Dear Mr. Gold:
I have friends coming from NYC and they've been asking about Oaxacan food. Oaxacan food? I'd like to find a great place, and what I mean by great is very good food and not a truck.
--Sherry, Manhattan Beach
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Los Angeles is, of course, richly endowed with Oaxacan restaurants, especially compared with New York City. When I lived in Manhattan, I was so nostalgic for Oaxacan food that I followed up a lead on a Oaxacan restaurant way out in New Brunswick that on inspection turned out to be a thoroughly generic Mexican restaurant that may just have been owned by a guy named Joe Mole. I'd never seen a microwaved tlayuda before, and I hope never to see one again.
I still think the Guelaguetza family of restaurants does the best Oaxacan food. The one on 8th Street has slightly better food; the one on Olympic has a bar, if that's important. The West L.A. Guelaguetza is unconnected at the moment, but Oaxaca expert Nancy Zaslavsky swears that the chef is the best of all. Moles La Tia, out in East L.A., is a bit less orthodox than the Guelaguetzas, but is comfortable and features twenty different kinds of mole. And often overlooked is El Texate, a beachy Oaxacan joint near the Santa Monica Civic, which is perhaps a bit less refined than some of the other choices, but has most of the pertinent moles as well as some dishes hard to find elsewhere in town, including a squash blossom salad and igadito, the Oaxacan equivalent of matzoh ball soup.
El Texate: 316 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 399-1115.