Guelaguetza | 99 Essential Restaurants 2015


photo by Danny Liao

It’s been said that Mexicans often align themselves not by country but by their state, an observation that makes sense when you consider the uniqueness of L.A.’s Oaxacan neighborhood, a collection of tile-floored restaurants along the southern edge of Koreatown. At its heart is Guelaguetza, opened in 2000 by the multigenerational Lopez family, which serves as a local cultural center as much as a restaurant. You come here to watch El Trigo triumph in World Cup qualifying matches or to celebrate your neighbor’s daughter’s quinceañera. You come here to sip rare mezcal at the colorfully decorated bar, or sample several delicate varieties of region-specific moles poured over slabs of poached chicken. At the very least, you come here for a spicy, chile-rimmed michelada and a platter-sized tlayuda, a crisp-edged tortilla overloaded with herbaceous black beans, stringy white cheese and a large flap of air-cured pork called cecina. Even if you’ve never set foot in Oaxaca, it tastes like home. —Garrett Snyder