- Tom Armitage
Last Saturday morning, faced with the prospect of having to spend most of the weekend working in my office, I decided to treat myself. So, I took myself out to Guelaguetza for breakfast. If you have been a reader of the Los Angeles board, you know about Guelaguetza, which I think is the best Oaxacan restaurant in Los Angeles. My breakfast consisted of Salsa de Queso, a fresh Oaxacan cheese covered with a spicy tomato sauce, which came with a dish of black beans. The portions at Guelaguetza are humongous, but I nonetheless decided to order an Ensalada de Nopalitos (paddle cactus salad) as a side dish. My waiter also talked me into a tortilla a mano, which is a huge freshly made corn tortilla (about 12" in diameter) that is cooked on an ungreased clay cooking disk. It is similar to a clayuda, only the masa is fresher and the tortilla is therefore softer in texture.
At the end of my meal, my waiter told me that, on June 3, the owners had opened a new Guelaguetza at the corner of Normandie Ave. and Olympic Blvd. (3014 W. Olympic Blvd.), a stone's throw from the restaurant at 3337½ West 8th Street where I was eating. (There is a third Guelaguetza located near the corner of Sepulveda and Palms (11127 Palms Blvd.) in the westside community of Palms. I think the Palms restaurant is under different ownership than the two central L.A. restaurants, but still within the family--the owner is something like a sister of the owners of the two central L.A. restaurants--and it serves the same food as the other Guelaguetza restaurants.) The new Guelaguetza at Olympic and Normandie is incongruously located in a Korean-style building that formerly housed a Korean restaurant. It is a large, spacious room. One attraction of the "new" Guelaguetza is the music on weekends. On Saturday and Sunday, in the late mornings and early afternoons, they have a trio of musicians singing traditional Mexican songs. In the afternoons and evenings (Friday: 7:30 and 10:00 p.m.; Saturday, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00 p.m.; Sunday, 1:00, 3:00, 6:00, and 8:30 p.m.), they have a larger group of dancers, musicians, and singers called "Huaxyacac") that perform. The spaciousness of the new restaurant allows room for a large performing area, of which all tables have a good view. The "new" Guelaguetza also offers a greater variety of seafood items on its menu. Another difference is that the new Guelaguetza has a license to serve beer and wine, so you don't have to BYOB like you do at the 8th Street restaurant.
I was in a wonderful mood as I headed back to work at my office, my psyche responding to the lingering flavors of my delicious breakfast, the prospect of going to the new Guelaguetza and checking out the music, and the sound of the Del McCoury Band pouring forth from my car stereo. Ain't life great?