I've written gushingly about Guisados in Boyle Heights, which still serves my favorite taco in Los Angeles. Follow me to this vibrant LA neighborhood just east of Downtown to see how tradition and family infuse the food at Guisados--and why they are building an LA empire, with additions in Echo Park and Downtown LA.
Let’s talk about the best taco in Los Angeles. I know it’s dangerous territory I’m treading on here, but I feel confident in my choice. I may not look like a taco aficionado, but I’ve actually got some cred when it comes to Mexican cuisine. For starters, I have been vetted by my Mexican fiancé. Also, not to brag, but my spice threshold is no joke for a gringa. I like my tacos spicy, and my preferred fillings are the really tender cuts of meat that shine in Mexican preparations, like lengua and cabeza. A year ago, I would have sworn that El Chato, the truck you can find late nights at Olympic and La Brea, had the best taco in town. And they do serve truly delicious tacos for $1 apiece. Those perfectly charred little salty scraps of cheap cuts of meat “con todo” topped with a few slivers of habanero-soaked onion are nearly untouchable. But there’s more to a taco than the filling, and it’s really the sum of the parts in Guisados tacos that create a true symphony in your mouth. The foundation of the taco is the corn tortilla, which Guisados hand makes fresh daily. Their tortillas are thick and chewy and savory, delicious enough to eat by themselves. That’s a rare delight. The fillings rotate, and the day’s wares are displayed on the chalkboard. One of my favorite things about Guisados is the 6 mini-taco sampler platter, which I invariably opt for. I always want to try everything, but some mainstays that are definitely winners are the steak in salsa roja and the cochinita pibil. The cochinita pibil can be ordered on a spice scale from 1-10+, with 10+ being a blow-your-face-off pile of habanero, arbol and serrano chiles atop shredded pork smothered in habanero salsa. I like to order mine (mini sized) at an 8 or 9, which is still sufficiently crazy spicy. I also love the veggie tacos, especially the mushroom. Beautiful vegetarian tacos like these are not to be found at any of LA’s great taco trucks.
Every Guisados taco has great flavor, so you can’t really go wrong. Unless, of course, you neglect to order a quesadilla. A Guisados quesadilla is a simple thing, just a folded over corn tortilla with a thick slice of chewy, salty cheese inside and a squirt of some sort of orange colored sauce. It’s not a traditional quesadilla—the cheese is grilled, not melted—but it’s simply divine.
In a city that boasts the best Mexican food in the United States, of course there is no one taco that is worth forsaking all others. But Guisados serves a really formidable, crave-able taco that I keep returning for, despite the distance from SaMo to Boyle Heights.