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La Guanajuatence Restaurant & Bar

Madison WI

1318 s midvale blvd, madison WI 53711
daily page
daily 10am-10pm

La GuanajatencÍe (Madison WI) - taco review

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Rating: 95
Price: $$

**Depressing Update 2013.03.22 - La Guanajuatence appears to be (permanently) closed **

The To-Go

ME: al pastor, cecina, asada tacos
E: asada gordita
S: asada burrito
Delicious tacos, gorditas, and burritos on a snowy night. Salsa bar and decor fantastic. Service a bit slow.

The Sit-Down

During's initial reconnaissance mission to Mercado Marimar, a kind fellow named Marcelo recommended a trip to La Guanajatence on the west side. Several months later, I was happy to oblige with business associates Erin and Steve. This happened to be the day that winter finally arrived in Madison - snow, wind, and wind-blown snow were just three of the obstacles we encountered on our epic venture out west. Fortunately, La Guanajuatense is sufficiently well-lit from the exterior to be visible even in white-out conditions, though once inside it was apparent that few people braved the blustery Thursday night. The interior is cheery and dominated by huge paintings. In the main dining room, there are 3, and recommended viewing order is (1) total babe standing in nature; (2) hardcore warrior carrying total babe through nature; and (3) just nature. All are hyper-detailed and really nice to look at. Guanajuato is a transitional region and, while I'm no expert, the wall art seemed to have more of an pop-Aztecan influence than Mayan or the present day - colors, lushness, no visible Apocalypto characters.

We were started off enjoying some colorful festivechips while awaiting our meals. The chips were supremely crunchy (among the crunchiest chips of all time, and definitely the most crunchy tacosmog has experienced since Cafe Coyote) and all three salsa options were excellent. It looks like, perhaps on less snowy days, there would be a full 8-option salsa bar; on our day, there were just three. I can't imagine possibly mentally processing more than three, though, because each of these was excellent. All three were red, though the spiciest was slightly orange and had a tangy, somehow citrus-sweet-tangy flavor. It was sufficiently hot to warrant notice, though not overpowering. The middle (spicily and spatially) was smooth with a middling tomato flavor which was, at the time, quite enjoyable, but now I can't quite recall anything specifically compelling about it. Nonetheless, I do remember deeming it a worthy salsa option. The final option was halfway between a pico de gallo and medium red salsa, and was universally acknowledged as the favorite. This may surprise some of you, as I've previously expressed my opinions about pico de gallo to be 'generally nonplussed'. Guanajuatence set themselves apart from the pack by incorporating significantly more spice than the average pico de gallo. While definitely not 'hot', it also packed a kick significantly more powerful than a simple tomato/onion/cilantro blend. This salsa ended up being awesome in all dishes available to us: chips, tacos, burritos, and gorditas.

Speaking of tacos (when are we not?), some time interval after arrival I placed an order for 3 tacos: one al pastor, one cecina, and one asada. Business associates' orders were for carne asada gorditas and burrito dinners. After a reasonable-but-not-short wait, our food was placed on our table for enjoyment. The tacos were served on double corn tortillas, topped with cilantro and onions. All visible tortillas appeared to be homemade. I started off with my cecina taco, which is a thinly sliced salted beef. It was truly salty and excellent, and appeared to be fried up slightly around the edges. The hunks were a couple centimeters across and less than a half centimeter thick. Like my recent Chupacabra experience, each salsa was enjoyable on the cecina, though I preferred the medium tomato. Next up was the asada. While also delicious, it was flavor-wise very similar to the cecina. As a marinated steak I'd expect some similarities to a thinly-sliced salted beef, but the asada was sliced to a size and cooked to a texture that very closely approximated the cecina. Similarly, the dominate flavor of the marinate was salt, though there was a hint of spice. I had to sample my business associates' carne asada to figure out which of my tacos was which, and even then the primary indicator was meat shape. I finished off with the al pastor. Guanajuatence shied away from the pineapple-rich marinade, and instead focused on more of a barbecue-style tangy red sauce. The al pastor was tender and delicious and went especially well with the preferred pico de gallo-esque salsa.

Something about our party's ordering style may have confused our waiter. While initially quite attentive, we at one point informed him we had not yet decided upon our taco order. After that, it became more and more difficult to get ahold of him. When we wanted to depart, there was a great deal of uncertainty as to whether it was a 'pay at the counter' type place or a 'check at the table' type place. While we saw some fellow patrons receive a check, we waited for a goodly amount of time before finally making a move to retrieve our own to-go box (for one of my business associates who shall remain unnamed) and heading up to the counter to pay. At the counter, Dum Dum-brand lollipops were available. Obviously, a butterscotch Dum Dum makes any wait worth it, but the confusion was fairly troubling. I think we'll have to chalk it up to snow-related confusion and a generally casual atmosphere, and hope for more clarity on next visit. Despite this, the quality of the tacos has moved La Guanajuatence past Mercado Marimar into the slot of Madison's #1 taco spot for the time being. As La Guanajatence is located next to the #1 tacosmog-approved nightspot in Madison, I imagine we'll be back before too long.

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