Photos, story by Clare Shepherd
Philly Mexican restaurants brought their best recipes to compete in June’s Guac Off, an annual fundraiser for local food charity MANNA. Only two restaurants took home awards, but all of them proved that Philly is a great city for guacamole.
Square 1682 took home the People’s Choice Award for their mixture of sweet and savory flavors. They served up a tasty guac, but they also provided their own tortilla chips which would have gone a long way for the other contestants. I tried their guac again with the corn chips provided by Whole Foods and found it more comparable to other contestants.
Revolution Taco was my personal favorite. Their recipe was the only one that included grilled corn, and that plus the addition of a small amount of white cheese made this one stand out. Judges (including Alex Holley of Fox 29 Good Day Philadelphia and Marilyn Russell of BEN FM) agreed: this recipe took home Judges Choice Award.
Morgan’s Pier also competed, producing guac that was so salty it was almost inedible. Salty snacks are a great strategy for moving $3 lemonades, but between sweating in the heat and downing large amounts of tortilla chips, this was one of my least favorites. I got a sample before they added bacon, so I can only imagine how salty the final product must have been. However, Square 1682’s representative told me this was his favorite other guacamole, proving taste is a personal matter.
La Calaca Feliz‘ entry had the most creative ingredients, including seeds and goat cheese. However, there may be a reason most guac recipes don’t include these ingredients, so this one was a little too bizarre to be one of the best.
Several restaurants served more “traditional” guacamole, likely what they offer on their own menus. All of these would be delicious in a restaurant setting, but at a competition they started to run together. I can attest, however, that Besito serves a guac worth visiting a restaurant.
I also highly recommend finding your way to Cafe Ynez for their pineapple habanero guac. The sweetness was less overwhelming than in some of the other guacs with fruit, and it was overall a very balanced flavor.
I don’t eat meat, so I brought along a friend to fill me in on non-vegetarian guacamole. Los Camaradas’ recipe included fried pork belly which sounded intriguing but, according to my omnivorous friend, made it more of a meat dish with avocado than a true guacamole.
This guac was beautifully presented, and as it had tuna I had to trust the word of my friend. To quote: “I’ve never had tuna in guacamole before. Now I know why.” Still, pretty!
There were two additional surprises from this event:
The event was hosted by drag queen Brittany Lynn, whose colorful dress and SUPERB boots provided a very welcome change from the visually muted atmosphere.
One guac featured an optional topping of “worm salt,” which is literally ground up worm. My meat eating friend assured me that it WAS incredibly salty.
The competition was to support MANNA (Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance), a local organization that delivers meals to people suffering from life threatening illness. It felt a little strange to eat until I was sick to support a food charity, but I do it all the time for free so this was win-win.
All in all, fans of Mexican food would do well to try ALL of the guacs. I know I plan on revisiting these restaurants. Operation successful!