Founded in 1994 by family patriarch Fernando Lopez Sr., Guelaguetza is where Oaxacalifornia began. Today, between restaurants and food trucks, the L.A. Oaxacan restaurant scene has become the third most important center of Oaxacan cooking in the world, after Oaxaca and Mexico City, respectively.
On Thursday, the Lopez family (the restaurant is now owned by siblings Bricia Lopez, Fernando Lopez Jr., and Paulina Lopez) attained legendary status when Guelaguetza was announced as a winner of the James Beard Foundation America’s Classics award. Since 1998, the Beard Foundation has recognized regional restaurants in the U.S. that have been in business for at least 10 years and have both made significant contributions to their community and have “timeless appeal.”
Guelaguetza joins Los Angeles institutions Philippe the Original (1999), Langer’s Deli (2001), and Yuca’s (2005) as the only L.A. recipients of the prestigious award. The Koreatown hotspot where the Oaxacan community and Mexican food lovers get their fix for mole, mezcal, and tlayudas also has the honor of being the first time that an authentic Mexican restaurant has received an award from the James Beard Foundation.
In 21 years since the original Guelaguetza first opened, the Oaxacalifornia dining landscape has blossomed to include many Oaxacan restaurants and trucks, but no other Oaxacan spot in town has been as uncompromising as Guelaguetza in terms of food. If it’s not 100 percent Oaxacan, it will never be served at Guelaguetza, or by the Lopez family, Oaxacalifornia’s first family.