Tom and I are culinary enthusiasts. Every weekend we have free, we dedicate ourselves to discovering Southern California’s thriving food and beverage culture. From San Diego to LA, no matter where we land, we will do our best to find something spectacular or unique.
Walking around Koreatown in Central Los Angeles, Tom and I are enthralled by the plethora of Korean restaurants, supermarkets, pubs and spas. We enjoy strolling along streets lined with Art Deco buildings. The neighborhood is sprawling community of not only Koreans, but those of Latin descent. We became aware of this fact when we noticed a large congregation of people waiting outside for a table at a Oaxacan restaurant in Koreatown. Naturally, Tom and I decided to check it out.
As it turns out, Guelaguetza is a family-operated restaurant. In fact, it is one of the best Oaxacan restaurants in LA, if not the entire country. The restaurant is honored with mentions in a multitude of “Best of” lists. Additionally, they received a James Beard America’s Classics award. We didn’t know this when we entered the restaurant. Tom and I just wanted to find out why there is a popular Mexican restaurant in Koreatown.
Casual, eclectic, and family friendly, Guelaguetza is a fun place to dine. Walk into the sprawling dining area and enjoy the live music that takes place each evening as well as during the early afternoon on weekends. It’s a fantastic way to transport yourself from Koreatown LA to Oaxaca, Mexico!
The food and drinks:
The restaurant’s handle (ilovemole) says it all. Go for the mole. With six different variations from which to choose, you will certainly find a favorite or two! I enjoy the black and the red moles, both filled with dark sweet and savory flavors. If you’re not sure about mole, you will get a chance to give it a try. Every table starts off with tortilla chips doused in red mole and sprinkled with queso fresco. Honestly, I am happy just eating this all night.
There is a wonderful selection of family platters teeming with meats, seafood, and other Oaxacan delights. Try a tlayuda. It’s essentially a Mexican-style pizza. Visit your adventurous side with an appetizer of chapulines. Not sure what that is? It’s grasshoppers! Tom and I love both styles served. One is simply the critters sautéed in olive oil, salt, and pepper. The other is sautéed with ingredients that include jalapenos, onions, and tomatoes.
The beverage selection is incredible. Want to walk on the wild side? Have a shot of tequila with a worm in it. Or go for a more traditional margarita made with Oaxaca’s agave liquor, mescal. It is the smoky distilled version of silver tequila. Tom’s absolute favorite drink is the michelada. This michelada is unlike any we have tasted. We read the ingredients of their michelada mix and it sounds like it has all of the usual components. However, somehow it is much different. It is much tastier and a little mix goes a long way (and it doesn’t dilute your beer)!
*Come prepared to enjoy the unique flavors and cuisine of Oaxaca. This is not your everyday Mexican restaurant!
* Parking can be crazy in Koreatown. Pay $3.50 for the restaurant’s valet parking.
* Don’t be scared off by the throngs of people standing outside waiting for a table. If you are a group of 4 or less, the wait is less than 10 minutes (at least that is our experience).
* Do you LOVE their signature michelada mix and mole? How about the grasshoppers? If so, the restaurant has a convenient counter next to the exit that sells these items. Since we live 2 hours away, we always have to stop here and stock up on these items our way out.