Life-changing tacos in three cities
Tacos 1986 Los Angeles
“There are thousands of taco stands in Los Angeles, but there is only one Tacos 1986,” said Farley Elliot in Eater.com. This operation “took L.A. by storm” late last year, as its roving stands and one permanent downtown location found a way to unite the city’s street, food, and club cultures under a banner of deliciousness. “Not since Roy Choi’s Kogi BBQ has a taco so thoroughly galvanized this city.” Owner Victor Delgado and charismatic sidekick Jorge “El Joy” Alvarez-Tostado—who professes himself the best taquero in the world—draw customers in with their smiles, their hype, and their willingness to pose for Instagram photos. But Tacos 1986 wouldn’t be one of Eater.com’s favorite new American restaurants if Delgado and company didn’t deliver on El Joy’s boast with treats like adobada pork (a So-Cal take on al pastor), marinated in adobo salsa and roasted vertically before being sliced off into a handmade corn tortilla with cilantro, onion, salsa, and guacamole. There’s a “killer” mushroom option for non-carnivores, and “the smoldering trace of mesquite on the carne asada alone would be enough to demand a return visit.” 609 S. Spring St., (213) 988-7202)
Matt’s BBQ Tacos Portland, Ore.
Sorry, Texas, said Julia Kramer in Bon Appetit. There’s a guy from Long Island, N.Y., who’s now out in Portland smoking meat so masterfully that we’ve just named his trailer taco stand one of the country’s best new restaurants. Matt Vicedomini actually started his barbecue training at a cowboy-themed joint in Australia before adding numerous pilgrimages to Texas. His now legendary brisket—“simply seasoned but expertly smoked”—can be had as early as 8 a.m., when it’s piled with scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, and salsa onto “unbelievably puffy” and “deliciously lardy” flour tortillas. Come lunchtime, the options include the G.O.A.T., which combines brisket and pulled pork in two tortillas—one flour, one corn. Outside of that, “the pleasure of Matt’s BBQ Tacos is simple. When I think about where I was happiest this year, my mind immediately goes to sitting in the sunshine at one of the picnic tables next to the trailer, folding up the most irrefutably delicious tacos one after the next.” 3207 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., (503) 956-7455
Little Rey Atlanta
Over the years, Ford Fry has proven “there’s little he can’t do,” said Christiane Lauterbach in Atlanta magazine. Fry’s 16th restaurant in greater Atlanta is a slick, fast-casual operation that’s also a homage to his Texas childhood, sort of “the Hummer version of a rusty taco truck.” Despite being located in an area “better known for sketchy strip clubs than gastronomy,” Little Rey has customers lining up out the door from breakfast on. The morning options—skirt steak, chorizo, or poblanos over scrambled egg—are “easily the best in town.” By midday, the taco fillings also include smoked brisket and the house specialty: chicken al carbon. Marinated for a day in achiote and citrus, then wood-roasted, the chicken, “juicy and rosy from the smoke,” is piled into tortillas with chili con queso and jalapeños. It can also be had family-style, “hacked into burnished and fragrant pieces” and served with charred jalapeños, smoked onions, and rancho beans. Because the margaritas are disappointing, opt for a beer instead. 1878 Piedmont Ave. NE, (770) 796-0207 ■