Name of restaurant: Tacos Estilo Guadalajara, a minimalist Mexican restaurant in the residential Southeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Lynwood.
Chef: Aide Franco, a native from Guadalajara, Mexico, who realized there weren’t that many taco al vapor options in Los Angeles and decided to do something about it. She started out with a street taco stand in Watts, raised enough money for a food truck, and then finally opened a brick-and-mortar in 2011. Along the way, Franco has acquired many loyal fans who have followed her, and her tacos, from place to place.
Concept: Taco stand turned simple restaurant with just one item on the menu: tacos al vapor. Don’t let the shack-like, bare-bones facade scare you away from some of the best regional tacos you'll find in L.A.
What dish represents the restaurant, and why: Tacos al vapor, of course. A regional taco from Guadalajara that requires a painstaking steaming process to cook the famously tender beef cuts that are used as the filling. What to go with your tacos? Some aguas frescas and jericallas, a Guadalajara-style burnt custard, for dessert.
Step outside of your carne asada comfort zone and opt for one or all of the other options: beef cheek, beef tongue, beef lip and beef head. The tacos al vapor steaming process breaks down these offcuts to a luxurious tenderness.
The salsa selection is minimalist, with only a taqueria-style pulpy guacamole and a snappy, beautifully emulsified habanero salsa; but it's all you need, with a few squeezes of lime. Most importantly, the white corn tortillas here are above average quality, tasting more of toasty white corn than your standard-issue cardboardy taco tortilla.
Who's at the next table: At 9 a.m., city workers in full working-class garb ordering as many tacos their flimsy paper plates can handle.
Appropriate for: Hungry taco enthusiasts who don’t want to fly all the way to Guadalajara. It's also a quick lunch spot if you're on the way to Long Beach.
Problematic (maybe): Tacos al vapor is the only thing on the menu. Sorry, no, veggie burrito options here.
Service: Order at the counter and the tacos show up almost instantly, like a form of taquero magic.
What you're drinking: Mexican Coke.