Eight Great Street-Food Vendors in Los Angeles

kogi bbq

Kogi BBQ.

At the start of this year, the big thing in L.A. was Kogi BBQ, chef Roy Choi’s Korean-style taco truck that pioneered the innovation of tweeting its location to loyal customers. What’s the latest craze? Twittering vans that mimic the Kogi model. Drive through the mid-Wilshire business district during lunch time, and it’s like an international food bazaar—on wheels. There’s ban mi (Vietnamese sandwiches), dosas, barbecue, Peruvian stir fry, bao (Chinese pork buns), and sushi. The trend is partly fed by the blogosphere, where a new mobile vendor can get wall-to-wall coverage of its clever new idea. Rarely mentioned is the fact that what most have to offer falls somewhere between better-than-a-roach-coach-tuna-sandwich and still in the beta testing phase. Below, in no particular order, are some newcomers, some always-reliable vendors, and a handful of esteemed taco trucks.

1. Kogi BBQ

With a newly expanded, three-truck fleet and a permanent residence at the Alibi Room in Venice, Kogi is unparalleled when it comes to a constant stream of efficient, friendly tweets. What to get: grilled short rib tacos, kimchi quesadillas, steamed pork belly. Twitter: @kogibbq

2. Border Grill Truck

Head chef Teresa Montono has somehow figured out how to perfectly duplicate Border Grill restaurant’s refined, complex flavors even though her cramped kitchen on wheels has no oven or broiler, only a deep-fat fryer that’s always on the blink. What to get: Yucatan slow-roasted pork tacos with pickled onions, chicken tacos with tomatillo and creamy salsa fresca, roasted poblano chili quesadillas with manchego, panela, and cotija cheeses in a handmade flour tortilla, watermelon lemonade that you’ll want to drink by the bucket. Twitter: @bordergrill

3. Let’s Be Frank

The L.A. outpost (sometimes in Culver City, sometimes in Silver Lake) of San Franciscan Sue Moore’s bright red weinermobile serves hot dogs made with organic, grass-fed beef or organic Berkshire pork and a choice of organic condiments. Helms Ave., between Venice and Washington boulevards, Culver City; 2395 Glendale Blvd, Silver Lake (letsbefrankdogs.com/locations)

4. Grillmasters

The method of slow-cooking crispy-skinned, herb-coated rotisserie chickens was inspired by European spit-roasting carts. The chickens taste of rosemary, oregano, garlic, and ginger and come with a lime wedge for a citrus tang. What to get: Chicken and potatoes flavored with chicken drippings. Twitter: @grillmastersla

5. El Pique

The only downside to this Mexico City-style truck is that it’s almost next door to another superstar truck, La Estrella. What to get: Moist pork tacos al pastor, chorizo tacos, and a side of fiery salsa roja. York and Avenue 53, Highland Park

6. La Estrella

Which truck is better, La Estrella, which is parked in front of its bricks-and-mortar restaurant, or El Pique? It depends on the day, so it’s worth it to try them both. What to get: Peppery carne asada, crunchy carnitas or shredded al pastor tacos, and burritos. York and Avenue 54, Highland Park

7. Le Tehuana

This truck, which specializes in tacos, burritos, and Oaxacan-style clayudas (a bit like a pizza but made with tortillas), has a TV set rigged up so you can watch movies en español while waiting for your order—L.A. street life at its best. What to get: spicy chicken and chili tacos, chopped carne asada tacos, and griddled, bean-smeared clayudas. 3rd Street and Normandie Avenue, nights only

8. Gorditas Lupita

Taco-truck connoisseur Jonathan Gold introduced me to this Highland Park mainstay, and now I want it to split and multiply. What to get: Carnitas huaraches, gorditas, puffy quesadillas, and freshly made corn tortillas. Eagle Rock Boulevard, between Ave 34 and Estara Avenue

Subscribe to Gourmet