Mexican

Guisados – Tortillas Make and Break it

by Franklin on October 7, 2013

There comes a time when your regular taco from the corner won’t do it. Just some regular asada with hot sauce and chopped onion and cilantro, all on a heated tortilla? Actually, that sounds pretty all right — but Guisados does something different. All of their ingredients are simmered and

With hortchata and jamaica in hand, we found a seat. As I patiently wait for our tacos, I notice the horchata isn’t just made from some boxed up syrup. It tasted like horchata, not sugary milk water. The very cinnamony, and quite refreshing taste of rice and nuts really shined through in this drink. The jamaica was good too, with a nice sweet and slightly tart taste. They were perfect as I await for my tacos.

Guisados are coveted as some of the best tacos in Los Angeles. I even received threatening emails saying Guisados is better than King Taco, saying “How can you say King Taco is the best? Have you even tried Guisados?” Thinking it was kind of weird, I didn’t really jump the gun on Guisados. It was more of a “I will go when I go” kind of thing. Honestly, the tacos were overrated. Not to say, the ingredients were the lesser or tasted worse. The ingredients were actually pretty good. It was the tortilla that killed it. Touted as having freshly made tortillas, I felt it hurt the operation. The sampler tacos were basically discs of under-cooked masa. Was this a tortilla, or a non-fried sope? The tortilla was quite thick, and folding it to eat the taco was impossible; it would break in half. I mean, just looking at the picture, you can see how thick this thing was. This was a disaster.

As far as the flavors, it was all great. The steak picado, bisteak en salsa roja, tinga (Tinga is made with shredded chicken and onions simmered in a thick chipotle sauce), mole poblano, cochinita pibil (slow roasted pork). All were great on their own. Only if the tortilla was on point, everything would have been superb.

The small hole in the wall, now a franchise has a good thing going, if done right. A little extra care in the tortilla making process would go a long way. My review was a bit harsh, but it was the truth. Fix the tortillas, and we got something special now.

Guisados on Urbanspoon

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I always pass by Border Grill on Figueroa on a daily basis. Right across from the Bonaventure Hotel, where Bona Vista Lounge and L.A. Prime is, this corner of Figueroa and 5th street always reminds me of these restaurants. Border Grill though, was always a “must” whenever I passed by, and I can’t tell you how many times I thought of just stopping right in front, sitting down, and ordering something. All I needed was that push from Border Grill to make an appointment.

To start off, we had chips and salsa. The chips light and airy, and the salsa was fresh. My favorite was the mole salsa. It had a nice complex rich flavor.

The Yucatan pork was interestingly delicious. The achiote pork was slow roasted in banana leaf with a mixture of caramelized onion and orange. Sitting on a plate of cinnamon honey lime yams, the sweet and savory factor worked. The pork was succulent and the yams were smooth. The caramelized brussel sprouts were a bit odd on this plate. I felt like another green would have suited this dish better. I did like the pineapple jicama salsa on top for that added crunch. Eating these with tortillas made me really full. A side of rice would have been lighter and would have complimented the dish nicely.

It was happy hour, and the beer-battered sustainable fish tacos were quite impressive. Topped with an avocado crema and salsa fresca, the fried fish was offset by the cool avocado and salsa. The other taco, carne asada was good too. Topped with caramelized onions, salsa fresca, and guacamole, it was like the perfect taco. The beef brisket tacquito was delicious as well. The meat was slow roasted, then the tortilla was fried. Topped with a spicy slaw, guacamole, and salsa fresca, the crunchy fried “taco” was a whole lot better than the ones I get at 7-11. It seems like anything topped with their addicting guacamole was delicious. These tacos were quite impressive, and at $3 a pop during happy hour, it was a great deal!

For desser, we had the churro tots. Just by the name churro tots, I had an idea of what these were going to be. I was surprised to find out that these bad boys had dulce de leche infused inside of them. Not only that, but the three dipping sauces of chocolate, caramel dipping sauce, and whipped cream was an added bonus. Not only did these things have dulce de leche inside, and not only did it have a dipping sauce, it also was dusted with cinnamon and sugar, like a churro should. These sugary fritters were incredibly sweet, and a great ending to our meal.

