Guerrilla Tacos in the Arts District Has Held Onto Its Street-Food Soul

Wes Avila traded in his legendary truck for a brick-and-mortar taqueria

If you’ve spent any part of the past six years trawling through the city’s endless taco landscape, there’s a good chance you’ve feasted on Wes Avila’s handiwork.

In 2012 the Pico Rivera native debuted Guerrilla Tacos, a humble cart outside a now-defunct coffee roaster in the Arts District. Using warm corn tortillas as a canvas, the fine dining veteran (he’d previously worked under chefs like Le Comptoir’s Gary Menes and République’s Walter Manzke) blew up the notion of the L.A. taco: Sweet potato mingled with crumbled feta and fried corn; seared foie gras doubled the decadence of braised short rib; and ruby-hued chunks of ahi tuna were tossed in white miso and paired with tart tomatillo salsa. What set Guerrilla Tacos apart in a crowded scene wasn’t just farmers’ market ingredients and cross-cultural creativity but the democratic notion that haute cuisine could be enjoyed curbside without losing an ounce of its sensory firepower.

So when Avila traded in the keys to his blue-and-green taco truck in July ahead of the transition to a brick-and-mortar space, the move presented an existential dilemma: What happens to street food when you take away the street? Not much, thankfully.

At Avila’s new counter-service spot blocks from where he started, graffiti-muraled walls and a cinder-block patio preserve a sense of grit; cans of spray paint double as numbered table markers. Guerrilla Tacos’ menu has largely remained the same—crunchy taquitos stuffed with fluffy potatoes or fresh crab, tempura-battered fish tacos, roasted eggplant and labneh spackled onto a crunchy tostada—save for a few larger compositions like grilled mackerel or smoky lamb kabobs crowned with tomato salad. (Order a couple of the char siu pork tacos with pickled pineapple, too, for a riff on al pastor that’s so genius it deserves a MacArthur grant.) Avila’s bewitchingly complex salsas, like the sharp chile oil mixture brushed on slices of raw hamachi, are still the best in town.

As welcome as tabletops and comfortable chairs are, the most substantial addition might be the cocktail program—tropical libations with a primo $10 price tag that manage to produce a heavenly buzz. Will the storied truck be missed? Yes. But a little less after you’ve chased a shrimp tostada with rum-spiked lemonade.

RELATED: The 12 Best Tacos in L.A., According to L.A. Chefs

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