If you are new to Los Angeles, or haven’t heard of Guerrilla Tacos before, a primer: What does it look like when a chef - who trained under Chef Walter Manzke (Republique), Gary Menes (Le Comptoir) and Alain Ducasse - decides to leave the world of fine dining to open up a Taco Cart (that transformed into a Food Truck)?
You have Chef Wes Avila, Chef-Owner of Guerrilla Tacos.
When he first opened up Guerrilla Tacos, the menu at the cart would change daily(!), with amazing, unheard-of-for-a-taco-cart items such as Roasted Sweet Potatoes (sourced from local farmers), Almond Chile, Feta Cheese and Fried Corn and Scallions. The most perfect Scrambled Eggs (so light, fluffy and airy), topped with flawless Foie Gras on top of buttery Brioche. And much more.
It was (and is) ridiculous.
And after years of running the Food Truck, Chef Wes Avila has finally saved up enough to shut down the Food Truck and open up his first Brick & Mortar Restaurant! We couldn’t wait to see what this might be like.
Walking in, the space is casual, kick-back and bright.
You order at the counter in front, and then take a number and grab a table. One major advantage of the brick & mortar over his taco truck? Full bar!
@bulavinaka His signage in Katakana, just for you.
So the one key loss that we might as well get out of the way now:
- The menu will no longer rotate weekly like it used to. It will change Quarterly, tied with the seasons.
I think that was a huge, unique aspect of Guerrilla Tacos: You never knew what might be on the menu from week-to-week, but now with a full kitchen staff and far more logistics and training, it’s understandable that he can’t change the menu as often as the truck. But it’s still sad.
To be fair, there are far more items on the permanent menu than his truck would have for each week, so it kinda balances out (sort of).
The soundtrack is old-school at first: Hearing “Gin & Juice” by Snoop Dogg, or “Regulate” with Warren G (w/ Nate Dogg) brings a fun, thumping soundtrack to the dinner. (Warning for those wanting to bring kids: The soundtrack later got into some hardcore Gangster Rap with enough cuss words to make a grownup blush if you’re not used to hearing so many cuss words in succession for 4 minutes straight.)
L.A. Don’t Play (Pox, Lime Ginger, Pineapple, Don’s Mix, Lime, Soda):
Refreshing, balanced, and a very solid Cocktail. They are also shockingly only $10, which feels like a typo in this era of overpriced, terrible Cocktails in L.A. which can run from $15 - $20+ at many major spots.
Albondigas Soup (Avocado, Chicken Stock, Cilantro, Panela Cheese, Rice, Mint):
Taking a sip…
Heart-warming, nicely seasoned, fragrant, pure, soulful Albondigas Soup that tastes like it was something you had at Grandma’s house. It’s not overly salty, perfectly seasoned for our tastes, and the Panela Cheese and Avocado added little bits of creamy joy to a spoonful of the wonderful Chicken Soup.
I’ll leave it up to @Dommy @Mattapoisett_in_LA to see how it compares to homemade versions, but we remember Chef Avila telling us (back on the Taco Truck) that this recipe and soup came from his Abuelita (Grandma). Must order!
We ordered most of the menu, and the first of the Tacos arrived at this point…
Puerto Vallarta Style Crab Tacos (3) (Quajillo Chile, Chipotle Crema, Cilantro, Raw Tomatillo Chile):
If you’ve visited the Guerrilla Tacos Truck enough times, you probably have tried these before (they are the same recipe): 3 rolled, Deep Fried Tacos, stuffed with Crab, are deftly mixed with some amazing Sauces and Salsas that elevate this dish substantially.
The only issue is that the Crab meat used tonight tasted just OK. It wasn’t “bad,” but it’s clearly not fresh Crab (which would’ve made these Tacos prohibitively expensive). Still, the Crab just didn’t sing; tasting slightly muted. The Quajillo Chile, Chipotle Crema and Raw Tomatillo Chile Sauces were excellent though.
Fried Oysters (Oyster, Tempura, Burnt Tomato Chile, Red Pepper Escabeche, Olive Oil, Horseradish Cream, Parsley, Lemon):
Perfectly fried Oysters, crispy exterior giving way to a creamy, succulent, just cooked through interior of fresh-tasting Oysters. The Tomato Chile, Olive Oil, Horseradish Cream just matched each bite in a pleasing way. Definitely a great dish. (@TheCookie @PorkyBelly @J_L @Ns1)
Octopus Quesadilla (Oaxacan Cheese, Chile Morita, Red Pepper Escabeche, Cherry Tomato, Arugula, Chives):
This was fine. The Quesadilla is much more refined and well-executed in a full kitchen than on his tiny Taco Truck flattop. The Tortilla, Oaxacan Cheese are a beautiful combination here, gooey, melted greatness. The Octopus is cooked just right (tender), and I love the fresh, bright bitter Arugula and in-season, sweet Cherry Tomatoes (from local farmers markets). It just needed a little bit of a punch (maybe some smokiness from grilling, or more Chile Morita perhaps).