“Should I have just went with the happy hour menu?”, is what I thought to myself. In hind sight, I think I should have. I enjoyed the tacos and the bar food type items. They were cheaper, more delicious, and had guacamole on it. How could I not like that? Honestly, Border Grill is better as a bar. Especially located in Downtown, there were a lot of working professionals gathering here for drinks and good Mexican food. The price is right and the atmosphere is perfectly casual and stylish. I wouldn’t mind coming here more often after work to grab a beer and some tacos. Just don’t forget the guac!

Border Grill on Urbanspoon

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Historically, Olvera Street is in the oldest part of Downtown Los Angeles. Founded by Spanish settlers, Olvera Street was part of the early stages of the development of Los Angeles. Ironically, Olvera Street is located in Chinatown. We are talking pre Mexican American War and Gold Rush days. That is a lot of history that belongs to this little street. With the Latino centered community came a great number of restaurants. One restaurant I visited while checking out Olvera Street was La Golondrina Mexicana Cafe. Built around 1857, La Golondrina is the oldest firebrick building in Los Angeles! Originally intended as a house, in 1930, it became the first Mexican restaurant in Los Angels and possibly America. With this much history, I was excited to give it a try.

The chips and salsa were plenty. They kept adding more and more as we devoured the chips. In hind sight, we probably shouldn’t have eaten so many chips because we were so full before our entrees came out. They weren’t the best chips or the freshest salsa, but they were addicting. If you want the good stuff, order their freshly made guacamole — it was as simple and authentic as you can get it. I realized that my guacamole has too much lime juice in it. All in all though, it wasn’t a bad start.

I was really disappointed at the chicken flautas. I once ordered chicken flautas at a random Mexican restaurant and thought those were really authentic. It had a crispy exterior with good chunks of chicken inside. The flautas at La Golondrina really upset me. I was expecting the real deal, and why wouldn’t I? Literally, the flautas looked and tasted like the taquitos from 7-11. They came out all fanicly cut in half, but they easily could have been from Costco. The exterior wasn’t crunchy, nor was it even corn tortilla. It was just a doughy exterior with some kind of seasoned chicken filling. Sorry to say, but these were not flautas.

I did enjoy the chicken enchilada de mole. There were two chicken enchiladas drenched in a pool of mole. The mole was sweeter than most, but the flavors were rich and complex. At first bite, it was hot and burned my tongue. As the mole cooled off, the flavors were quiet nice. The side of rice helped neutralize the flavors. If the mole was less sweet and more earthy, it would have been a perfect sauce. Nonetheless, La Golondrina is known for their mole and is a good dish to try. If you are a fan of mole, you must order a dish with it.

It was a fun experience. Sitting outside in the middle of Olvera Street and in the oldest building in Los Angeles, it was a great historical outing. What can be better than hanging out with friends and family, drinking margaritas and sangria, and eating great Mexican food? Nothing. The experience was wonderful. Even the singers came around our table and serenaded us with his guitar. The experience was as authentic as can be and we owe it all to the historical genuineness of it all. With history and old buildings also come myths and stories. I was told during my dinner conversation that the building is supposedly haunted. I am sure it is all a myth, but there have been sightings of a lady in white on the second floor window. It did used to be a house, and the old bedrooms are now offices. There has to be some kind of creepy factor when you are talking about the oldest building in Los Angeles. Creeped out only slightly, I was still glad it was daylight out. Sunset hit, and we all went home.

La Golondrina Mexican Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Pink Taco – Mall Food Gets Cheesy and Corny

by Franklin on October 27, 2012

I knew there was a Pink Taco in Las Vegas, but I am not sure it if it is the same one as the one in Los Angeles. Under the website, it doesn’t list the Las Vegas one as their locations. I mean, the theme and menu as long as the feel of the two restaurants seem the same, but I am not quite sure if it is the same. Though there are two in the west LA area, I went to the one in the Westfield Century City Mall. Upon entering through the familiar over-sized door, the interior was casual. We started off with Sangria with chips and salsa at the bar. The sangria was refreshing and fruity — I am not much of a drinker so I can’t compare. The chips and salsa were good and plenty — The salsa needed work but the chips were crispy. They weren’t super crunchy, but light and a good start.


