Where Meat-Eaters and Vegans Collide for the Best Mexican Street Food in LA
There’s a good reason the Los Angeles-based Sugar Taco vegan eatery has amassed a long list of celebrity investors like Alicia Silverstone, Daniella Monet, The Bachelor’s Kelley Flanagan, and pro-surfer Tia Blanco to name a few: It’s a female-owned operation guided by steadfast ethics while doling out damn good authentic Mexican street food. The delectable dishes will have your most vegan-food-skeptic friends asking, ‘Are you sure this is vegan?’
Sugar Taco, which currently has two locations, opened its flagship restaurant in 2019 on Melrose in West Hollywood, and a second, larger location in February 2021 in Sherman Oaks. Sugar Taco Co-Founders Jayde Nicole and Brittany Littleton—plus their long list of powerhouse female investors—have their eyes set on expansion across Southern California. Nicole revealed in an interview with The Beet that the team is actively scoping out new locales. Keep a lookout for a location near you opening soon, and in the meantime, here’s everything you need to know about the colorful, Instagramable eatery.
Sugar Taco has reinvented authentic street-style Mexican food as plant-based, making its dishes indistinguishable from familiar meat-based classics. “We wanted to make vegan food accessible and delicious, and market toward meat-eaters, not necessarily vegans,” says Nicole, explaining the inception of the idea. Eaters of any varietal will fall in love with Sugar Taco’s devout adherence to authentic Mexican flavors, all premised on the pride and joy of plant proteins and cheeses made fresh from scratch in-house.
The beauty of Sugar Taco is the ability to customize dishes. Nearly the entire menu has “build-your-own” options for tacos, nachos, and burritos with choice-of plant-based meats. Plant-based meats include Carne Asada and Al Pastor (both made from seitan), Pollo (made from soy), and Carnitas (made from jackfruit). While all the proteins have their unique flair, make sure to recommend either of the seitan plant-based meats for your meat-eating pals.
There’s something nostalgic, not to mention downright delicious, about Sugar Taco’s quesadilla, and you won’t be disappointed with their vegan take on the classic dish. While you can get a quesadilla layered with plant-based meats and other fixings, the simple quesadilla is perfection thanks to its crafty garbanzo bean-based cheese. And a side of guac or Queso is always a welcome accompaniment for dipping.
Another standout is the burritos, layered with a rainbow of black beans, rice, pico de gallo, and choice of protein. Make sure to get fancy and do a few “add ons” including the Just F*ck Me Up Guac if you are into a bit of heat, and add the Queso for some extra flavor.
For a shareable item, the Loaded Fries are quite simply an explosion of magic in the mouth. A mound of fries served up ultra-crispy, covered in Queso, topped with salsa, chipotle crema, onion, and choice-of meat—the seitan-based Carne Asada is a standout and a highly recommended add-on. And last, but certainly not least, finish your meal with a churro donut which captures an authentic churro flavor baked into a perfectly fluffy and moist donut.
Go For the Deals, Stay For the Margaritas
Sugar Taco keeps it fresh and innovative with new specials each week, and you can also find value deals on specific days:
- Taco Tuesday: Tacos for $2, dine-in and takeout
- Margarita Monday: Margarita and a 3-taco plate or burrito for $15
- Thirsty Thursday: All-day happy hour
Plus, on every day of the week peep the drink menu which includes a selection of Mexican beers and specialty cocktails like the Michelada, or the light and refreshing Paloma. And of course, unsurprisingly you’ll find Margaritas on the menu. But who needs a basic Margarita when you have a choice of other flavors like Passion Fruit or Spicy. And, if you’re feeling extra brave, attempt the Ghost Pepper Margarita, which is absolutely not for the faint of heart.
Sugar Taco's Ambiance
Sugar Taco stays true to its Día de Los Muertos theme, with walls adorned in signature sugar skulls; Colorful walls and flowers at nearly every corner begging for a photo. Also, know that Sugar Taco is an order-at-the-counter spot—so if you are looking for a full service, higher-end sit-down, go elsewhere like to Gracias Madre. But, if you are in the mood for vibey, casual grub, where you can also get cocktails, all at an attainable price point, Sugar Taco should be on the top of your list.
Sugar Taco's Compassionate Mission
Behind the food at Sugar Taco lies an even deeper mission that stays true to their mantra that “Great ethics and great food go hand and hand.” Every decision is guided by considerations for the environment, animal welfare, and health. From equipment purchasing to takeout containers, to how they make their plant-based meats and cheeses—everything is chosen premised on its eco and ethical guiding principles. “We spend a lot of time sourcing packaging, and really everything from top to bottom,” says Nicole, noting that they put sustainability at the forefront of every aspect of the business. “Our largest component of change was selling our glass jars people can reuse or can bring back in and get a discount on refills. To date, we have sold over 30 thousand of those jars.” Sugar Taco also supports a number of nonprofits and even has Dog Tacos on the menu for furry patrons; sales of those go directly to associated charities.