By day El Gusano in Oakland, California, is a taqueria, serving up quick bites like taco truck-style tacos, burritos and pombazo, while at night it turns into a full restaurant, with happy hour specials, an extensive mescal selection and of course a full dinner menu with offerings like enchiladas, solo carne and fajitas.
The cuisine at El Gusano is inspired by the chefs’ long love-affair with Latin American food, including the fusions found in Los Angeles and San Francisco. At El Gusano, diners will find a simple, casual space where they can enjoy Mexican and Central American classics with a modern twist.
Four of us each with different selections all had the same reaction. Meat was dry, drinks were weak and the rice had an off- putting taste as if it came from a packaged product, not made on premises.
The crafted trio of salsas were fabulous and the chips thin and crispy. Go for a beer and a basket of chips.
We took a chance because I wanted a good margarita. They do not have a blender, but the margs on the rocks are excellent. The food was a real surprise, though, how good it was. Even the rice and beans were outstanding.
I was so diappointed! It's a beautiful restaurant and the menu looked delicious but when we received the food we were not impressed. Ordered apps and dinner and they brought everything out at the same time (hate that). The scallops were overcooked and did not taste good with the plantain hash. The enpanadas was soggy and oily and out meals had no flavor. The best thing there was the mango margarita and chips and salsa. Not sure we'll be going back there.
Amazing complimentary trio of salsas with really fantastic tortilla chips. I highly recommend the Mirnas Salbutes and Huaraches, very tasty and nice textures. Delicious margaritas and cocktails. Cool interior design. Great service at dinner.
The service was slow & inconsistant. People were very friendly though. Food was very delicious!
Really good food, welcoming atmosphere, and solid drinks. El Gusano makes no pretense that they are a fine dining restaurant, but they elevate the concept of a casual, comfortable, reasonably priced neighborhood Mexican restaurant. Drinks are strong and tasty. Food was more adventurous than I expected, and everything we ordered was perfectly executed. The service was not perfect, but everyone was very helpful and friendly. This was my first visit but I expect I'll be back often.
The food tasted OK. Cocktails were good. We were a party of 5 and seated promptly, but from the moment we ordered, we felt rushed. Our server even brought out our check when we hadn't even looked at the dessert menu (very rude). Not going back for lots of reasons.
We all enjoyed the meals for our party of 4. Excellent Chili Verde. Chips and Guacamole were addicting. Only downside was we ordered house Margaritas and it took a very long time to show up. One showed up as I was just finishing my meal and I ordered it before the food showed up at the table. I would go back for the food.
Food was great, service was great and the drinks were delicious!
We had an inconsistent set of food. We had salad and plantains; the plantains were quite good, but the salad was under seasoned, watery and tasteless, had iceberg lettuce, and had none of the pepitas that were claimed in the menu. Margaritas have gone downhill; perhaps due to the lime shortage there were substitutes for fresh lime, but if so, that should have been clearly stated so that we could make an informed choice. Chile verde was quite good, but the chicken mole had more bones, tendons and skin than leg meat.
There is a lot to be said for a restaurant that consistently delivers the same food with attention to service. This can be said about El Gusano. It would be delightful to see a more diverse menu or at least daily specials.
I have yet to find Mexican food in the Bay area that I truly love, El Gusano comes closer than the rest. The complimentary chips and 3 varieties of salsa were outstanding, as was the guacamole. The margaritas were good and the beans and rice were very good. The rest of the menu was very fresh California-Mex, very good but not the Tex-Mex I love and miss so much.
I had an 8:30pm reservation through Open Table, showed up ten minutes late (by no exaggeration) and the manager would not seat us! The manager acknowledged that we had a reservation and said that because the restaurant was slow, they closed the kitchen and would not seat us. Nothing was done to make up for this at all. My friends and I walked down the street to an Indian restaurant and enjoyed ourselves there.
Regardless of our 8PM res, at 8:30, before our appetizers even showed up, we were told the kitchen was closing and we must order our dinner! Their listed hours are 5:30pm-9:30pm; the even take 930PM reservations! I spoke to the manager who gave me a sob story abt how tired she was, her kitchen "fell apart" that day and she wanted to go home. Food & drinks were absolutely delicious. Bartender & our server were incredibly nice. It's just too bad about the whackadoodle manager and the forced ordering of our food. We would have ordered much more food and drinks but due to being rushed out. I really want to return b/c of the quality of food but if that's how they treat their customers, I will definitely have to think twice before going again.
Everything we ate was tasty! We went here before seeing a show at Yoshi's Oakland, which is just several blocks away from this restaurant.
First time for dinner and all 4 of us loved it. The service was excellent with chips and 3 delicious salsas brought to your table with a water carafe. We ordered their margaritas. Mine had chile and salt on the rim and it was great. And their margaritas are big with only good tequila used. I ordered the Salmón en Hoja de Platano. All dishes came with rice, pinto or black beans, and home made corn tortillas. My wife had the Chicken with Mole Poblano. Our other diners had the Enchiladas con Nopales. Everyone was very happy with their meal selection. El Gusano has become our favorite Mexican restaurant in Oakland. We can't wait to go back.
Enjoyed the atmosphere and the food.
