are a few of the delectable filling options available to NorCal taco fiends.
Shark Bait is a San Jose favorite, dubbed “the best fish tacos around” from numerous devoted foodie fans. If you’re in the mood for seafood tacos, look for the bright blue shark infested truck roaming around the Bay.
MARISCOS JALISCO – BOYLE HEIGHTS
The passion that people have for the Tacos de Camaron (shrimp tacos) from Mariscos Jalisco, runs really deep. This crew has gloriously nailed their recipe down to a beautiful combination of art and science.
They take a crispy, freshly fried corn tortilla, fill it to the brim with thinly sliced shrimp, a generous splash of their light and tangy salsa (or aguachile), and a dollop of creamy avocado.
Each bite delivers scintillating sensations with all the right textures and tastes that will have you coming back time and time again.
3-3-3 – SAN JOSE
If you’re seeking an amalgam of Mexican, Korean, and Indian cuisine in one tortilla, you’ve come to the right food truck. The truck offers 3 proteins per cuisine, hence the name. You can choose from chile verde, carne asada, or chipotle chicken if you’re in the mood for Mexican.
As for Indian proteins, you can pick from lamb curry, chicken tikka masala, and vegetarian Paneer Tikka Masala. Korean options include spicy BBQ pork, mushroom tofu, and BBQ chicken. Despite the enormity of filling choices, this fusion food truck circulates the Bay Area almost daily and gives you plenty of opportunity to try them all.
GUERRILLA TACOS – ALL OVER LA
After cooking amongst world famous chefs throughout his distinguished career, Wes Avila decided to work with a more laid-back vibe and serve accessible gourmet cuisine to the streets of Los Angeles, guerrilla style!
He recognized that tacos were the best way to go; they’re loveable, affordable, and easily adaptable. Thus, he’s able to change up his menu in order to use seasonal local ingredients.
While his selection and location are constantly reorienting, his taco creations are consistently adored by everyone; from the Sweet Potato Taco with almond chile, feta cheese, fried corn and scallions, to the Puerto Vallarta Crab Tacos with guajillo salsa, tomatillo chile, chipotle crema, and cilantro, and everything in between.