Eastsiiide…Having lived in the Arts District of Downtown LA for several years now, I am a bit ashamed to admit that the Husband and I have not adequately taken advantage of our proximity to Boyle Heights and explored its rich food possibilities. I would venture to say its a probable combination of both fear and laziness. Fear of the unknown plus knowledge that soon enough, a handy-dandy, oh so easily accessible list of places would soon be blessed and posted online by the Jonathan Golds and Anthony Bourdains of the eating world. Long had we been lured by tales of delicious, simmering sauces ladled onto the Mexican dishes of our dreams, sopped up by soft as silk homemade tortillas that could sail a thousand barcos. But still we waited. I wondered whether this meant we had become the dining equivalent of travelers who flocked to Cuba only after Lonely Planet published a guidebook. Hmmm. Finally on a random uneventful weekday, spurred into action by a recent Evan Kleinman (KCRW) segment on eating in Boyle Heights, we pulled the trigger and crossed over the First Street bridge. It was time see what all the chatter was about. It was time to check out Guisados.
Guisados, a somewhat recently opened taqueria (2010), is located on Cesar Chavez Boulevard, a main artery in the colorful and historical Boyle Heights neighborhood of southeastern Los Angeles. What initially drew me in, and what will forever have me returning, are the tortillas. These poufs of goodness are made from nixtamal which is freshly ground into masa in a large stone grinder by none other than the owner’s brother (who does this all in his market/panaderia next door). The end result is fresher than fresh, never-older-than-thirty-minutes, melt-in-your-mouth masa which you can definitely taste in these tortillas. Plus if you’re a sucker like me, your heart will be warmed by this picture of congenial familial confluence. I’m no math person, but what immediately popped into my head was the mathematical analogy specifically calculated for Los Angeles residents. Guisados’ tortillas : tacos :: Bay Cities’ bread : sandwiches.
Having done my research and being the inveterate indecisive orderer, I knew the taco sampler was an absolute must. With six mini tacos (bargain priced at under $7; regular sized tacos are $2.50 each and are a hearty portion as well), I chose a sampling of tinga de pollo, mole de pollo, mushrooms, cochinita pibil (pork) and beef tacos. Each one packed a punch as the sweet and smoky flavors seemed to leap into my mouth. The pickled onions, cool avocado and fiery don’t f- with me jalapeño sauce served as edible signposts to mark our progress during this ten minute taco jaunt down sensory lane. My favorites were the tinga de pollo, the mushroom and the mole de pollo. We also took advantage of the Lent specials scrawled on the chalkboard menu and split a ceviche, which was a refreshing counterpart to the stewed taco fillings. It instantly transported us back to the delicious ceviche spots we sought out and coveted during a trip to Cozumel years ago. As we slowly and wistfully got into the car and drove away, I made a mental note to try the tamale, calabicitas taco and the agua frescas on our next visit, while the Husband swore the unordered chicharron and horchata were calling his name.
Guisados (and Boyle Heights), we shall return.