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Guisados DTLA

I spent a week in LA for work recently and my travel companion was sort of lame – he preferred to order room service each night.  Then again, maybe he just didn’t want to eat with me, either way, I didn’t have to worry about preferences of anyone else when picking dinner places.

The first night in town I went to Badmaash.  The next night I wanted to hit Sugarfish, but unfortunately, the wait for a single was about 90 minutes and I didn’t have the energy to go for that.  I figured their may be a problem getting into Sugarfish, so I had a backup plan.  I figured I’d hit Guisados for tacos if Sugarfish didn’t work out.

I walked about 15 minutes over to Guisados and it was pretty empty.  Lucky for me.  It had more of a coffee shop feel than a taco joint.  There were a couple of tables full of people using their laptops, one woman was skyping (which included regular shrieks of laughter, which startled everyone around) and one table hosting a really awkward date.

I ordered three tacos and a fresh lemonade.  Like my meal the previous night, there were more things on the menu that I wanted to try, but I felt I’d be acting like a big pig if I ordered them all.  I settled on three tacos:  Cochinita Pibil, Chorizo and Pescado.

Taco Trio from Guisados

Taco Trio from Guisados

The pescado was by far the worst of the three, but it was still very good.  I feel I could eat half a dozen of each of the other two tacos. The flavors, the spice and the fresh in-house made tortillas made the meal fantastic.  The fresh lemonade paired so well with the meats as well.  I fear if I lived in this area, I’d end up eating here much more than my arteries or my waistline could handle.

Have you eaten here before? What is your favorite taco?  When Downtown LA, where do you go for tacos?

Taco Tour

We are staying in town for the long Independence Day Weekend – the first three day weekend we’ve been in Chicago in a very long time.  We plan on cooking, drinking, taking some bike rides and just enjoying the City.

A few days ago my favorite cooking schools (the Chopping Block) forwarded a link to the “9 Best Tacos in Chicago”.  I love me some tacos!  I then posted, in a half joking manor that I wanted to try all of these taco joints (and their best taco) in one day — and to get between all these places, I want to Divvy (the Chicago bike share program).  A few people thought my idea was great — but was I serious?  I guess once people said what a great idea it was, I guess I was serious.

PIRI-PIRI CHICKEN AT ELLE ON THE RIVER

The problem with this list is that they are all at fancier places.  We aren’t hitting a great taco joint in the Mexican neighborhood of Pilsen (which use to be a German / Czech neighborhood, hence the name).  These are mostly in the River North Neighborhood – so we will likely Divvy down to the neighborhood and walk between these various shops. I am a little disappointed we don’t get out of the predominately white touristy areas of the City.  Here’s the list of the recommended tacos:

  • Elle on the River (Langham Hotel)
    • Piri-Piri Chicken Taco
  • Big Star
    • Taco de Pescado
  • Ten Mile House (not in Chicago, but in neighboring Evanston)
    • Smoke Pork and Bacon Taco
  • Fish Bar
    • Crispy Shrimp
  • The Dawson
    • Redfish for Two (this monster costs $48 and includes a whole fish)
  • GT Fish and Oyster
    • Fish Taco with chicharrón
  • Tallboy
    • Atlantic Salmon Taco
  • Slurping Turtle
    • Hamachi Taco
  • Antique Taco
    • Garlic Shrimp

Unfortunately, some of these places are closed for the holiday, so maybe we’ll have to add to our taco tour with some of our favorite taco places – De Cero on Randolph and Carnitas Urupan in Pilsen.

SMOKED PORK AND BACON AT TEN MILE HOUSE

So that’s our plan for Saturday.  We’re hydrating, hopping on the Divvy and schlepping around the City eating tacos.  I will be live Tweeting/Instagramming/Faceboking our taco travels – so follow me and keep and eye open for #TacoTourTXN

Where is your favorite taco joint in Chicago? What do you always order when you visit?  Where else should we go?  Help us get out of River North and see and eat something new!  What are you doing to keep yourselves occupied over this holiday weekend?

Quick Tip – Booking Awards on United.com

As you know, each year we take a trip for Thanksgiving – not a family trip, but just an “us” trip.  We’ve gone to Ireland, Mexico City and most recently France/Switzerland.  Usually we’ll wait until summer to book — or if we hear of a great fare sale.  This year we are trying something a little different  – we aren’t going abroad, we’ve decided to stay in the US – again, skipping the family events though.

Once of the reasons we love traveling abroad over the Thanksgiving holiday is that flights in the US are outrageously expensive, while trips to Europe (and even Mexico) are cheaper than usual and often just a few bucks more than domestic flights.  For example, we toyed with the idea of going to San Diego last Thanksgiving.  The airfare was going to be nearly $850 — while our flight to Paris for the same days were basically the exact same price.  I love San Diego, but I love Paris much more.

Since we are traveling in the US over a hugely busy travel weekend, we decided we’d start looking now.  We’ll be spending time in Colorado and needed to fly into a smaller airport away from Denver (we didn’t want to have several hours of driving after our flight to Denver).  We did a quick spot check on the fares — which were running about $700 for less than ideal times and $950 for our preferred times.  I can’t pay that much for a domestic flight – something in my DNA won’t allow for that.

