A place of Oaxacan cuisine…in Koreatown.
It felt like party when I walked inside.
Granted it was a Saturday, and I’m in Koreatown, a section of town that you may not necessarily think of when you think of great Mexican food. But I’m inside Guelaguetza, one of the best Mexican restaurants in town.
So, by way of background, let me offer this from Guelaguetza’s website:
Our family was born in Oaxaca and migrated to the US in 1994. Ever since then, our goal has been to showcase not only our family recipes, but also the hard work and dedication that goes into each of them. Each year, we travel to Oaxaca, and hand pick our ingredients, and carefully select the people we partner with.
Guelaguetza is a restaurant, boutique market, and advocates for Oaxacan culture located in the heart of Korea-town in Los Angeles.
Our motivation behind our products is simple: uncompromising quality. The products found in our store have taken years of development, and we hope that when taking your first taste of our Mole, or your first sip of our Michelada, you are transported into what Oaxaca means to us…a true Guelaguetza.
One of the things Guelaguetza is known for is their particular take on Mole Sauce, which is something I’ve had to be careful of in the past. Mole is the generic name for a number of sauces originally used in Mexican cuisine. Here, it comes on everything. On the Food, on the Chips you’re served as you wait. Heck, they sell jars of their special blend in a small company store you pass just as you leave.
So…the Koreatown thing. Yeah, it’s a bit odd that it’s here amongst all these fine palaces of Bulgogi, Banchan and Soon Tofu (among others). Even the shape of Guelaguetza suggests that it once was a Asian place in the past, now taken over and retrofitted for Latin flavors you may not be aware of.
You walk in, and mind you’re walking in from the back. The front door, the door where the sign is, yeah that’s locked. Don’t worry about it.
It’s loud inside, but a vibrant kind of loud. People are everywhere. And because there isn’t a lot in the way of windows, you might be forgiven for thinking it’s dead inside. Trust me it’s not. People know there’s good food here and are only too happy to come and get it. There’s even a dedicated stage for live music on weekends. I think I just missed it.
Just as well. I’m in the mood for Pork, and Pork I shall have.
I’m led to a comfortable table a bit away from the main floor. The surface is colorfully hypnotic, I…just…had…to…take…picture of…wow.
But the Chips arrive and the spell is broken, and after that a waterfall of porky goodness.
Guelaguetza is actually pretty damn amazing. I now find I need to seriously adjust my list of my favorite Mexican places in Los Angeles. Guelaguetza is spacious, and carries an irresistible energy. I want to go back. My plan is on bringing friends.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: The Salsa de Carne Frita I had at Guelaguetza was one of the best Mexican Meals I’ve had all year. Now Salsa de Carne Frita are basically Fried pork ribs covered in a spicy tomato sauce, and this is a good, good Spicy Tomato Sauce. This place sells Mole Sauce by the jar, and…while I didn’t check…I think it’d be a stupendous idea to sell this stuff by the jar as well.
Seriously. I was thinking about having it as my beverage choice.
The Pork was fried perfectly, crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. It almost reminded me of the stuff I had at Kusina Filipina…
…except theirs came without that delicious, drinkable Spicy Tomato Sauce.
Oh, and I also nabbed me the Molotes de Papa con Chorizo. These are basically fried Dumplings with Pork Sausage in them. Mostly delicious.
Look, I’ll confess. The Molotes came at the exact same time as the Salsa de Carne Frita, so I had a choice. After lopping up those delicious, delicious Chips (covered in the restaurants House Mole sauce), and looking at my main dish, it was a tough choice, but I just brought the Molotes home and ate ‘em later.
Besides, I thought I was ordering them as appetizers. What happened, Guelaguetza? What happened?
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Let me repeat what I said in the main story. There is a door parked right underneath the main Guelaguetza sign. Don’t use it. It should be locked, but they want everyone to go in through the back. It’ll be more than obvious when you park.
Which brings us to the parking.
PARKING: Yeah. Guelaguetza is all about their Valet powered lot. That’s about it. You can try parking on the street, either Irolo or Olympic, but when they’re filled up on a Saturday afternoon, you can go ahead and assume they’ll be filled up on any old night, if you know what I mean.
Save yourself the trouble. Park with the Valets.
I know, the lot doesn’t look like much, but they handle their business.
3014 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90006
Tel: (213) 427-0608
Monday-Thursday: 9:00 am – 10:00 pm
Friday-Saturday: 9:00 am – 11:00 pm
Sunday: 8:00 am – 10:00 pm