Once upon a time, Yuca’s (2056 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz) was just a quiet L.A. institution, a three-walled shack of a restaurant that served up simple, brilliant Yucatan style tacos and burritos. But then All Mighty Oprah featured Eric Dane, a.k.a. “Grey’s Anatomy”’s McSteamy, chowing down one of his Favorite Things, a Yuca’s burrito, and it’s been mayhem ever since. A second location, just blocks away, opened up right after the show aired, and word is out about this carnivore’s paradise.

When you do something brilliantly, why fuss? Yuca’s offers just five kinds of meat: carne asada, shredded beef, shredded pork, pork with chile verde and yucatan style pork; all perfectly prepared, juicy, succulent and charred in all the right places.

The meat is served in either a thin, rectangular burrito ($2.50-$4) stuffed with pinto beans (cooked in lard ’cause Yuca’s keeps it real), a scattering of raw onions, cilantro and fresh salsa; in minimalist tacos ($1.75-$2 each) served on fresh corn tortillas, topped with grilled meat, a sprinkle of chopped onions and a dollop of salsa; or in a torta ($3.50) on a French roll with mayo lettuce and salsa. Hey, it’s got the Oprah Seal of Approval, so you know it’s gotta be good.

Best Fish Taco in Ensenada (1650 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz): Owned by Joseph Cordova, a charming man with a soft spot for the Baja peninsula, this is the taco shack that love built. Check out the furnishings he personally brought in from south of the border or watch the way he reverently lays a piece of battered fish into the bubbling cauldron of oil, and you can see this gentleman truly cares.

It’s that same jubilant ministration that is in full effect at the do-it-yourself salsa bar. Birthed from Cordova’s imagination, you will find a number of outstanding and innovative creations like a spectacular spicy pineapple concoction or his mango salsa that had to be constantly replenished during one visit as worshippers ladled heaping piles over fresh flaky fish and plump shrimp.

From a spicy avocado number to the classic crema and shredded cabbage, the cornucopia of choices is both daunting and inspiring. So many flavors … so little time.

Make the time, damn it! It’ll be well worth it. Besides, at only $1.50 (fish) to $2 (shrimp) per taco (which are the only kinds they serve) and $1 for a drink, it’s not like it’ll put a crimp in your budget.

When you need an old standby, who you gonna call? Chipotle (chipotle.com)! I know people like to bash this place because they were part of the McDonald’s Corporation, but Mickey D’s fully divested in October of 2006.

Chipotle takes pride in serving food with integrity, following humane animal treatment guidelines, creating environmentally responsible locations and supporting local farmers but, best of all, they make a two-hands, six-napkin heavenly experience ($5.25-$7.25) that kicks off with a 13-inch tortilla and ends with you lugging a burrito the size of an infant to your table.

Chipotle offers many exceptional options like their slow braised barbacoa; heady with oregano and adobo, or the pinto beans made with bacon to lend a meaty smokiness, but the thing that keeps me coming back time and again is their Chicken Burrito, piled high with charred corn and jalapeño salsa, black beans, cilantro-scented basmati rice and guacamole made simply with hulking chunks of avocado, onions, lime and chilies. As Isaac Hayes once sang, if loving you is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.



Honorable Mentions:

King Taco (KingTaco.com): One of Los Angeles’ most beloved taco institutions, they started as a truck and now have 20 locations across the city. The location nearest you is probably in the ghetto. King Taco rolls pretty deep.

Benito’s (7912 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; 11614 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles): They recently went legit by raising their prices and shutting down the Transvestito’s location on Santa Monica Blvd., but they’re still the home of the rolled taco – and there’s no place like home.