Los Guachos delivers authentic Mexican at unbeatable prices.
Did you know that Los Guachos Taqueria in Gahanna — which opened about three years ago and is the subject of this review — is a bigger, near-twin of the older Los Guachos Taqueria on Godown Road? Well, it is my friends, and that's called a win-win situation.
Put simply, Los Guachos offers the best deals on Mexican food in Central Ohio. Put specifically, it sells terrific taco truck-style fare at inexpensive taco truck-style prices in a sit-down environment.
Similar to its Northwest Side operation, Los Guachos Gahanna is a bright and busy place with counter-ordering service and TVs beaming the Food Network and Mexican soccer games. Bas-relief genre scenes decorating the walls are echoed in the stout wooden tables and chairs elaborately carved into folk art-like furniture.
Another conversation piece has helped garner national praise for Los Guachos' tacos from the likes of Rachael Ray, Maxim magazine and the Food Network — a pineapple-topped, rotating spit on which the signature al pastor pork is stacked, seared and shaved like shawarma meat.
With its seductively crisp-yet-juicy texture and a flavor that's smoky, garlic-kissed and earthy-yet-almost-floral, this pineapple-garnished red pork inspires Shakespearean paraphrasing: It is such stuff as cravings are made of.
In a killer taco with diced onion, cilantro and soft corn tortillas, it's just $1.50. Show up on Mondays and that bargain becomes a hardly believable two-for-one — but anticipate a mob.
For something more substantial, you can't beat a Gringa ($3.50). You'll get the same ingredients enriched by considerably more al pastor meat and blistered mozzarella cheese piled onto a puffy flour tortilla.
Mirroring taco-truck menus, the pork (and other proteins) can be enjoyed in multiple vehicles such as Burritos ($7) and large, first-rate Tortas ($7) that, in ridged and toasted thin bread, recall beany panini. Huaraches ($6 to $7) are little oval “pizzas” fashioned with house-made masa-dough slabs, refried beans, lettuce, sour cream, cotija cheese and a chosen meat.
In addition to the must-have al pastor, Los Guachos offers succulent lengua ($2 in tacos). Try not to get hung up that lengua means “tongue,” because this intensely tender, juicy and deeply delicious meat tastes how it looks: like diced roast beef.
I also love the spicy chorizo and suadero — soft, chopped brisket. The smoky, steak-like asada is good, but has been chewy on occasion, and the OK chicken is the least interesting. Tilapia is available grilled (my preference) or crisply battered, but only in winning tacos ($2).
For a mountain of great-tasting food sold for a relative molehill of a price, order the Solo Para Tragones ($12). Translating to “Only For Gluttons” (I clearly qualify), it's a case of truth in advertizing: an avalanche of al pastor, asada, sautéed onions and mushrooms, grilled cactus, roasted jalapeno and (mostly) melted mozzarella that could feed four people.
All items can be enhanced by tableside limes and salsas that vary from mild green to fiery red to a soy sauce-based condiment with onions and habaneros so magnetic and incendiary it can induce tears. To extinguish any facial flames — alcohol isn't offered — try the milky, cinnamon-scented, rice-based Horchata ($1.50) or the refreshingly sweet-tart, ruby-tinted Jamaica ($1.50), a beverage made with dried hibiscus petals.
Itching for chips ($2)? They'll arrive just-fried and with an excellent roasted salsa plus uncharacteristically only-alright guacamole — mine was over-mashed and over-chilled.
For just another dollar, though, you can get wonderful soups du jour such as vegetable-and-bean deepened with mushrooms, or “consome” — an earthy, rich and dynamic weekend delight with lamb broth, chickpeas, chilies and more.
For a (not too) sweet finish, get the creamy and caramelly Flan. Priced at only $3, like most things here, it's a steal.