While trying to keep yourself toasty this winter, think outside the Ugg boots and heater. Staying warm in the winter for me means doing it low and slow, which translated into Get-Your-Mind-Out-Of-The-Gutterese means braising and stewing. When that thermometer dips, there's nothing better to eat than some hearty, tender food that's full of flavor, falls apart easily yet still maintains integrity. So while you're searching for something to warm your stomach and soul, why not try some Latin stews and braises at Guisados, the latest venture from the people who brought us Cook's Tortas?
For those of us who have been to Cooks Tortas, a few things at this brand new Boyle Heights eatery are familiar: the floor-to-ceiling chalkboard that tells us what's on the menu that day, big jars of aguas frescas that make you feel refreshed by simply looking at them grace the counter, and wall decor like this menudo sign that reflects chef and co-owner Ricardo Díaz's easy going nature and sense of humor.
Díaz found the abandoned sign nearby and thought it was hilarious that whoever made it ran out of space when writing "menudo" but didn't bother taking it out. [Word and print geeks laugh now.]
Tacos de guisado--tacos topped with the restaurant's daily selection of stews and braises-- are what Guisados is all about. At $2-$3-something a pop, they're more expensive than the buck-to-buck-fifty tacos we're used to picking up at our favorite taquerias, trucks, and stands, but they're also a lot more filling. And as with Cooks, the carby outside of the offerings at Guisados doesn't overshadow the fillings but rather, really lets them shine. Slightly coarse around the edges and slightly thicker than the tortilla I'm normally used to, the handmade tortillas here have an unrefined quality which is actually a good thing in this case.
The tinga de pollo was chicken stewed with a chorizo-based sofrito, onions, and cabbage. Sweet and slightly spicy, its heartiness made me think of a Sunday supper with family at home. A chunk of cool avocado was a nice cooling compliment to such a warming dish.
The steak picado had tender chunks of skirt steak cooked a la mexicana with peppers and onions. It wasn't my favorite of what we tried that day but it was still a solid choice.
But the dishes that reminded me of why I adore braising so much were Guisados' chicharrón and mole de pollo. Chicharrón, or fried pork skin, is amazing on its own but add it to a tasty braise and it takes on a whole other level of deliciousness. The crackly rinds are like a sponge, soaking in the salsa verde and taking on an airy yet al dente consistency while also adding a funky smokiness to the whole thing.
Mole de pollo was everything you'd expect in a good mole: hints of spiciness, sweetness, bitterness and nuttiness working in unison. Sesame and pumpkin seeds added a nice contrasting crunch.
The calabacitas featured a succotash of zucchini, corn, tomatoes and pepper. As a veggie whore, I appreciated that there was a vegetable option, and the tangy and slightly spicy flavors of the succotash were just fine. I did, however, find the consistency to be too watery for a taco. I ended up eating most of this one with a fork.
But wait, there's more! Guisados makes tamales with their stews like the tamal shown above with that mole de pollo I loved so much. And they're only a buck-fifty each. If I lived closer to Guisados, I'd buy one of these for breakfast or lunch or a snack every day. And I'd probably weigh 500 pounds as well.
There were no desserts on the menu yet, but Díaz told us he was experimenting with possible offerings. We were lucky enough to test drive a brown sugar, mascarpone cheese and sweetened condensed milk mixture that Díaz had slathered on a handmade sweet tortilla; I don't recall if it had a name, but whatever it's called, I certainly hope it lands a spot on the chalkboard soon!
With so many delicious, hearty options available at Guisados, and with its namesake, a Mexico City specialty, becoming more widely available in LA (check out Elina Shatkin/LA Weekly's and Bill Esparza/Street Gourmet LA's posts here and here about Tacos Carmelita in MacArthur Park to see what I'm talkin' bout) I see many tacos de guisado warming my gut this winter or heck, even after I've packed the Uggs away.
2100 Cesar Chavez
Los Angeles, CA 90033
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