Not to berate a place that already has a variety of mixed reviews, but Gracias Madre is really “just ok”. Here’s the thing, the food isn’t bad, it just isn’t anything innovative. I understand it’s in the busiest sector of West Hollywood; I understand the word-of-mouth over its beautiful layout with outdoor patio seating; I understand the cocktails and brunch scene go hand-in-hand with West Hollywood scene and socialites and thus, it can get away with charging the $$$ prices it does. But ultimately, Gracias Madre is a restaurant and when reviewing their food, the verdict is “just ok”.
I’ve been to Gracias Madre a handful of times since it opened about three years ago and tried the bowls on my first two visits, and just yesterday I ventured out to the tacos. The menu only offers one option for these, so I really had no other choice but to order “The Tacos”(and yes, that’s the name listed on the menu). I was tempted to order the “Plantains with Mole Negro,” but the server expressed his preference for the tacos due to his loathing of plantains (shocker!!!), so I went with his pick. I could have done either, I’m just indecisive.
One of my other friends ordered the same item as me along with a hot chocolate, and the other went for the fancier-sounding “Aged Truffle Cheese Plate”. Our food arrived very quickly (which shocked me considering how busy the place was and that it was virtually impossible to get patio seating) and we immediately dug in.
Tacos: While I must praise the attempt at authenticity through the black beans and pickled onions, jalapeños, garlic cloves and carrots, I have to say that these stole the show next to the tacos, which says a lot considering the tacos were suppose to be the highlight. The meat substitute was one of the usual togo’s when creating vegan tacos (jackfruit), and while the jackfruit was flavorful and the texture was reminiscent of Mexican Barbacoa, it wasn’t spectacular and almost the same as the ones offered at other vegan establishments. It was juicy and savory, but it was missing that ‘kick’ that would differentiate it over the rest of the “jackfruit tacos” L’A’s vegan scene offers. The cashew cream in them was an underwhelming addition and the crispy onions (probably the only inventive component of the tacos) were cooked to the point of burnt, which only lessened the overall tasting experience. The tortillas were standard corn tortillas. I’ve never been a fan of corn tortillas so my opinion on these is biased.
Hot Chocolate: My friend was generous enough to let me sip on his hot chocolate and it was also just ok. I still remember the richness and smoothness of authentic Mexican hot chocolate from my childhood, and the one at Gracias Madre misses the mark by a long shot. It was more like drinking hot cocoa (the stuff from the packet that you add water to); it tasted diluted and needed sweetness. Mexican hot chocolate is chocolaty and sweet and there’s no getting around that if you are trying to replicate it.
Aged Truffle Cheese Plate: My friend ordered this because she is a fan of “Fun Foods” (as she refers to them) and thought this item sounded the funnest from everything else on the menu. Surprisingly, just by getting a taste from her order, I decided it’s probably better tasting than most other items I have tried at Gracias Madre; the nut cheese was rich and creamy and the bread it was paired with was absolutely delicious; oily and soft, the way I love bread on similar platters. But again, my main point is proven: the fact that the “Aged Truffle Cheese Plate” stands out when compared to other menu items like the bowls, tacos and Mexican hot chocolate is mind-boggling. Shouldn’t more attention be placed into the crafting of the signature Mexican dishes oppose to a non-Mexican small plate?
I will give praise where it’s deserved; the service is always excellent at Gracias Madre and the outdoor seating is truly beautiful; I would go again just to enjoy it and the cheese platter. I commemorate Gracias Madre for trying to bring authenticity to the vegan Mexican food scene through its menu, but it’s offerings just don’t make the cut.