You’re not likely to find La Güera unless you look for it. Hidden in a Gordon Road strip mall with a makeshift banner for a sign, the little taqueria may need a little help from word-of-mouth to build a bigger following. But that word should be quite positive.
I stopped in for my first visit alone to grab a quick dinner and couldn’t resist the chicken mole scribbled on the special’s board. It’s long been a favorite. I’d love to taste more savory chocolate dishes and see them return to popularity.
I didn’t need long to recognize the scents of cumin, coriander or various chiles. The richly potent sauce drenched two pieces of chicken, one white thigh and one dark drumstick, so the entire plate was split between the reddish-yellow rice and the dark-tan mole sauce. Not a bit of chicken was left un-enveloped.
The dark meat was the best part of the dish. Its fatty, savory flesh counterbalanced the mildly spicy chocolate sauce. I devoured my entire side order of tortillas with relish as I dipped them into the mole, unable to get enough. I loved the flavorful corn tortillas—the mealier texture took some getting used to, but the flavor brought much more to the table. I’d always preferred the flour variety—call me a gringa if you must—but La Güera might bring me around on the subject.
Fun fact: Gringo is actually a gringo affectation. Spanish speakers, like many people find Greeks difficult to understand; hence the English expression, “It’s all Greek to me.” Thus, Spanish speakers called anyone they found difficult to understand “Griego,” the Spanish word for Greek. In the 1800s, when Mexicans began calling Americans “Griegos,” the Americans didn’t fully understand the word or its origin and mispronounced it. Go figure.
Unable to resist, I tried a dessert called “choco flan.” I was expecting a chocolate custard; instead, it is a chocolate cake with a vanilla custard icing. And it is every bit as delicious as it sounds. Served much colder than I expected, the custard kept its form surprisingly well. The chocolate/vanilla pairing offered classic appeal.
My second visit to La Güera came with a large-scale take-out order. We opened with three of the taco appetizers: one each of chicken, barbecue and chorizo. The chorizo proved the most popular. The spicy ground sausage, with generous portions of chopped cilantro, was an immediate hit. The chicken proved a bit dry but still good, and while the barbecue was likable, it was neither sweet nor spicy enough to distinguish itself memorably.
The crispy taquitos, stuffed with spicy chicken also hit success; though, I suspect they keep their crunch a bit better when eaten on premise. The copious additions of shredded lettuce, sour cream and guacamole added flavor, sure, but it also gave it more than a helpful share of moisture. Sogginess became an issue.
The tortas also impressed the crowd. Sandwiches served on a doughy bread with a choice of various meats, a nice blend of Mexican spices came to the forefront of flavor. I found the breaded chicken a bit dry once again, but the Cuban torta, served with ham and chorizo, mixed with egg, was a resounding success. There is something about ground chorizo, with its potent spiciness and its rich dose of pork fat that brings a dish to life. The Cuban torta should be a signature dish at La Güera for some time to come.
The clayuda was an impulse buy on my part. I was wrapping up my order when I saw one pass by for another table; I simply couldn’t resist. Unfamiliar with the dish, my subsequent research turned up some interesting facts. Most notably, “clayuda” is a common misspelling, and the dish correctly goes by “tlayuda.” Of course, that’s only if you believe the Internet.
The clayuda is a pizza-style entrée meant to be shared. Served on a giant corn-tortilla base, with a black bean spread, oaxaca cheese, cabbage and rather large strips of beef make it a bit awkward and messy. While I am sure Domino’s Clayauda chains likely won’t be popping up all over the nation anytime soon, the mild cheese and light cabbage offset the spicy black beans for an interesting flavor. Once I got over the notion that it should be sliced like a pizza, just because it looks like a pizza, I had a much easier time. Tearing the clayuda into pieces is the best way to enjoy its indulgence.
For soda aficionados, don’t miss the Coca- Cola imported from Mexico. Why? Because, unlike our sugary drinks from north of the border, this one comes with actual sugar. From sugar cane. It doesn’t have pasty, sweet goo derived from excess corn. Trust me, it’s worth trying. We’ve forgotten what we’re missing because it’s been so long since we used real sugar in copious doses in the United States.
La Güera makes economic use of its space. I didn’t believe they’d fit 27 chairs into such a tiny dining room until I counted for myself. The kitchen seems cavernous by comparison, but for such a diverse menu, extra space surely is needed.
Bear in mind: This is not anglicized Mexican food. La Güera serves the genuine article. I couldn’t bring myself to sample the tripe (animal stomach) or a few other daring dishes, but those looking for authentic cuisine should flock to their doors.
La Güera is worth a minor trek down Gordon Road. The service is friendly, the food rich, and prepared with both care and love. And there’s never any shortage of something new to try. Foodies should put La Güera into their rotation immediately.
6620-F Gordon Road
Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Fri.-Sun., 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Bottom line: Diverse, delicious Mexican fare worth many tastes.