“Did you like the food?”
Countless times—I dare say, more than a hundred—Ciro Garcia has asked me this same question at the cash register at Taqueria Guerrero, the neighborhood Mexican restaurant he opened in 2007. In the decade since the initial wave of Hispanic eateries has waned, Taqueria Guerrero has established itself as a local favorite for Mexican fare and as an integral member of the Mid-City dining scene, which continues to thrive and evolve.
A survey of the dining room on a typical Saturday morning is a case study in how people from all walks of life can rally together behind a well-made taco. In one corner sits a group of construction laborers, slowly slurping menudo, the Mexican tripe soup widely touted as a hangover cure. At the table behind them is a wife dressed in yoga pants with her husband in his LSU fishing shirt, the two of them alternating between bites of al pastor tacos and helping their two children with spoonfuls of beans and rice. Across the way is a group of hipsters piecing together their recollections of last night while drinking agua fresca. And finally there’s Ciro Garcia, sitting at a table in the back corner with his family members (who are also his co-workers and employees) and enjoying a steaming bowl of caldo de res. Ain’t that America.
Tacos come three to an order and dressed simply with diced onion and cilantro. The aforementioned al pastor is tender and flavorful, its blood orange–colored marinade staining the double layer of corn tortillas. Chicharrón alternates between soft and crispy, its richness offset by the heat and crunch of the raw onion and a dressing of Valentina hot sauce. Half-moon-shaped quesadillas are filled with queso Oaxaca, which stretches from here to eternity while slow-cooked beef barbacoa serves as excellent filler in the torta.
Breakfast is an underrated meal at Taqueria Guerrero, where the baleadas (a Honduran specialty) are created with a freshly pressed flour tortilla (thinner than most) and a harmonious balance of eggs, beans and cream. Huevos rancheros are ladled over mild tomato salsa, but the huevos con chorizo deliver a healthy dose of spice from the pork sausage flecked with red pepper. Hand-formed pupusas filled with cheese, or cheese and pork, are crisped on the flat-top grill and served with a tart slaw of thick-cut cabbage and rounds of carrot.
But for all of the depth of the menu (40-plus dishes), perhaps the piece de resistance is the pale green salsa served in squeeze bottles. This addictive elixir—concocted from an undisclosed ratio of avocado, lime, jalapeño, cream and more—engages all of your taste buds and delivers just enough heat to turbocharge your endorphins. Treat yourself to a coconut popsicle from the self-serve freezer case next to the register and don’t forget to smile, nod and answer in the affirmative when Ciro Garcia asks: “Did you like the food?”