Los Guachos Taqueria
The taco truck without wheels.
Los Guachos, a highly regarded taco truck parked near a nightclub on the west side, has extended its brand, so to speak, into the realm of brick and mortar. Los Guachos Taqueria is a small store in a shopping strip on the west side of Godown Road just north of Bethel Road.
The place was simple, but attractive, with a counter at the rear where you place your order from the large red menu posted overhead. If you come at the right time, you’ll see marinated spit-roasted pork on display, looking very much like the gyro hunk in a Greek restaurant.
The walls were a dim orange with white splashes and some bright framed pictures. There were massive wooden chairs and tables (topped with glass) that may be handcarved. On the tables were squeeze bottles of red and green salsa, a big bowl of lime pieces and toothpicks. The joint felt cheerful.
The menu was deceptively long, since dishes were constructed of the same basic ingredients. There were six meat choices: steak (asada), tripe (tripa), beef tongue (lengua), “breast of the cow” (a thin cut from the brisket, called suadero), chicken (pollo) and its popular marinated pork (al pastor).
All but the al pastor came in small crisp cubes, mostly cooked a little too long—so a little dry, with some loss of flavor. The chicken was less overcooked than the other meats, however. The al pastor was handsliced from the biggish chunk on the vertical grill. Word has it that you need to come after 4 pm for it to be ready. The two times I sampled the al pastor, it was nicely cooked and flavored. (There also were vegetarian options.)
Another choice to make was the delivery vehicle in which you wished your meat or vegetarian to be offered. The tacos were classic—two small warm corn tortillas, with a sprinkling of diced onions and cilantro. You can add salsa, lime juice and salt as you see fit. The taco al pastor included a thin slice of pineapple, which was really quite nice. It also came with chunks of radish and cucumber. Once, at lunch, the cukes were a little wilted.
Several entrees were built on grilled flour tortillas, which were invariably nice and fresh. Quesadillas were open face and they came with a sprinkling of what the menu said was mozzarella (although it was tastier than what you’d expect of that kind of cheese).
Or you can have a second flour tortilla to make a sort of sandwich called juana. This treatment added moistness, helping compensate for when the meat cubes were a little dry.
The same welcomed moistness also was provided by the torta version, another sort of Mexican sandwich. It was an oval, bunlike bread grilled somewhat like an Italian panino. There were good garnishes: cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, pinto beans, onions, avocado slices and, oddly enough, mayonnaise. The mayonnaise really worked, for some reason. Burritos were remarkable mostly for the lovely tortilla wrapper.
Huaraches are a sort of Mexican pizza, built on a tortilla and topped with mild green salsa, pinto beans, onions, lettuce, cheese and sour cream. Quite tasty.
A dish called volcanes involved crisp corn tortillas, sort of like small open-face tacos. If you want to do your own filling of the tortilla, you can order the specialty alambres, which came with five flour or corn tortillas and a mass of ingredients of your choosing. One of the alambres was solo para tragones (for big eaters), which provided both al pastor and asada, onions, mushrooms, two kinds of cactus, cheese and roasted jalapeño.
As for drinks, there was made-with-sugar Coke in a glass bottle imported from Mexico or various bottled fruity soft drinks. But I recommend going straight for the piña colada, a wonderfully rich and balanced flavor with a hint of coconut. (Although tempting, it would be wrong to bring an airline-size bottle of rum to pour in surreptitiously under the table.) I also really liked the rice water, flavored with cinnamon and more.
A downside of the restaurant is
that you don’t get the thrill, like you do with the taco truck, of eating one of these dishes in the parking lot of a nightclub.
Los Guachos Taqueria
5221 Godown Rd.
Atmosphere: Small space; convivial.
Recommended dishes: Taco al pastor, chicken torta, alambres, solo para tragones.
Price range: Tacos $1.50; tortas $6; quesadillas $3.50; volcanes $2; alambres, burritos, gringas, juanas, huaraches $3.99-$10.
Hours: Daily 11 am to midnight; Friday and Saturday till 1 am.
Service: At the counter.
Reservations: Not accepted.
Rating: ** 1⁄2