Even though there are local institutions serving respectable Mexican food that have stood the test of time, authentic Mexican cuisine has long been an inconsistent commodity around Rochester, and you would need to travel east to Canandaigua (Rio Tomatlán) or Sodus (El Rincón Mexicano), or west to Medina (Mariachi De Oro), to find the real deal. The latest independent to try to establish local legitimacy is Guacamole in East Rochester.
Guacamole, the realization of owner Gareth Aylett's dream, opened in August, and sits squarely in East Rochester's business district. It distinguishes itself from competitors by positioning itself as an "authentic Mexican taquería," which suggests simplicity in its menu, primarily with tacos. Guacamole expands on that concept just a bit by also offering burritos, tortas, and salads.
The restaurant's intimate space features vibrant and cheerful green and orange décor, about 20 seats and six tables, and eye-pleasing menu boards that walk diners through the ordering process, which takes place at the counter. A glass partition separates guests from the appetizingly arranged containers of beans, meats, and toppings that fill and adorn Guacamole's offerings.
Although Guacamole doesn't yet make its own tortillas, the business heats them — either corn or flour — on a press prior to preparing tacos. I was happy to see flexibility offered for taco (or burrito) meals, which include three tacos: Diners are able to mix and match tortilla types and meats to custom-construct meals.
Guacamole's meat choices transcend the typical and accentuate the authentic. Aylett sought to share his passion for the simple flavors of central Mexico and employed his mother, who hails from Mexico City, to help create the menu. Pork offerings include al pastor (pork shoulder marinated in chiles, achiote, pineapple, and onions, and roasted on a vertical rotisserie) and cochinita pibil (pork shoulder marinated in citrus juices, achiote, and other spices). For those who favor beef, Guacamole offers carne asada and picadillo (ground and cooked with spices in a pasilla chile sauce). On the fowl side, you can get your tacos, burritos, or tortas filled with pollo a la parrilla (grilled chicken marinated in lime and cilantro). The dishes can also be prepared to satisfy vegetarians, who may choose from black beans, pinto beans, rice, and grilled peppers and onions.
There are several things to like about Guacamole. No dish exceeds $7.25, and although this is not fast food, wait time between ordering and eating is minimal. And it's hard to argue with freshly prepared meats, most of which have been marinated overnight to take on distinctive flavors. The toppings are similarly fresh, and include chopped onions, cilantro, shredded cheese, sour cream (Ayeth's concession to American palates), sliced jalapeños, three degrees of salsa (I liked combining the hottest one with the tangy tomatillo-based medium), and guacamole ($1.85 extra). I love that it offers lime wedges for squeezing onto food. I don't love that the lime wedges (and salsa) are served in disposable plastic cups.
Among the tacos, I appreciated the earthy flavors of al pastor; the piquancy of cochinita pibil; and the way picadillo's infused spices distinguished it from run-of-the-mill ground beef. My favorite item, however, was the carne asada torta I ate on my final visit. Tortas — hearty sandwiches on crusty, billowy buns (Guacamole's come from Baker Street) made crispy through grilling on a sandwich press and filled with the kinds of things you'd expect to find in a taco or burrito — are finally starting to work their way into our Mexican food scene.
Recently, the Los Angeles Times said "tortas trump tacos in portability, heft, and most of the time, value, because they offer more of your favorite taco filling for your hard-earned buck." All true. On many days, one of Guacamole's tortas would be good for one-and-a-half to two meals for me. Additionally, and I can't say why (could it be the mayonnaise and refried beans that come as the standard base layers?), the flavors melded more harmoniously on the torta than the tacos.
On my first visit, three separate workers — including Aylett — stopped by to ask me how I was enjoying my meal. This approach was consistent across my three visits. I also appreciate the metal taco trays with V-shaped notches on which tacos are served to keep them upright and intact. That Aylett supports local businesses by sourcing as much as possible from them also earns points on my scorecard. Also, and importantly, Guacamole's guacamole was fresh and flavorful.
Less successful are the tortilla chips, which although freshly made in-house, have an off-putting texture that, despite their freshness, give them a stale sort of bite. However, after finishing my final meal and then introducing myself to Ayeth, I was impressed with his earnest interest in my assessment of these chips and how he might improve them. It became clear to me that he employs a commitment to caring that permeates all aspects of his business, one that is a recipe for success.