Why: El Buen Gusto has been open for two years serving authentic Mexican favorites. The family owned and operated restaurant may not have a big menu compared with many other Mexican cuisine restaurants in Clark County, but what they do offer might impress diners even more.
What I tried: My dining companions and I settled on the chicken tamales and tacos. We selected the asada, pollo and pastor tacos made with homemade tortillas.
The homemade corn tortillas were probably 5 to 6 inches in diameter and slightly thicker than pre-made tortillas. If you opt for homemade, it will take slightly longer, but they are well worth the wait. They are moist with a soft, smooth texture and light corn flavor that is deliciously satisfying. Of the three types of tacos we tried, I preferred the asada for its authentic representation of Mexican cuisine. The meat was bursting with rich flavor, and it was all lean and juicy. Both the pollo and pastor were exceptionally flavorful and, like the asada, they were lean and juicy. All of the tacos were topped with chopped onions and cilantro in true street-taco fashion. Lime wedges accompanied the tacos for a bit of citrus zing, and sour cream, as well as a spicy red sauce and mildly spicy green sauce. The tacos were remarkably appetizing and quickly became my new favorites on our foodscape.
The tamales are homemade. I was hoping they would be served in the corn husk, but I am a romantic in that way — the ideal idea, which probably does not translate to practical for a restaurant in every instance. The tamale dough possessed just a hint of buttery flavor and was not too dry. The chicken filling was tasty, though a little sparse, and there was enough to enjoy to the last bite.
I also tried a guava razpado. The shaved ice was flavored with guava syrup and tiny pieces of guava. It was an icy cold treat that I found was best enjoyed after it sat for a few minutes and began to melt a bit. This made it easy to use a spoon and eat it like an Icee.
Overall, my dining companions and I determined that we had made a worthwhile discovery at El Buen Gusto and are already planning a return visit.
Menu highlights beyond what I tried: Burritos, tortas, nachos, quesadillas, tamales, chicharrones, tostiloco and esquite are all available. Asada, pollo, pastor, barbacoa, tripa and lengua are meat options for the burritos, tacos, tortas and nachos, with asada, pastor and pollo for quesadillas, and pollo and puerco for tamales. Dessert options consist of bionico and fresas con crema. There is even pepino loco on the menu. Bottled beverages are available. Milkshakes, tejuino and aguas frescas are some additional dessert-type beverage options.
Atmosphere: The restaurant is in a strip mall and is easily missed on the one way section of Northeast St. Johns Road. Signage is subtle, but you can readily spot the windows with menu items painted in bright, bold colors. There are a few tables and chairs that will seat a very moderate crowd of fewer than 20 people. The kitchen takes up half the space and is sectioned off by a wood partition that you cannot see over. Orders are placed at the counter and delivered to tables. Trash receptacles are available for diners to clean up after themselves. Extra condiments are counter-side by the register.
Other observations: Tacos cost $1 each on Taco Tuesdays. The service is friendly and prices are fair. The establishment is tidy and comfortable. Take out is available.
Cost: Burritos are $8 and $9.50 depending on the type of protein. Tacos are $1.70 or $2.10, determined by the type of protein. Tortas cost $7 and $8.75 based on the protein content and nachos are either $8.50 or $9.75. Quesadillas are $6.50 and tamales are $2.50. All other food items are under $6.75. Specialty beverages come in two sizes and cost $3 to $7.50.
Dining out guide: El Buen Gusto
Where: 3414 N.E. 52nd St., Suite B105, Vancouver.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Contact: 360-487-6349 or on Facebook.
Health score: El Buen Gusto received a score of 15 on Nov. 9. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants with a score of 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.