Like the movie business, powerful cars, or the Lakers, Mexican food is a topic on which Angelenos hold passionate opinions.  (For example, check out this thread by self-proclaimed “heavyweights” on the dining site Chowhound).  While some of most highly-lauded places are accessible by car, downtown and the subway will serve you very well on your quest for the ideal taco -- if you know where to look.

If you’re pressed for time and can’t leave the convention center, there’s a serviceable Mexican food window in the South Hall.  But you if you head north only a few blocks, there’s Ciudad, located in a roomy space full of splashy art, and serving pan-Latin food distilled through the sensibility of an American culinary academy.  It’s a bit pricey, so maybe stop in to try it during happy hour, where you can get 2 tacos, a margarita, or a beer for $4 each.  For a very different kind of experience, stroll over to the bazaar and food court known as the Grand Central Market – the sawdust on the floor should tell you all you need to know about ambience.  But as for food, the crisp, smoky meat in the tacos at Ana Maria’s will make you glad you made the trudge.  In contrast, a highly touristy experience awaits you at Olvera Street, the site of the original settlement known as “Los Angeles,” back when the town consisted of 44 people in 1781.  Today there are a lot of tchochkes and tourist traps – but also some gems.  La Luz Del Dia will make you a mean combo plate for about $6.  And Mr. Churro offers a fine version of the Mexican dessert after which it’s named: it’s basically the equivalent of a long, pointy donut, filled with either strawberry, caramel, or custard cream.  

For a more refined take on Mexican cuisine, hop the subway to Chichen Itza in Koreatown, which serves the blend of Spanish, Mayan, and Lebanese food native to the Yucatan.  Unlike the corner taqueria, Chichen Itza features a variety of salads and meats flavored with sour orange juice and the Aztec spice known as epazote.  You could also head over to the Oaxacan oasis known as Guelaguetza, where the creamy, slightly sweet sauce known as mole flavors everything from tender roast chicken to the tortilla chips.  They also make delicious roast meats.

If you prefer some well-dressed young people with your Oaxacan food, truck on over to the brand-new Hollywood location of Loteria Grill.  You can order your taco, burrito, tostada, or soup with one of their rich, spicy sauces that’ll make you wonder how you lived without it before now.

Ciudad (at 5th and Figueroa; easily walkable from Convention Center or downtown hotels; entrees $16-29)

Grand Central Market (take the red line to Pershing Square or walk from downtown hotels) Ana Maria’s (carnitas tacos $2);

Olvera Street (take the red line to Union Station, and head across the street; or take the DASH bus, route B) La Luz Del Dia (combos at about $6); Mr. Churro ($3/churro)

Chichen Itza (Purple line to Westlake/MacArthur Park, walk 1 block north to 6th, turn left, and head to 2501 W. 6th St., entrees $14-28)

Guelaguetza (Purple line to Wilshire and Normandie, walk two blocks south on Irolo St. to 3337 8th street; entrees $10-16)

Loteria Grill (Red line to Hollywood & Highland, walk three blocks east to 6627 Hollywood; tacos $3-4; burritos $8-9).