Don’t misread the title of this post – I mean BEST TACOS IN LA, not qualified by any diet or ‘free-from’. They just happen to be gluten-free. When I discovered Guisados, it redefined my taco standards. I’m not exaggerating. Whereas most taco joints slap some spiced grilled meats into a pre-made tortilla (and don’t get me wrong, some of those can be quite yummy), Guisados is a totally different story. They make their tortillas from scratch from just high quality non-GMO corn and lime juice, then each location hand-presses them and cooks them right there on the spot, as you’re placing your order. The result is a thicker, slightly cakey and flavorful tortilla that bears little resemblance to its thin elastic store-bought counterpart.
And that’s not even the best part. The star of the show is the fillings of the tacos, their “guisados”, which literally translates into “stews”. Guisados’ stews are slow-cooked for hours using an array of ingredients and spices. Each stew reflects a family recipe from a different region in Mexico. Clarissa, the daughter of Guisados’ founder, remembers her grandma making the calabacitas (veggie medley featuring squash) when she was a kid. She remembers eating the same breakfast tacos they now serve on Sunday mornings growing up watching the Three Stooges. These stews are packed with a layered hearty flavor, and each taco has its own character – some are spicier, some sweeter. My favorite is the Steak Picado. Clarissa’s is the Cochinita Pibil.
Guisados was founded in 2010 in Boyle Heights by then real estate businessman Armando de la Torre and chef Ricardo Diaz. Both came from established families in the community. In 2012 the two parted ways and de la Torre continued the business as a family affair. His son Armando Jr. is his right-hand man, and his daughter Clarissa (with whom we spoke) is intimately involved in running the day to day operations. The tortillas for all of their tacos are made in the panaderia next door to the original Boyle Heights location, which is owned by Armando Sr.’s brother. In fact, almost everyone that works in one of their 3 locations (with a 4th one coming soon in West Hollywood) is either family or related to someone else that works there. Clarissa thinks that this sense of family and community is one of the things that makes Guisados so welcoming and successful. Even the art on their walls is by local community artists.
Guisados’ original Boyle Heights clientele was mainly local families and workers from the local hospital, construction and the metro. The feel of the place is relaxed, informal, and family-oriented. At times it feels like a big family party, especially when the local mariachi band stops in to play a few songs! When they opened their second location in Echo Park, and when Armando Jr. started using social media to promote the business, they attracted a new clientele – younger people, more foodies, more Westsiders. They also started getting lots of questions about their ingredients and accommodating dietary restrictions.
Everything on Guisados’ menu is naturally gluten-free. They can easily make adjustments for dairy-free and vegan requests, especially with advance notice. Each location boasts a food allergy board, which lists all the possible allergens (and more) that may be in their tacos.
Tacos in general may be a gluten-free girl or guy’s best friend, but these tacos are an Angeleno’s best friend. If you live in LA or are just visiting, I would put Guisados at the top of your LA food list for a delicious, authentic, community-oriented dining experience!