Los Laureles, at 1518 E. Grand, opened its doors around 20 years ago. For generations of people who grew up associating Mexican food with Tex-Mex brown gravy, burritos, and tacos heaped upon with mounds of yellow cheese, Los Laureles with its from-the-heart-of-Mexico cuisine was a revelation, presenting a more authentic taco: a simple construct of steamed corn tortillas topped with a choice of exotic meats, sprinkled with cilantro and chopped onion, plus lime and radish for garnish.
For starters you get tortilla chips and both red and green salsas. Both have a very smooth, watery consistency. The tomatillo-based salsa verde packs a good solid heat that builds slow and leaves a great tingling afterglow. The tomato-based salsa roja boasts a good cilantro flavor. Light on the heat, this is a good salsa for the average American palate and the most kid-friendly of the duo. An optional side of chunky guacamole, like the salsa roja, is replete with cilantro.
For breakfast at Los Laureles, I'm partial to either Huevos a la Mexicana or the Huevos Rancheros. Huevos a la Mexicana (below left) offers scrambled eggs with chopped tomato, onion and green bell pepper, each vegetable representing a color of the Mexican flag. With Huevos Rancheros (below right), some tomatoey ranchera sauces have pork or beef, and some are meatless like that served at Los Laureles. Each dish comes with sides of refried beans, Mexican rice, a simple salad of shredded lettuce with a tomato slice, and your choice of flour or corn tortillas. The pinto beans are creamy and have a nice clean, beany flavor. I'm almost positive they're cooked with lard. The rice was fluffy, lightly flavorful, and peppered with bits of carrot and the occasional kernel of corn.
As for tacos, I usually order a trio with crispy, spicy chorizo, but I've tried other meats as well. The pastor (pork) is richly flavored and accentuated with chunks of pineapple, the pollo (chicken) is very tender, while the asada (beef) is, well, beefy.
Chiles Rellenos, a battered and fried ploblano chile stuffed with cheese comes topped with a vegetable-laden tomato sauce. Other items that my dinner mates have enjoyed, but I have not, include a chorizo torta (sandwich) built on a soft flatbread, and nachos, a nod to Tex-Mex cuisine's influence.