Daniel Godinez has an obsession that many of us share: the food of Mexico. But the Acapulco-born chef has taken this obsession to the extreme, not only making it his life's work but also backpacking to all 31 states in Mexico to research regional cuisine. Until recently, Orange County was reaping all the rewards of the chef's extensive knowledge and training, but in early January Godinez opened his first L.A. County restaurant: Maestro in Pasadena. At Maestro, Godinez is continuing on the path he started with his two O.C. restaurants, combining Mexican flavors with fine-dining techniques to create something wholly his own.
We wondered, with this new foray into the L.A. market, what he considers the best Mexican restaurants in town. These are his six favorites.
“This place truly makes me feel like I am in Sonora with their incredible flour tortillas. The ambiance and food makes me completely forget about place and time and brings me back to the western Mexican state of Sonora.” 208 E. Eighth St., downtown. (213) 290-5184, sonoratownla.com.
5. Mariscos El Faro
“I personally believe it's hard to find a good representation of what authentic Mexican seafood should taste like. Mariscos El Faro hits it out of the park with the aguachile tostada — it’s fresh and delicious every time.” 6113-6139 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park (truck). (323) 359-3814, mariscoselfaro.com.
4. Guerrilla Tacos
“Why would anyone reinvent the wheel? Well, chef Wes Avila did with his unorthodox ingredients, but he also found balance by mixing in authentic flavors and tradition. If you're a foodie, or just a taco lover, I would highly recommend chasing the Guerrilla Taco Truck around town.” Various locations (truck). (323) 388-5340, guerrillatacos.com.
3. Tire Shop Taqueria
“It’s hard to believe that some of the best street tacos in L.A. are based out of a tire shop. The charcoal and fresh masa are good, but the people who work there are truly the best part of the experience.” 4069 S. Avalon Blvd., Historic South Central. tireshoptaqueria.com.
“Just like the markets in Mexico, the guys at Mercado are always sourcing fresh, seasonal ingredients that you can taste in every bite. I would recommend trying their daily specials and their carnitas. You will not be disappointed.” 1416 Fourth St., Santa Monica. (310) 526-7121. Other locations in Beverly Grove and Hollywood. mercadorestaurant.com.
1. Broken Spanish
“Chef Ray Garcia elevates traditional Mexican cuisine with his fresh produce combinations and innovative techniques.” 1050 S. Flower St., downtown. (213) 749-1460, brokenspanish.com.