I’m the type of taco connoisseur that prefers my small bites of heaven off the street from makeshift stoves situated next to a folding table offering a plethora of tasty toppings. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever ordered tacos in a restaurant. They can never compete with the handmade tortillas slightly fried in grease and topped with pastor shaved straight off the spit. But I make an exception for Taco Nights, a selected day of the week when restaurants lure in cheapskates with $1 tacos and drink specials. Here are my top five picks in L.A.:
Barragan’s: With three locations in L.A.—Echo Park (my fave), Glendale, and Burbank, this family-run restaurant has been around since 1961 and is loved for its old-timey ambiance. On Mondays, enjoy $1 beef, chicken or potato tacos, $1 off margaritas, $3 Tecates, and—get this—free nachos! Mondays 2 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. every location.
El Torito: I know what you’re thinking, but don’t knock it ‘til you try it, especially considering El Torito makes their own tortillas and their margaritas are always on point. Word on the street is their valley locations go off come Tacorito Tuesdays, when carnitas, chicken, and steaks tacos are $1.50. Get there before 8 p.m. and score on two tacos and a margarita for $5. I can thank my valley girl, Diana, for this one. Starts at 4 p.m. All locations.
La Cuevita: One more reason to check out Highland Park’s newly revamped Cave: Free tacos on Tuesdays while DJ Sweet Caroline spins 80s, 90s and some of today’s best jams. Plus, $5 happy hour drinks everyday from 7-10 p.m. 5922 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park, 90042.
TUES – FRI
CaCao Mexicatessen: Honoring the indigenous people of Mexican and Central American who blessed us with chocolate, this super cute burnt orange storefront-slash-cafe boasts taco truck-style tacos for $1.65 Tuesday through Friday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Once you go duck carnitas, you don’t go back. Trust. 1576 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock, 90041.
Tacos Baja Ensenada: Everyone and their mother lines up on Whittier Boulevard for $1 Fish Taco Wednesdays at this little East L.A. gem. The best in L.A. (and quite possibly better than Ensenada), we’re talkin’ fresh fish battered and fried to perfection and topped with cabbage, pico de gallo, and crema. Pair them with Baja’s signature paprika- and chile-soaked yellow peppers and consider it one of the best meals in L.A. No joke. $1 fish tacos every Wednesday except Ash Wednesday. (What?! You think they’re loco?) 5385 Whittier Blvd., East L.A., 90022.