Living in southern California, it’s next to impossible to not eat a taco once in your life. There are the countless taco trucks along Ceasar Chavez and Beverly Blvd; they were a thing before food trucks became a thing. While Guisados is a brick and mortar restaurant instead of a mobile taco truck, it has the taco truck mentality. Order at the counter, watch your taco being assembled fresh after you order, stuff your face with it, and then order another.
Where Guisados differs from the taco truck experience is that it doesn’t just have your run of the mill carne asadas, carnitas, and cabeza tacos. Instead, it has exotic-sounding things like calabacitas and mole casipoblano. What might surprise you is that this humble little taco spot also has an amuse bouche and even a chef’s choice sampler platter.
The amuse bouche, a small cup of whatever soup they’re featuring that day, is enough to whet the appetite while you’re waiting for the food to be assembled. The first time I went, it was a rich, fresh-tasting cilantro soup with just the right touch of acidity. The second time, it was a wonderfully spiced chicken broth. A hot bowl of that soup would be perfect on a chilly day.
First-timers willing to try anything should definitely go for the sampler platter. It’s a plate of six miniature tacos each piled high with the first six taco fillings on the menu. On one particular day, the six tacos were chicharron, tinga de pollo, steak picado, mole poblano, chuleta en salsa verde, bistek rojo, and cochinita pibil.
My favorites on that day were the chicarron and cochinita pibil tacos. The chicharon had that perfect chewy but tender texture with that guilt-inducing richness. The cochinita pibil was juicy, spicey, and definitely gives Yucas, my previous spot for cochinita pibil, a run for their money. The tinga de pollo has a chile pepper drawing next to it, indicating that it’s spicy and yes, it is definitely a not-foolin’ around spicy. I usually save that one for last or else I can’t taste the other tacos after it.
What’s icing on the cake is that Guisados also offers a couple of vegetarian and possibly vegan tacos (if you ask them to leave off the cheese). The vegetarian options aren’t as plentiful or as exciting sounding as the meat options, but it’s always nice to have. The days I was there, they had a grilled mushroom and cilantro taco as well as a zucchini taco. Unfortunately, most of the time, the amuse bouche of soup is not vegetarian.
On a street in Boyle Heights that boasts of hundreds of other places to get tacos and tamales, it’s hard for a new restaurant to stand out. What Guisados has to offer is a regionally different taco filling, and attention to ingredients. After one chat with the owner, it’s apparent that he really cares about the quality of his ingredients, how his taco fillings turn out, and his customers. One of the times I visited was in the middle of Lent and he admitted to having more fish and vegetable options on the menu to cater to his Catholic customers who still want a delicious taco. How’s that for customer service?
2100 E Cesar Chavez Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90033