It was tasty, but just not “awesome!” like many of Chef Wes’ creations usually are.
More of his new permanent menu Tacos have arrived now…
Beef Brisket Taco (Chile de Arbol, Pickled Onion, Cilantro):
The one miss this evening, the Beef Brisket Taco’s flaw is the overly fatty, chewy Brisket. It’s nice to have some fat, but it tasted like we were eating Pork Belly that wasn’t cooked very long. So there were huge chunks of pure fat, and then some bites were just chewy. The flavors of the Chile de Arbol, Pickled Onion and Cilantro were spot-on, though.
Baja Fried Cod Taco (Tempura Battered Local Rock Cod, Chipotle Crema, Pico de Gallo, Japonese, Cilantro):
This is another classic Guerrilla Tacos dish from his Taco Truck that fares much better now with a full kitchen and proper equipment: Crispy, light, moist Tempura Battered Rock Cod is just such an improvement from the truck version. The Chipotle Crema, Pico de Gallo are wonderful and the Organic, Heirloom Tortilla is a great match. Delicious!
Cauliflower Taco (Burnt Tomato Chile, Medjool Dates, Castelvetrano Olives, Pine Nuts, Cauliflower, Parsley):
A solid Taco with nicely seared Cauliflower, Medjool Dates and Castelvetrano Olives. I liked the fragrant Pine Nuts addition. However, there wasn’t enough Burnt Tomato Chile, so it tasted a little too light (not seasoned enough).
Carnitas in Adobo (Raw Tomatillo Chile, Pickled Pineapple, Chives):
This felt like Chef Wes’ take on “Al Pastor” crossed with his classically trained Chef background: Meaty, grilled, tender chunks of Pork (as if it was a Pork Chop, cut into cubes) is topped with Pickled Pineapple (evoking Al Pastor) and perfectly matched by the gorgeous, deft Raw Tomatillo Chile.
This did not taste like a classic “Carnitas” you might expect (it won’t topple Villa Morelianas’ legendary 11 Types of Carnitas(!)), but instead this tastes like a new type of “Pork Taco” that you wouldn’t find anywhere else around town. The Pork is just cooked through (tender, pink), some fatty bits but also lean meat, and the Salsas that Chef Wes creates here really elevate this seemingly simple dish.
Sweet Potato Taco (Roasted Sweet Potato, Almond Chile, Feta Cheese, Fried Corn, Scallions):
It had been over a year since we last ordered Chef Wes’ most popular and longest-lasting dish (it has been a permanent mainstay of Guerrilla Tacos’ menu for years, even though everything else rotates out, Chef Wes never rotates out the Sweet Potato Taco).
And for good reason: Gorgeous, perfectly Roasted Sweet Potatoes, with its outer skin roasted to the point of crispy, with a bit of a punch from the Feta Cheese, the Almond Chile is something you won’t find anywhere else, the crunch from Fried Corn, and the fragrant bite of Scallions.
It might sound boring to say this, but the Sweet Potato Taco was the New Guerrilla Tacos’ best dish of the night! SO GOOD!
Potato Taquitos (2) (Yukon Gold Potatoes, Avocado Tomatillo Salsa, Cotija Cheese, Aged Cheddar, Chile):
The last entry on their new semi-permanent Taco menu, yes it’s carb-on-carb, but super crunchy Taquitos arrive, stuffed with a beautiful Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes mixture, bathed lovingly in an Avocado Tomatillo Salsa, punctuated by Aged Cheddar.
This was really delicious and filling.
Hamachi Tostada (Hamachi (Yellowtail), Chile de Valle, Salsa Bruja, Seasonal Stone Fruit, Micro Herbs) + Santa Barbara Uni:
For the new Guerrilla Tacos restaurant, you have the option of paying $3 more to add on some fresh Santa Barbara Uni. The Hamachi Tostada is another popular and classic dish that used to appear on the Taco Truck a lot. It is just as fresh and bright as before: The Hamachi is so vibrant and tender, yet still retaining a bit of a pleasing meatiness. The Chile de Valle, Salsa Bruja sound like it might overpower the dish but it never does.
This is the type of flavor combination you always hope to have with Guerrilla Tacos. Add in a bit of fresh Seasonal Stone Fruit slivers, and the perfectly sweet, flawless Santa Barbara Uni (on this evening) and you have greatness in every bite!
