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
1616

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.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BnUCNDSlZ2p/

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.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BohI2DKFS2Y/

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


Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.