Guisados: 99 Essential Restaurants 2011
In Mexico City, tacos de guisado are the essential units of street-food consumption, thick tortillas splashed with stew from a heated cazuela, strewn with a bit of onion, and thrust at you even before you remember how to pronounce calabacita. Tacos made with carne asada or carnitas are action tacos, meant to be consumed the instant they're made. Tacos de guisado are what wine geeks might call tacos of contemplation, small world views encapsulated in a few grams of chile, meat and corn. In the year it's been open, this taquería, run by the De La Torre family and devoted to the cult of guisados, has established itself as the essential restaurant in Boyle Heights, a hangout for local hospital workers by day and local families by night. It's also the Eastside restaurant most likely to be visited by folks from the west — the tacos with smoky chicken tinga, pork chops in green sauce or spicy poblano-style chicken mole given texture with nuts, grains and seeds are pretty hard to resist, as is the cochinito pibil, pork long-cooked in banana leaves, which can be cranked up to filling-melting heat if that's the way you like it. Armando De La Torre, the proprietor, is happiest when he is giving you a million samples to taste, as if he were running a gelato shop instead of a taco joint.
This is one of the few serious taquerias in Los Angeles where vegetarians can be happy: There are tacos of stewed squash with chiles and kernels of sweet corn; mushrooms sautéed with onion and cilantro; and a roasted chile taco, moistened with a few drops of habanero salsa, which could go 15 rounds with Oscar De La Hoya, play badass trumpet in a mariachi band and write a sonnet to your girlfriend without breaking a sweat. If you should happen to ask whether Guisados makes its own tortillas, Armando may lead you out of the restaurant to the shop next door, where his brother doesn't just make tortillas but makes his own nixtamal and grinds it every half-hour. 2100 E. Cesar Chavez Ave., Boyle Heights. (323) 264-7201, guisados.co. Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking off St. Louis Ave., just south of restaurant. MC, V. Mexican.
99 Essential L.A. Restaurants 2011:
Church & State
Din Tai Fung
El Huarache Azteca
Euro Pane Bakery
Fab Hot Dogs
Good Girl Dinette
La Casita Mexicana
Lazy Ox Canteen
Meals by Genet
Musso & Frank Grill
Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa
Newport Tan Cang Seafood Restaurant
Night + Market
101 Noodle Express
Palate Food + Wine
Pollos a la Brasa
Sapp Coffee Shop
Son of a Gun
Tacos Baja Ensenada
Waterloo & City
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