For my recent work trip to LA, I needed to organize a large client dinner. I poured over restaurants in the DTLA area to be near the conference. While I found some great spots, most were very expensive. Then we realized that a co-worker’s family happened to own a Mexican restaurant and could squeeze us in. Guelaguetza is an unassuming spot in Koreatown that is walking truly incredible Oaxacan cuisine out of their kitchen. Usually booked solid this time of year, I feel lucky we were able to reserve the back area. These connections make me feel like I’m in the mafia.

We had a set menu so I didn’t get to try it all, but we ordered a ton so I got a nice cross-section. The appetizer sampler was a great start to the meal. The empanadas with two types of mole were a particular hit, but every appetizer board was cleared…which was a problem because the entrées were HUGE.

I wish I took a photo of the apps but, alas, I forgot. I did, however, snap some pics of the entrées. Two of the most popular entrées were the enchiladas mole. We had a choice of black, red, or green mole and went with black since it’s typically the biggest crowd pleaser. Please just look at that pile of cheese on top. Swoon. I didn’t get to taste it, but everyone seemed to really enjoy it and noted that it was a rich sauce so you best bring your appetite. My entrée choice was the tlayuda, which came highly recommended. Something 1) specific to a region 2) that I’ve never tried 3) that is recommended by someone in the know…that’s got my name written all over it. It’s basically a Mexican pizza – one large tortilla, topped with refried black beans, cabbage, and cheese. We had a choice of topping and I went with chorizo because I had a feeling it would be some good quality sausage at this place. I was right. Almost all the ingredients at this restaurant are imported from Mexico so they’re legit.

I didn’t eat my dessert til I got back to the hotel, but it made for a fabulous late night snack. Most people were raving about the tres leches cake, but I tried the chocoflan because it sounded so different. It’s basically flan on the top, chocolate cake on the bottom. It was a perfect mashup. The moisture from the flan also seeps into the cake to keep it from getting at all dry. It also wasn’t overly sweet so it was an unexpectedly refreshing dessert.

I now understand that Oaxacan is its own special breed of Mexican cuisine. And I like this breed, particularly because of all the moles. Who knew there were so many types of mole? Guelaguetza did because they specialize in it. So much so that their website is actually There is a reason Guelaguetza has won a James Beard award and was praised by the incredible Jonathan Gold as #42 on his list of 101 Best Restaurants.