This being Grand Opening night, service was a bit flighty and spotty. The order takers at the front register were totally clueless on how to operate the POS computer system, but that should take care of itself over time. Tacos ranged from $4 - $5 for all of them except the Crab Tacos, which were a minimum 3 Tacos per order ($15).
Chef Wes Avila has finally done it: Saving up enough to open up a Brick & Mortar Restaurant version of Guerrilla Tacos, and we couldn’t be happier for him. He works so hard, and I’m happy for his new restaurant (and for him to be able to get out of the sweltering heat of the Taco Truck). But with this transition comes a loss: The ever-changing, weekly rotating menu is no more, now changing on a quarterly basis. So the menu you see now is the menu you’ll see for the next 3 months (at least).
But with the change also comes a full bar, with solid Cocktails at a very fair price ($10), better execution on some of the dishes (the Quesadilla grilling and melting is much better), and things like the Baja Fried Cod Tacos are lighter, better fried.
The Baja Fried Cod Tacos are a better quality product than Ricky’s Fish Tacos, and delicious, we really liked the new take on Pork Tacos with his Carnitas in Adobo Taco, and the Potato Taquitos are crunchy, piping hot cylinders of creaminess.
But the dishes that have me yearning for a return are the fantastic Sweet Potato Taco and his Grandma’s Albondigas Soup, that is so humble, homely and soulful! There is a bit of sadness that many of our all-time favorite Guerrilla Taco offerings (like the Foie Gras with Scrambled Eggs on Brioche, Lobster Quesadilla, and many other dishes) are gone (for now), but maybe in a few quarters, we’ll see them again. For now, it’s a great, casual, fun place that has a permanent location to enjoy some of the best farmers market-driven Tacos in L.A.
Grand Opening Hours:
Monday - Tuesday: CLOSED
Wednesday - Friday: 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Sunday: 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Guerrilla Tacos (Restaurant)
2000 E. 7th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Tel: (213) 358-7070
New Autumn 2018 Menu
It had been a while since we last stopped by Guerrilla Tacos’ new brick & mortar, mainly because Chef Wes Avila had said that their menu would only really be changing once a season (instead of weekly). They’d still have some weekly specials, but the majority of the menu would stay the same per season (which kind of took part of the magic away from Guerrilla for us).
With it being Autumn 2018 in full bloom, we wanted to see if their menu had changed for the season (it did). We were also curious how the menu would be after a few months of opening given the mixed reports from @ipsedixit @moonboy403 and others.
Agua Fresca - Yuzu Pineapple (Yuzu Juice & Pineapple Juice, Cane Sugar, Lime):
Fantastic! Not too sweet, and leave it up to Chef Wes to make an Agua Fresca with Yuzu Juice and Pineapple Juice and Lime, a fitting compliment for Guerrilla Tacos’ offerings.
Sword Fish Taco (2) (Taco Licenciado, Chile Guero, Cabbage, Oaxacan Cheese, Cilantro):
Crispy outer Taco Shell (made with Organic Heirloom Tortillas) gives way to soft, but still meaty, moist Sword Fish meat. The Chile Guero was incredible, fragrant, immediate heat, but not overpowering, and the melted Oaxacan Cheese matched this perfectly. Wow. Highlight of the night!
This was classic, great Guerrilla Tacos cooking, and then we looked up and that was the reason why:
Chef Wes Avila was manning the stoves and preparing every single dish that came out of the kitchen tonight (unlike the early weeks where it seems he was just making sure the dishes were plated correctly). It seems his search for kitchen help hasn’t been that fruitful, and he’s in the kitchen cooking himself.
Beef Chile Colorado Taco (Braised Beef, Chile de Arbol, Pickled Onions, Pumpkin Seeds, Chives):
I’m glad to see Chef Wes remove the Grand Opening (Summer) Beef Brisket Taco in favor of this one. Taking a bite, super tender, moist Braised Beef, the Chile de Arbol was even more zesty and punchy than the Chile Guero from the Sword Fish Tacos), and the piquant from the Pickled Onions were the perfect foil. My 2nd favorite of the evening!
Chicken Taco (Chicken Ajonjoli, Sesame, Chives & Aged Cheddar):
This was another excellent Taco creation from Chef Wes: There was an enticing burnt Chile edge to the savory, nutty Chicken.
