In Oaxaca, tacos de cazuela are one of the several styles of Oaxacan tacos that are rolled into tortillas blandas (large corn tortillas) and despite what Oaxacans say, these things look like burritos, which is how they are fashioned at chef Rocio Camacho’s taco restaurant, Tacos y Mezcal which opened in the former Corazon y Miel space in Bell last week.
Ask a Oaxacan to talk about their food and one might hear legends of moles with a hundred plus ingredients, a soup cooked with hot river stones, a pre-Hispanic beverage made with maize, cacao, and mamey seed, and pure mezcal distilled by Mayahuel herself.
But you won’t hear about tacos. People often reference Oaxaca’s eight regional cuisines when trying to prove that Mexican food has more to it than tacos and burritos. Yet one of the great street food traditions in Oaxaca are tacos de cazuela, named after the casserole dishes used to keep the various stews and braises warm on the flat top grill. These are the regional Oaxacan versions of tacos de guisado, made famous in LA by the Guisados chain founded in Boyle Heights.
The variations of this popular genre of taco, whether called tacos de guisado, tacos de cazuela, tacos various (various tacos), tacos mañaneros (morning tacos) or the countless other local stews served on tortillas. This is the broadest category of tacos serving up regional iterations that mothers and grandmother craft into tasty recipes.
At Tacos y Mezcal, Camacho has put together a menu of fun appetizers like bacon-wrapped chiles jalapeños filled with cheese, a chopped octopus salad, and a dreamy street corn dish with chipotle mayo and neatly tied corn husks that look inspired by Pujol’s notable presentation of elotes in Mexico City. Note that while Pujol’s uses mini-corn, Camacho goes for full-size ears of corn here. While Camacho’s tacos are wrapped as Oaxacan tacos de cazuela, the fillings are her take on many popular taco styles, not just Oaxacan.
From Camacho’s hometown of Huajuapan de Leon comes the chileajo, braised pork cooked in chiles guajillo and costeño with garlic and spices. There’s an alambre, a hash of Oaxacan cheese, bell peppers, onions, meat and more, which is also typical of Oaxaca.
While the alambres can be filled with things like cactus or even umami-packed grasshoppers, the nomenclature can be a little confusing. Alambres are served in a cazuela, or cast iron skillet or similar casserole dish, and diners can assemble tacos with the tortillas provided on the side. Meanwhile, tacos de cazuela are the name of Oaxacan stewed tacos, and they’re served as composed tacos.
Other tacos at the restaurant include rajas (chile poblano strips), chile relleno, scrambled eggs, beef liver, Camacho’s own version of cochinita pibil, and many others. Each taco comes with crosscut potato fries at the opening of the taco. Delicious homemade corn tortillas for the whole cazuelas (like the alambres) are kept warm in the French fry baskets popular in American style diners.
All of the mouthwatering tacos are best consumed with shots of mezcal from the restaurant’s collection or cocktails. Tacos y Mezcal is the city’s only true Oaxacan-style taco restaurant by one of the most prolific and successful Mexican chefs in L.A.
Tacos y Mezcal is open from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. nightly.
Tacos y Mezcal. 6626 S. Atlantic Ave. Bell, CA