We like Guisados. We love Guisados. We heart Guisados. We ate Guisados the night my first book was launched into the world (see below!). We took our niece to Guisados on her taco tour of Los Angeles. It was her favorite. We just took our brother/-in-law there after a family memorial, and he loved it, too, as the depth and slowness and richness of the tacos on a sad drive home filled with rain and lightning and thunder was just, exactly, at that moment, the right thing.
It sort of always is the right thing, though–that’s how it works with good tacos. Ordering at Guisados the first time is easy: just get the six mini taco sampler ($8.50). Pick and choose or let the person at the counter do it for you, and you’ll be in good shape. Almost everything is, of course, a guisado, meaning most simply a stew of slow simmered meats, vegetables, broths, sauces, and spices until it all becomes a single unified one-ness of layered and complex flavors (there’s a great video about the process on their website, featuring Jesus Lopez, one of the chefs; the small local chain was founded by Armando de la Torre Sr. and Jr., respectively, in 2010; Boyle Heights is the original location, now one of seven, stretching from Pasadena to Beverly Hills–plus they have this fantastic artist program).
If you haven’t been to Guisados, here’s the rundown: they make tacos. Steak simmered with bell peppers and bacon, steak simmered with tomatoes and chili, chicken in poblano mole, chicken tinga (tomato, cabbage, chipotle), chicharron or pork chop cubes in chile verde, cochinita pibil (one of the great Yucatecan dishes), chorizo, just black beans, just cheese, of course stews of various vegetables, mushrooms, and nopales, and even various seafood tacos.
The standard size tacos (most are $3.45) are hefty chonks, easily worth the price, not only in terms of quantity but mostly for the quality: these take hours and hours of slow simmering to bring the full and varied flavors to life, and they taste nothing at all like the normal grilled meat tacos you’re probably more used to eating. We love basically all the Guisados tacos–most especially the chile verdes and the bistek en salsa roja:
If there were a nagging voice of doubt in the back of our heads about Guisados, it might be this: the taco form might not be the best way to eat delicious stews. While most all ‘street’ (aka authentic) tacos fall on the soft-on-soft scale, these are about as soft-on-soft as soft-on-soft gets … and as you fold the hand-made tortilla and lift it toward your mouth, that delicious stew licuado has nothing to do but run down the poor tortilla crack, dripping in unseemily greasy ways onto the paper-topped platter. It’s not the splattery visual that’s the small tragedy–it’s the loss of all that beautiful liquid. (Would I lick the plate if no one were around? Absolutely.)
A question: Are there better ways than tacos to eat delicious Mexican stews? Maybe. I wonder if the tamal might be an interesting conveyance: that creaminess of steamed cornmeal could turn these stews into silky, earthen, savory puddings. At home, when we make a delicious if problematic since it was basically stolen from Mexico by Rick Bayless Rick Bayless guisado, we tend toward nachos, as the crunch of the tortilla chips adds a great textural contrast, just as you’ll find with a good plate of chilaquiles. Or often as not, we just fill a bowl with the stew and eat it with a spoon. Hard to beat.
Anyway: eat Guisados. It will make you happy. Look how happy everyone is!