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Neighborhood Taquería Spotlight: The Buttery Tacos Al Vapor at ‘Tacos Estilo Guadalajara’ in Downey

3:15 PM PDT on June 7, 2021

tacos al vapor

Welcome to Local Gems, our new monthly restaurant column presented by White Claw, the official hard seltzer of L.A. TACO. Each month we’ll honor neighborhood institutions that make delicious food and have stood the test of time all over Los Angeles. Read, order, share, and don’t be afraid to rep your community’s local gem in the comments.

[dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]Mexican restaurant on Lakewood Boulevard offers customers a deal they can’t refuse: For the modest price of a single taco, you can pretend you are in Guadalajara—if just for the duration of those glorious two bites. 

The SELA-centric taco experience comes complete with a backdrop of the iconic twin steeples of the Guadalajara Cathedral. However, while the sights and culture are a nice touch, the jewel of this tour is the food. 

True to their name, the owners of Tacos Estilo Guadalajara are prideful about recreating their Guadalajara-style tacos in L.A. as best as possible. This means letting the gentle cooking power of the steam break down the meat until it is butter-like and tender.  

The family behind the establishment comes from a dynasty of street vendors who served the people of Guadalajara for more than 30 years. These customs are part of the legacy they’ve carried through multiple generations, and it makes all the difference in taste.

Whether it’s lean and savory asada or rich cabeza, the tortillas warmed al vapor pair perfectly with all the meats offered on the menu, including cachete (beef cheeks; shredded beef-like in texture), labio (beef lip; meaty and tongue-like in texture), and lengua (tongue; meaty). They also sell homemade menudo on weekends from 8 AM. to 1 PM but try not to cut it close since they’ve been known to sell out. 

“In 2008, my parents started the business out of a truck in Watts,” said Karen, eldest daughter of Aide and Juan Cortez, “I was 15 years old when I started working with them to help out.”

That taco stand on Alameda was just the beginning for Aide and Juan. It would not be long before the family opened their first restaurant in Lynwood, bringing Guadalajara’s authentic tacos and menudo to a broader clientele. 

Outside Tacos Estilo Guadalajara. Photo by Dan Suarez for L.A. TACO.
Outside Tacos Estilo Guadalajara. Photo by Dan Suarez for L.A. TACO.

The home page of their website puts it best: “When you want hot and spicy tacos and burritos and an icy cold margarita in Lynwood, CA, stop by Tacos Estilo Guadalajara, we look forward to serving you.” The Cortez’s advertised tortillas al vapor since day one, continuing the same family traditions. “Two years later, we opened here in Downey,” said Juan, “Lynwood has been open 12 years now, and (Downey) 10 years. Six months ago, we opened another one in Ontario too.”

Despite opening in the pandemic, the family said that the Ontario store had been a good investment so far. Karen and her brother Irving manage the restaurant, but they still help at the other locations when needed.

Tacos Estilo Guadalajara is open until 10 PM every day. Plan accordingly as it is cash only, but the Downey location has an ATM in the back. Indoor seating is currently allowed, and they always try to answer promptly to take phone orders, and while you wait for your food, daytime novelas play for your viewing pleasure. Even with deep roots in Jalisco’s capital, the Cortez’s work hard to create new ones, becoming a part of the communities they serve. Along with fresh and delicious tacos for locals, the restaurant has been a sponsor of Lynwood High School for years. 

Their family history and dedication to authenticity are what set their tacos apart from the rest. From the atmosphere to flavor, the Cortez family wants you to feel like you’re on the streets of Guadalajara, tacos and all. 

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