Their carne asada quesadilla was my favorite. It wasn’t cooked in a particular way — it was just a standard carne asada quesadilla. It had marinated sirloin steak, toasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, and chipotle peppers inside. Their fresh guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream all went perfectly with this quesadilla. The mixture of melted jack cheese and steak was rich and gooey. I wouldn’t mind if all quesadillas were this tasty.

One of the items on the menu I really wanted to try was their sweet corn tamale. Served open faced, it consisted of fresh ground masa, roasted poblano chilies, queso fresco, grilled corn, pico de gallo, with crema on top. The grilling of the corn brought out the sweetness and the poblano chilies gave it a nice spice. The queso fresco gave it that savory taste and the crema helped meld everything together. The taste of sweet, salty, and spicy married so well — I can’t believe how much I enjoyed something that didn’t have meat in it.

For a chain, a chain serving Mexican food especially, it was bearable. The food here isn’t boring like most chains. I honestly thought the food was standard done as it should be. Not to say that the food is mediocre, but just “everyday” good. The atmosphere is casual and the prices are mid range. The bar scene seems to be popular here as there is a large outside patio. I was comfortable just sitting at the bar, grubbing on chips and salsa. Most malls would be lucky to have a Pink Taco inside. The Westfield Century City is pretty decent mall — the addition of having Pink Taco makes it that much better.

Pink Taco on Urbanspoon

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LA Street Tacos – Nameless

by Franklin on April 10, 2012

On my way home from work, I sometimes see a Mexican taco stand on the sidewalk. This is not a truck mind you, it is straight up set up on the sidewalk. They even had lights for when it became dark. This is totally illegal as they do not hold any permits or licenses — no health and safety inspection, nothing. I see them grilling and selling tacos and what not all the time. This one particular day, I took the bait and I finally stopped for a bite. Let me tell you, this was not a mistake.

I looked around and saw what they had. They had a flat top grill station, charcoal grill, table full of condiments, and even home made horchata. I asked the guy for 2 carne asada tacos and 2 chorizo tacos. The cook grilled up my meats on an open grill, then finished them off on the flat top. I then laid on the sauce along with onions and cilantro — all which were prepared at their home or somewhere else. I ordered a horchata to make it an even 5 bucks. Home made everything tacos and a drink for 5 bucks is amazing.

These tacos were delicious beyond words. The bite of the meat and the onions and cilantro was perfect. Even the hot sauces were good. I liked the smoky flavor that the meat had from the grill. Usually the chorizo I buy at the market is like a paste, but theirs was sausage like. These guys really knew what they were doing.

I was so proud of my find, that I came back the same night with my cousin and brother. My brother got a humongous burrito, and my cousin and I got some more tacos. I liked that they put the rice and meat in the burrito, gave it to my brother to add whatever he wanted — they wrapped the burrito afterwards for us. At this point, I was full, and happy that I had a chance to try this food.

There was one thing that caught my eye. As I gave the guy my money for the food, he was thankful for the business he was getting. He took the money, looked up to the sky, and thanked God for it. Then and there, it really allowed me to appreciate everything I had. To me, it was a measly 5 bucks, but to him, it was a blessing. This really opened my eyes. Food wasn’t just something “delicious” anymore — it was more than that.

Every time I pass that spot and look, they aren’t there anymore. Maybe they were given a citation or warning from law enforcement. I don’t know what happened to them, but I always hope that they are there. Either way, I still hold on to the memory of those tacos. I think it’s the place where these tacos come from that make it so delicious. It’s not from some business driven chain or money hungry restaurant owner. These tacos are homemade, brought to the streets, from hard working individuals. They know the true value of the dollar and their passion for food is evident.

I guess I’m not too distressed from their disappearance. I know Los Angeles will lead me to another street tacos once again.

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