When they opened Guisados in Boyle Heights roughly five years ago, father-son duo Armando De La Torre Sr. & Armando De La Torre Jr. set out to create a relaxed spot where the food tastes like what you’d find in a traditional Mexican home: simple, braised guisados served up on tortillas handmade from the fresh masa they get at the (also family-run) Carnitas Uruapan next door.
It’s a familiar story in a city where the nearest taco spot is a loogie-launch away. But there is something special in the De La Torre’s unpretentious, down-home approach – something that allowed them to achieve the near-impossible: standing out in LA’s taco-drenched landscape. You know you’re doing something right when renowned food critic Jonathan Gold writes an unabashed paen to your chiles torreados taco with so much gusto it’s almost a sext: “It is a taco that could go 15 rounds with Oscar De La Hoya,” he declared in 2011. “It is a taco that could play badass trumpet in a mariachi band and sing sweet love songs to your girlfriend. It is a taco that will sneak out of the house in the middle of the night to do things that no taco should ever do, but you will always take it back, because you have tasted the complexity that lies three layers down.”
With recipes developed by De La Torre Sr. and everything else run by Jr. (branding, the empty walls, the social media, and the daily operations), the family venture has since opened outlets in Echo Park, Downtown, and are now headed to West Hollywood, spreading the guisados joy all over the city. But the heart and the motto – #inTacosWeTrust – remains the same.
And what makes a good taco in their expert opinion? “For me, it’s originality and flavor,” De La Torre Sr. told LA Canvas. Everybody has their own opinion of where the best tacos are, ‘this place has the best carne asada! No, this place has the best carne asada!’ Well to me, I’ve had plenty of carne asada, but carne asada is just carne asada. It’s steak, grilled. Even today, we get people who look at our menu and order carne asada. We don’t have carne asada. We have the same kind of beef but made completely different. It makes people try something new. It makes them step out of their element. We’re not trying to change Mexican food, because this is Mexican food, but we’re trying to broaden people’s perception of Mexican food. It was important for us to be original and true, especially here in Boyle Heights.”