2100 E Cesar Chavez Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90033
It might surprise some of you, but I wasn’t a citizen of the United States of America until a couple of months ago (although I’ve been here for 20+ years). I had to take a day off work to drive ALL the way east to Pomona for the oath ceremony with 1600+ others. While I couldn’t have been any more apathetic about such a monumental event, I appreciated the majority of others happily cheering and crying at each other’s successful naturalization, all while waving those little American flags that they gave each of us. A good number of them lined up at a booth afterwards to take photos with a life-sized cardboard cutout of President Obama, and some even had limos waiting to take them off to what I’m sure were awesome naturalization fiestas. But for me, the only thing I cared about was making this drive count with regards to eating.
Originally, I was going to get something from the SGV on my way back home, but I didn’t have any cash on me (how American of me). So I thought to myself, “what can be more American to celebrate my citizenship than tacos?” Actually, the idea to get tacos for lunch was the result of all the Mexicans present at the oath ceremony (and yes, they were indeed Mexican – the “court” recognized Mexico as the most popular previous country of nationality at the ceremony, so I’m not being ignorant). So I pulled up my Foursquare to-dine list on my phone, and boom – Guisados was right off the 10 Freeway heading back (not having been to Guisados might be another fact that might surprise some of you). America, I have arrived.
By (loose) definition, guisados is meat and/or vegetables cooked in a sauce like a stew, and that’s the kind of stuff that you should expect to find in between your tortillas (wonderfully homemade, I must say). So instead of fried fish, barbacoa, or al pastor, expect slow-cooked protein in various sauces. If it’s your first time, like it was mine, then the sampler is an awesome starting point – you get six mini-tacos of different varieties. By default, it’s the top six choices on their expansive menu, but you can mix and match any six varieties. I stuck to the first six, which on that day were: bistek en salsa rojo, steak picado, mole poblano, tinga de pollo, chicharron, and cochinita pibil – a nice variety of 2x steak, 2x chicken, and 2x pork.
As a whole, all of the tacos were delicioso. Despite the varieties being similar textually, the flavors all worked in different ways. Some brought a good amount of heat, some were rich and hearty, but all of them were great. However, if I was to go back and try new varieties (like the calabacitas and camaron), I’d probably have to move the chicharron out of the rotation – it was good, but I like my rind to be crispy and fried instead of soft and chewy. Or I can just order more tacos in addition to the sampler. If anything, I should just get six regular-sized tacos to get a better grip on the tortillas. The one negative about the sampler-sized tacos (besides leaving you wanting more) is that the difficulty of eating them is almost tostada-level. They’re small, and actually thicker, so you’re basically taking a couple of quick bites before they fall apart. But again, it’s a great way to try the different types of guisados without feeling like a fatass.
In conclusion, the best tacos in LA can be found at Guisados, who’s accomplishing this without the glitz and glamour. And it just gets better – they just opened their second location in hipster centro (Echo Park), and a third location is opening in Downtown. None of these locations are particularly convenient for me, but perhaps that’ll change with my company moving offices in a couple of months. Regardless, I’ll definitely be going back to Guisados. Or someone can just bring some to me in West LA…
Current Chris Hei LA Taco Power Rankings:
2) Ricky’s Fish Tacos
3) CaCao Mexicatessen
4) Tacos Baja Ensenada
t5) Tacos Leo
t5) Tacos Punta Cabras