Sunday, March 2, 2014

Guisados - Los Angeles

Andrew told me about a place that served great tacos located in Boyle Heights, called Guisados. His work provides lunch for him each day and his boss had a fixation with this place. During one long stressful project they had lunch from Guisados every single day, to the point that all of the employees were getting sick of it. His boss always ordered the same two tacos every day, one that was entirely hot peppers, nothing else. It was so hot that she was the only one among them that could eat it. Andrew particularly liked a mole taco. Since this particular work project had ended, they'd stopped the daily lunch at Guisados and had branched out to some other places. But he'd tried Guisados again recently and realized how much he really liked it, especially not having to eat it every day. We'd just had lunch, but I couldn't resist trying this place out. A taco with only peppers on it? One so hot nobody but the boss could eat it. I'd never had anything like it. So after dropping Andrew off at work nearby I decided to stop at Guisados and order some tacos "to go" for my way back home. Guisados gets 4.5 starts on Yelp with 1,054 reviews. 

This was my first time in Boyle Heights and parking was tough. I went around different blocks multiple times and finally parked about three blocks away on a residential street up a hill. From the front, Guisados is one of the nicer looking businesses along the street. Inside there is nothing fancy, some local art on the walls and a menu written in chalk on a large chalkboard behind and above where they are putting together the tacos. The restaurant was crowded. People were waiting in line to order the entire time I was there. 

There was no mistaking the hot chili taco. It was listed as chiles toreados on the board and had three hot chilies, almost like exclamation marks, to the side of it. Only two other tacos had hot chilies to the side - one of them had two and the other one. I can't find a translation for toreados, but I do find a Food Network recipe for chiles toreados which calls for rubbing whole chiles with oil, then roasting them in a hot pan for ten or 15 minutes until they char and blister. It recommends using jalapenos or serranos. When I did finally tried the chiles toreados it lived up to its billing. I took one bite and it was overwhelmingly hot. Not like the time I ate an entire habanero pepper and then spent the next 45 minutes with a hose in my mouth, but hot enough to consume my thoughts for several minutes. I bundled the rest of the taco up and saved it for later. Later I picked through the ingredients, trying to figure out what was in it. It had some black beans, a few onion strands and then different peppers. There were some small pieces of orange pepper, likely habanero. There were some of the small red peppers like what you find in Chinese cooking. There were some serrano peppers and I believe some jalapeno peppers as well. The peppers were blistered and some were a little crunchy. For me it was all heat and very little taste. A little bit of it on a taco with some other ingredients would be great. As is, it was a masochists meal.
chiles toreados taco
The camarones or shrimp taco had plump moist shrimp in a pinkish sauce with red and green bell pepper slices. The tortilla is corn, fairly thick, but tender and pliable. This was mild and very good.
camarones taco
The mole poblano taco came with shredded chicken, a few thin strips of Bermuda onion, a small amount of white cheese and lots and lots of mole sauce. I'm not a big mole fan, but this was very, very good. It wasn't bitter, but not real sweet either. This is one I would give a high priority to ordering again.
mole poblano taco
The cochinita pibil has two chiles on the menu beside it, so the second hottest item on the menu. You can order it with a hotness from 1 to 10 and I was told a 3 is regular. I ordered a 6. Cochinita pibil is slow-roasted pork traditionally from the Yucatan. The meat is marinated in acidic citrus juice, colored with annatto seed, and the meat is roasted while wrapped in a banana leaf. This may have been my favorite taco, just ahead of the mole poblano. It had a bed of black beans, the shredded pork had an orangish color from the annatto and small strips of onion were cut up in it. Very moist, very nice flavor and it had some heat, but the heat was accompanied by the great flavor, so it was less distracting.
cochinita pibil taco
The pescado taco had nice filet meat grilled without breading, in a mixture of purple cabbage, regular cabbage, tomatoes, onion and black beans. I was not wild about the taste of the sauce and it could have used more fish. I like fish tacos at some other places more.
pescado taco
 Andrew told me he orders a quesadilla and they put whatever kind of meat on it you want. His favorite was the quesadilla with chorizo. I think of a quesadilla as two pieces of tortilla with melted cheese between them. Andrew said these were similar to the tacos - a tortilla folded over with the choice of meat. So I ordered it and it was very good. It was probably my third favorite. The chorizo was flavorful, but not overwhelming like some I've had recently. I suspect it was mixed with cheese. 
chorizo quesadilla
It is a little pricey at $2.50 a taco, and small tacos at that. But they are unique as far as my experience goes, other than the pescado which I've had similar variations of. For sure a place worth going to.


  1. Fun, authentic place with a big variety. The corn tortillas are worth mentioning--fresh and flavorful. I also loved my jugo de melon.

  2. A taco with only hot peppers? I thought I saw smoke rising in the west!