Barbacoa-less Gish Bac Still Makes a Great Weekday Lunch
L.A. Times’ “The Find” column has sussed out some pretty amazing lunches over the past few months. In March it was all over the completely under-appreciated Flavors of Belize on La Brea. Then came Koreatown jokbal in April. Chimu was the big June discovery. And this month the streak continues with Gish Bac, a Oaxacan restaurant in Mid City uncovered by Bill Esparza, L.A.’s resident food expert of all things south of the border. And for me, when Bill says go eat something you know it’s going to be good. (Cases in point: Mariscos Jalisco, Ricky’s Fish Tacos, and Mariscos Chente.)
A big portion of the article focused on their weekend only barbacoa, but it also had high praise for their 30+ ingredient house-made mole negro. So when I saw that nothing on their lunch menu was over $10, I rushed right over to check it out.
The first sign that signaled we were in the right place was the incredible chocolatey smell that wafted up from the just unwrapped tamal de mole ($1.75). The caked-on mole was thick and rich, with unbelievably intense flavor and absolutely no sweetness whatsoever. Comparing this to most tamales de mole in the city would be like comparing the best dark chocolate you’ve ever had to Hershey’s. Nobody stands a chance.
For $7.95 you can get a lake of the stuff, poured over two pieces of chicken. Unlike the tamal it has a bit of sweetness to it, but it’s no less intense. Once you have mole like this, it’s hard to go back to the mediocre stuff. (I’m looking at you Monte Alban.)
The LA Times didn’t mention the coloradito (red mole), but the waitress insisted it was even better than the black mole. Extremely skeptical, we tried it anyway and were not disappointed. Sweet and spicy, the red mole packed the same satisfying punch as the mole negro. I wouldn’t be so bold as to say it’s better, but at the least it’s equal. I haven’t had much experience with coloradito, but my sense is that if you’ve never had red mole before you might not want to order this one. It’s likely it will ruin you for all future red moles. The chicken itself on both dishes could have been a little less dry, but it doesn’t really matter once it’s been consumed by the lava-like mole. The chicken is an inconsequential vehicle.
Want to try the mole, but the chicken doesn’t sound appealing? Burritos aren’t on the menu, but if you know to ask they will make one for you and cover it in either of the moles. Next visit, for sure.
Bill also made mention of their house made meats, which can be enjoyed altogether on the “Tlayuda Gish Bac” for $9.95 (basically a Mexican pizza, with tortilla crust, topped with beans, cabbage, string cheese, avocado, tomato and meat). It’s one of the more expensive items on the menu, but, considering how huge it is, it’s totally worth it. The spicy chorizo and salty tazajo (thin sliced beef) were both very good, but the stand out was the cecina (thinly sliced pork) which had clearly been marinated for a while in a delicious blend of spices. Want the pork without the clayuda? You can get it as a plato for $8, or as the filling of a torta for $5 (a definite order on my next visit.)
The torta and off the menu burrito aren’t the only things I’m going to return to Gish Bac to try. There’s also a full breakfast menu that includes the highly recommended enfrijoladas (tortillas dipped in black bean pasta, and topped with cheese and meat.) If the bean paste is the same stuff they use on the tlayuda, how could it be bad?!
So, while the barbacoa is only available on the weekends Gish Bac still makes a great weekday lunch. And its location in Mid City makes it the perfect tlayuda replacement for those who miss Pal Cabron to the East, and a good lunch option for mole enthusiasts to the west.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Possibly the best mole in all of Los Angeles
- Coloradito is my favorite mole, and this one is pretty outstanding
- The tlayuda is huuuge and their meats are definitely a cut above average
- That cecina is the bomb!
- I love off the menu wet burritos
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I like my moles super sweet.
- No barbacoa on the weekdays? WTF!
Gish Bac, 4163 West Washington Boulevard (nr. Crenshaw), 323-737-5050