>> Guelaguetza | Eat the World Los Angeles

Thursday, 27 December 2018



To the outsider unfamiliar with Los Angeles, the bright orange corner home of Guelaguetza might stand out a bit, both from its surroundings at one edge of Koreatown and also due to its bold color and architecture. As with many things in the area since the 1990's, the area was tilting Oaxacan just like large parts of Southern California, a demographic change strong enough to coin the term Oaxacalifornia.

When the restaurant needed to expand and moved here from its original tiny space, the new owners decided not to change the Korean building's exterior. But opening the door is like stepping into another world, even on overcast days the dining room seems filled with sunlight from the large central skylights while the walls are as colorful as Oaxaca itself and covered by the murals of a Oaxacan street art collective.

Horchata con tuna y nuez.

Jonathan Gold called this the best Oaxacan restaurant in the country. But if you are less interested in hyperbole than attention to detail, even ordering a glass of horchata (above) gets a serving of Oaxacan tradition. The top is made pink by a prickly pear puree and the glass is served with melon chunks and nuts. If you ever happen upon a Oaxacan ice cream shop, make sure to search out this flavor as well, known as tuna y nuez.

If you were wondering about the name of the place, it comes from one of the most important festivals in Oaxaca, a celebration of indigenous cultures that has taken place since well before the Spanish ever arrived. Outsiders may often simply say "Mexican" people or maybe "Oaxacan" people, but even in Oaxaca there are many indigenous groups until today that practice their traditional customs and speak languages that have survived homogenization in the country. Attending the festival is just a brief introduction to this, but inspiring to anyone wanting to start to learn more. The Guelaguetza here in Los Angeles takes place in Lincoln Heights in early August or thereabouts.

Courtesy of ilovemole.com

The photo of the festival de moles (above) was so poor that this one was stolen from the restaurant's website to better depict the amazing dish that arrives. Hopefully you have a big enough group to include the botana oaxaqueña and a big tlayuda as well, but even two can enjoy that central dish of four traditional moles that is served with rice and big freshly made corn tortillas.

The husband and wife owners of Guelaguetza have since passed the restaurant down one generation to their children in 2014, who continue the cooking customs the place has been known for but also add a sense of advocacy for Oaxacan culture above and beyond the food that is served. A visit here is to be emerged in that, even casual diners will leave feeling more than when they entered the space.


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