Chili rellenos are filled with either chicken or cheese at La Guera. Watch out! The peppers may be hotter than you expect.
The Mexican state of Oaxaca is known for seven distinctive mole sauces. New La Guera Mexican restaurant on Gordon Road may become famous for just one of them.
Mole Oaxaqueño is the famous Black Mole of Oaxaca, a deep, dark, rich, slow-cooked blend of mulatto chili peppers, nuts and chocolate.
At La Guera, the sauce comes on chicken or pork ribs. Don’t arrive here expecting perfect, skinless chicken breasts. The fare is homey and real. Chicken drumsticks and thighs one day were small and oh-so-tender and smothered in the mole, which was equally satisfying on La Guera’s thin, housemade tortillas.
La Guera has been open just a few weeks on Gordon Road, near the Market Street intersection, but buzz about the “authentic Mexican” fare its menu promises is spreading.
What caught my ear was a stylish American couple’s conversation last weekend about La Guera’s chapulines.
The pair sipped wine at a downtown Wilmington’s waterfront café as they talked about the garlic-spiced and toasted grasshoppers that are another Oaxacan specialty.
The husband was served chapulines at La Guera, which told me this place was the real deal. Consumption of insects in Mexico dates back before Spanish conquistadors invaded the area, bringing hogs and cattle with them. Native populations ate insects as protein sources and as a means to control insect damage to crops, according to food historians. Oaxacan legend claims that visitors who eat chapulines in Oaxaca will return to the Mexican state some day. Oaxaca is where I sampled grasshoppers in tacos and saw them sold in different sizes in tall, pyramid-shaped piles at open markets. I can’t wait to go back.
At La Guera, cahpulines are served only to customers in-the-know. More familiar Oaxacan mole is on the public specials board daily.
Tongue-stinging chili rellenos coated in delicate egg batter make the regular specials board, too. The rest of the list changes more frequently. Grilled steak in salsa verde, seafood soup and tortitas de pollo en jitomate (chicken patties in tomato sauce) were recent offerings.
Whatever owner Delfina Urena serves comes with those housemade tortillas. The Mexico native said she hails from Guerro. She has fond memories of her uncle’s restaurant in Mexico.
Guera is a word used in Mexico to denote a woman with a fair complexion and light hair, both traits of Urena. At La Guera, she said, she cooks with a Oaxacan native, hence the mole and chapulines.
Specials enhance a full, printed menu of tacos, quesadillas, sopes, tostadas, soups, sandwiches and house specialities, including posole, menudo and chicken enchiladas in red, green or mole sauces. Meat fillings range from steak, chicken and pork to beef neck, tongue or tripe.
Dine-in or take-out is available at the 6620-F Gordon Road restaurant in Gordon Road Station. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Some menu items, such as menudo, are available only on weekends. Call 910-392-6682.