We flipped the switch on United.com to search for award space. Our outbound flight was coming in at 12,500 miles while the return was coming in at 50,000 – a total of 62,500 in economy.  I’d rather not spend that many miles for domestic flight either.  We decided we’d just hold off and see if the cost comes down.  Then it clicked.  MS wasn’t actually logged into United.com – he was searching as a guest.

Screenshot from UAL.com -  "MileagePlus Premier members may receive better search results by signing in."

Screenshot from UAL.com – “MileagePlus Premier members may receive better search results by signing in.”

United.com even offers a warning that Premier members may receive better search results by signing in.  A little “benefit” for being an Elite Flyer that I almost forgot about.  We signed in and managed to find the exact flight we wanted for only 25,000 miles each – coupling that with our outbound for 12,500 our trip would cost 37,500 miles per person versus the 62,500.  That savings of 25,000 miles means that I can take another cheap domestic flight in the future.

My advice – always make sure you are logged into United.com when you start your search for award seats – you’ll need to log in to use your miles, so save yourself some heartache during your search.

Mexico City : Final Thoughts

Our goal for this quick trip was to maximize our Thanksgiving weekend and get out of the cold in Chicago.  This trip definitely fit the bill. Was it perfect? No, not at all.  We had some pretty good food. We didn’t get sick, robbed (or murdered) – which is definitely a win in my book.

I mention getting murdered because I think we all have this perception that Mexico is such a dangerous place to visit and it can be.  Interestingly enough, the crime stats for Mexico City are better than Chicago when it comes to violent crime.  Chicago’s murder rate is substantially higher than Mexico City’s.  We even had a cab driver comment (when he found out we were from Chicago) on the murders: “Ay – Chicago is so dangerous. Murders all the time. How can you live there?”  That’s a telling tale, isn’t it?  A Mexico City cab driver comments on the rampant crime in Chicago.

Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mexico City

Would I return to Mexico City? Absolutely. It has much more of a European feel than I was expecting.  Next time, I’ll stay in the Polanco neighborhood and try to get a local to take me on a street food tour.  So many of the things we saw on the street looked amazing, but also looked like they would ravage our digestive systems.  We need local help.  Mexico City isn’t high on the revisit list, but it is still there and I will definitely be heading back.

What are your thoughts on the City?  What did we miss that should make the list for next time?

Mexico City Metro

We rarely take taxis when we travel. We prefer to take the subways or buses, depending on the Cities.  Mexico City was no different.  Our hotel wasn’t all that close to a Metro Station but that didn’t stop us from using the train every day of our visit.  All else being equal, if given the choice between taking the City bus or the subway, I’ll always choose the subway. You know where the subway is going to go – and while they can alter the stops (skipping one or more), the train never goes on detour and takes a different road and drops you off god knows where.

The Mexico City Metro is very large, with 12 Lines, and 195 Stations.  It is the 11th largest (based on length) in the world with 1.6 billion (yes, with a ‘B’) rides annually.

Mexico City Metro train entering the station. Photo property of http://blog.allthedumbthings.com/

The frequency was absolutely amazing too – we never had to wait more than 3 minutes for a train any time we wanted to ride.  That aspect reminded me so much of Paris.  What didn’t remind me of Paris was how crowded the cars got, especially on the weekends.  We actually had to wait for the next train a couple times on Saturday since the car was absolutely packed.

Despite the cars operating at more than full capacity, there was still plenty of room for men with huge speakers strapped to their back playing their (or their family members) new music from their mariachi band (mostly – although some people were selling their own rap albums).  Honestly, some of the bands/artists were quite good.  People were also selling all sorts of small crap – which I assumed they just stole from a store and are now marking a profit off of it.  On the train we could buy batteries, gum, candies, postcards and one lady was even selling small bottles of cleaning supplies and toothpaste.  What was more surprising is that people were actively buying this crap.  One lady we watched on the train bought something from every single vendor that passed.  She looked like she was doing her Saturday shopping without ever leaving her train seat.  We did not buy anything on the train – my biggest concern was that (even if we wanted something) when we were purchasing it, the vendor’s cohort would then be picking our pockets, etc.  This sales practice seems all the norm in Mexico City – no one batting an eyelash (except when the music was so loud and jarring you couldn’t help but close your eyes, so they wouldn’t burst out of your head.

Mexico City Metro System Map

All in all, I would highly recommend using the Mexico City Metro to get around the City. Just like subways in other Cities (or any place with a large number of people in a small/confined area), be aware of your surroundings, keep your valuables secured (in zipped pockets or better yet, locked up in your hotel room or back at home).  Don’t flash any sums of money on the train either.  There is no reason to have your wallet out on the subway.

There are various subway apps to download, so you’ll always know where your closet station is.  Head over to the official Mexico City Metro website to review the maps now. Live like the locals. Take the subway.

What is your favorite mode of transportation while traveling?  Do subways frighten you?