Pumpkin Taco (Burnt Tomato Chile, Habanero Chile, Halloumi Cheese, Dates, Candied Pecans, Parsley):
This sounded like a perfect Fall seasonal offering, and I was really excited after Chef Avila’s famous Sweet Potato Taco. Unfortunately it was the one miss of the night. It wasn’t bad, but surprisingly the Pumpkin was just rather bland. Which is crazy, considering the Burnt Tomato Chile, Habanero Chile (which gave this a distinct, super hot spiciness), but beyond that? It tasted rather bland. Perhaps it was just this batch of Pumpkins?
Pocho Taco (Wild Boar, Crunchy Shell Taco, Pico de Gallo, Pine Nuts, Raw Tomatillo Chile, Chipotle Crema, Aged Cheddar):
As good as the Taco Truck. I love Hard Shell Tacos, and these are made with the Organic Heirloom Tortillas, giving way to meaty Wild Boar with that tart and fiery Raw Tomatillo Chile, fragrant Pico de Gallo and the creamy Chipotle Crema.
Lamb Kebab (Pico de Gallo, Tomato Labneh & Flour Tortillas):
This was a more interactive experience, with you constructing your own “Lamb Kebab Tacos / Burritos” with the ingredients served separately:
The Lamb was nice and gamy, really well seasoned, and the Pico de Gallo and Tomato Labneh and some Pickled Vegetables brought balance to the dish, as well as the piping hot Flour Tortilla. This was delicious.
Chef Wes kept the Tostadas from last season (Hamachi Tostada, Ahi Poke Tostada, etc.), but sadly the amazing Albondigas Soup is rotated off the menu, as are the wonderful Fried Oysters. He’s added on 2 new Queso Fundido options as well.
Another Visit - New Breakfast Burritos!
Thanks for the heads up from @PorkyBelly, we decided to stop by and try out Guerrilla Tacos’ new Breakfast Burritos options! Served from 7:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. Monday - Saturday.
Located on the side of Guerrilla Tacos, Chef Wes has cut open a small Takeout Window directly from his kitchen to the outside(!).
There are 3 Breakfast Burrito options, with 2 of them overlapping (meat-based) and 1 veggie offering.
Veggie Breakfast Burrito (Fried Egg, Potato, Broccolini, Roasted Onions, Cheddar Cheese):
First things first: The Breakfast Burritos are massive. We had no idea, and it turned out they can feed 2 hungry people, or 3 not so hungry people.
Anyone who’s tried enough of Chef Wes’ Vegetable offerings at Guerrilla Tacos (Food Cart and Food Truck) will know that he can deliver some pretty amazing offerings even without meat. This Veggie Breakfast Burrito did not disappoint:
The Fried Egg and Potato portion lent that familiar, satisfying base that you’re looking for in a good Breakfast Burrito, but then you get the earthy, vegetal aspect from the stewed Broccolini, slight sweetness from the Roasted Onions, and the Cheddar Cheese to bind it all together.
Avo Bacon Breakfast Burrito (Bacon, Fried Egg, Beans, Avocado Salsa, Cheddar Cheese):
This was fine: You could taste the quality Bacon (more porcine, less salty than typical Bacon), the Eggs and Beans were tasty as well, along with Avocado Salsa and Cheddar Cheese, but together, it tasted like the sum of its parts, which is fine, but we were hoping for something more.
Fermented Chile Salsa:
However, when you add in the Fermented Chile Salsa (Free) with either Breakfast Burrito, that really elevated each dish to another level. That Salsa was incredible and really complimented both Burritos.
Guerrilla Tacos seems to be even better than before (during its Grand Opening), with Chef Wes Avila personally cooking on our visit. Every dish was spot-on (sans the Pumpkin Taco), which felt more like @CiaoBob’s experience prior to ours, and the new Autumn 2018 menu has some nice changes from the Grand Opening menu.
During this season (until Winter), we’d probably go back for the Sword Fish Tacos, Chile Colorado Tacos (with tender, delicious Braised Beef), the Wild Boar Taco and Lamb Kebabs. There was an option to add Foie Gras to the Braised Beef Taco (for only $3 more), but they were sold out, so we’ll have to try that next time (Chef Wes is a master with Foie Gras).
It seems that the hiccups experienced by @ipsedixit @TheCookie during the first week might be alleviated with @CiaoBob’s visit and our own most recent one. Hopefully we get to try more of Chef Wes’ personal cooking for the time being (but I feel bad because he was so swamped cooking for an entire restaurant this time, compared to the smaller audience in his Taco Truck).
Guerrilla Tacos (Restaurant)
2000 E. 7th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Tel: (213) 375-3300
Update 3: Amazing Lobster Quesadilla, Stunning Beef Cheeks Special and more!
Update 4: Delicious specials: Lamb Birria Tacos, Wood-Fired Grilled Fish and more!
Update 5: New Omakase Menu - Do Not Miss This!