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Guelaguetza 

Oaxacan fare that's hard to beat

Thursday, Jun 24 2010
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Maybe you've been running off to new restaurants all this week — I hear Xoia is pretty good. I've been one of the wretched minions tearing himself out of bed at 6 every morning, brushing his teeth with ale and hauling down to the local bar for another go at the World Cup matches, the dawn bacchanalia of soccer, nationalism and strong beer that leave even strong men and women without the strength to brave 9 p.m. reservations at WP24, especially the evening after the U.S.-Ghana match.

But for the mornings that destroy the rest of the day, it is hard to beat the new theater-size screen at the Koreatown hub of Guelaguetza, an enormous restaurant that strains against the confines of what started life as the earliest galbi palace in town, a yawning dining room that for soccer matches is stuffed with tiny, round tables, plastic folding chairs, and on the day of the Mexico-Argentina match, several hundred people with painted faces, flags and jerseys in Mexican green. If you hadn't brought your own vuvuzela, vendors were selling them outside the door.

At the various soccer pubs around town, you're lucky to get scrambled eggs and limp bacon with your Cup match. But Guelaguetza is one of the best Oaxacan restaurants in the country — when you're in the mood for shared botana platters, you can get vast piles of white Oaxacan cheese served with lard-soaked memelas, the giant Oaxacan pizzas called clayudas, heaps of fried empanadas, or even a platter with chicken, bowls of four different moles, and the fresh tortillas to eat them with.

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If you're drinking, I recommend micheladas, chile-spiked beers served in frozen, salt-rimmed mugs. And if you're imprudent, there comes the moment when the waiter slaps a bottle of El Scorpion on your table, mezcal invaded by its namesake predator, and as you raise your glass, down a shot and join the roar at the ecstasy of a second-half goal, it almost doesn't matter that your team is down 3-1 — almost! — and that the woman sitting next to you is spilling tears into your sleeve.

GUELAGUETZA: Open for every game for the duration of the World Cup. 3014 W. Olympic Blvd., Koreatown. (213) 427-0608.

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