Sunday, December 2, 2012

Taco Heaven: Guisados

Boyle Heights lies at the western-most outpost of East LA, just across the LA River from downtown, and it's one of the culinary centers of Mexican food in LA. I've been craving Mexican a lot lately, and while there is good Oaxacan in my neighborhood, to get traditional northern Mexican cuisine, it helps to cross the river.

A small, rectangular taco shop at the corner of Cesar Chavez and St. Louis with a sort of Chicano hipster vibe, Guisados is a recent edition to the neighborhood, having opened in 2010. It's purely a taco shop, offering about a dozen varieties and no other dishes to speak of. For those of you who are fans of Loteria, it's like the taco selection there, but so much better with bolder flavors and spicier sauces. And if it's not spicy enough, try some of their fiery habaƱero salsa, but use it sparingly, very sparingly.

The base of any taco is the tortilla, yet so many LA taco joints just pop them out of a plastic bag, not so Guisados which makes fresh, thick corn tortillas. And the toppings are worthy of those excellent tortillas (guisados is Spanish for stews).

The chicken tinga, shredded chicken in a savory red sauce, was a stand out. The mole Poblano was less thick and molten than the Oaxacan style found in my neighborhood but equally rich and complex. The fish tacos were also wonderful with pan fried rather than deep fried fish and the traditional cabbage and cream sauce. All of the meat dishes, spicy chorizo, tangy conchinita pibil, a lovely bistek in salsa rojo, and many others, were superb. Vegetarian tacos were also excellent, including a lovely hongos (mushrooms) con cilantro in which the earthy mushrooms were well paired with the bright flavors of cilantro. It's apparent that so much care goes into the preparation of each of these dishes, both the cooking of the meat and the sauces; you really can't lose at this place.

For all of these complex stewed delicacies, though, my favorite taco was probably the quesadilla (pictured as the center taco in the bottom plate at right). It consisted of a disk of Mexican cheese fried so that it developed a crispy crust, and topped with a sort of remoulade sauce. It was so simple, but so rich, with a diversity of textures and a richness from both cheese and sauce that practically forced me to order a second.

For your first visit, a great menu option is the sampler plate of six mini tacos with your choice of toppings (pictured), then go back for the ones you love most.

If you're a taco lover, you need to get to Guisados.

2100 E. Cesar E Chavez Ave.
Los Angeles, CA. 90033
(323) 264-7201


Anonymous said...

agree, their tacos are great! Thanks for the review. Eating the handmade tortillas there led me on a search for great corn tortillas, eventually leading me to Zach Brooks' comment on a blog about Amapola market (they have a few locations, including one in the valley, I think, as well as south-central and Downey). The hand-made tortillas and masa are great! As is the carnitas, and Mexican pastries.

SteveBM said...

Damn, thanks for another LA rec. I gotta look into this one next LA trip.

You ever make your own map on Google Maps? If not, you should look into it. Doesnt take much time at all and you could have all your spots in one space for people like me :)