Cute place. Margaritas below average. Good good.
The San Francisco duo who created Tropisueno brought their fabulous food to downtown Oakland. It has become one of our favorites and our friends frequent it too. Great atmosphere, innovative cuisine and excellent place for exceptional drinks.
We were excited to eat here because we love Tropisueno in San Francisco, and I think this is its sister restaurant in Oakland. We ordered things we usually get, such as guacamole (it's spicy here), the wild shrimp with garlic and onions appetizer, chile relleno, and dessert. All the dishes were good, but not great. The chile relleno was a little bit hard and the cheese was not soft and melting. Also, the portions of the rice and especially the black beans seemed paltry. The appetizer came with the entrees which was fine, but we would have preferred to have it come earlier. The Tres Leches cake was delicious. The service was friendly, but we were charged for another table's bill, which was higher of course. We had to get that fixed.
Tasty and fun preparations of traditional South of the Border faire.
The food is amazing. Each dash we try is unique, but also tastes authentic.
Thank you El Gusano for a fine Mexcian dining experience.
Margaritas from spicy to regular. Quality food from chile verde to tacos and shrimp. Excellent service and friendly atmosphere. This is a comfortable restaurant with plenty of space and great mexican food and drinks.
My husband and I had dinner Saturday night at 7 pm..The margaritas and food were fantastic, but it was way too loud!
Pleased to be seated and then offered awesome chips and salsa!! I ordered the shrimp and it was seasoned perfectly. My friend ordered the combo platter. All was delicious! Can't wait to go back! The waiters were attentive while still having a good time!
I had seen this place a few times...so I thought I'd take my friend for her birthday..I made a reservation..! Parking was hard to find on the street.got inside ,had to wait 10 ...min. to tell hostess I had a reservation..when I did..she said we'll seat u next..! 4 groups later,she tells girls in front of me ,sorry...they showed up can't give you that table! It'll be 40 min.we got seated,got water,chips/salsa...finally got server...then waited 25 min.for our food...then felt abandoned...waited 15 min.for 2nd drink...? Food was great ,but a bit crazy in the . Place. I will try it one more time! But glad I h a d a reservation!
We've been for lunch (taqueria) and dinner (full svc dining). Neither one was worthwhile. If you're stuck in the area for lunch, the food is decent (altho the carnitas tastes more like a superb al pastor). Extensive salsas offering but no signs means you're trying blind. At dinner, everything is different, even the chips (fragile in day, sturdier at night). Ceviches trio was mediocre, with salmon and whitefish mushy/past their prime. Chile verde plate: pork in a dark brown broth, not a verde; tasted oddly closer to beef than pork. My sopa de tortilla was decent, but too many onions. Our dinner waitress was a "fail" all around: couldn't remember our order (write it down, lady!) and took 20 min to tell us my first choice wasn't available!
This restaurant is on another level from other bay area Mexican restaurants. Fabulous food and service, The chips and salsas, and the guacamole were the best we ever had.
Food is excellent. Try the Chili Verde, it's spicy and has flavor.
Very good food, nice atmosphere, unique dishes. Will return
Our food came out after 45 minutes. The service was ok but we were definitely frustrated. The kitchen was semi open and the chefs looked like they cared less about getting the food out. They were standing around talking for a majority of the evening. The food was good and I liked the décor but I will never go back.
The food here is rich and spicy. They don't hold back on portions, flavor or heat! Comfortable atmosphere although the space is voluminous and lacks intimacy. The deco is fun cried and interesting no the lighting is very pleasant - low but even and good color. The service is fine; very friendly and patient. I recommend the place for food and atmosphere for casual dining.
Their top-shelf margarita would have been much better had they actually put tequila in the drink. While their mole sauce was quite excellent, the chicken was dry. Much better Mexican food can be found elsewhere.
My wife and I had heard good things, and were not disappointed. We used the appetizers and ceviche as small plates, and only got one "main" (a nicely done steak plate with beans, rice, and more), and everything ranged from good to excellent, and they didn't hide from assertive flavors. Unfortunately, they had a private party in the bar, very loud and about 50 folks constantly ordering drinks, so they were more than a bit under the gun, but handled it well overall.
Very nice and clean good food and very good margaritas
El Gusano is beautifully decorated inside with the virgin of Guadalupe on an altar. There is a nice sidewalk patio with tables. Service was excellent and our charming server continually checked on us. There is very good tequila and mezcal based cocktail list. The food is not your standard Mexican restaurant fare as the menu consists of many authentic regional dishes. For starters, the Guacamole de la Casa, the white shrimp sautéed in butter, the empanadas, and the tostaditas de carneros were all great. Excellent large plates were the chicken with mole poblano and the camarones Tropisueno. This is an upscale restaurant only for dinner. It is a typical taqueria by day. There is also a lively bar scene.
Wonderful salsa trio and wonderful helping of chicken soup!
Great margaritas and an inspired menu! All of the food was really excellent and fresh and nicely presented. Homemade chips and a trio of amazing salsas free and plentiful. We'll definitely be back soon.
Waiter went out of his way to give us a good dining experience. Even gave me a heads up when I ordered rice to tell me it was made with chicken stock. Really appreciated him.
Vibrant bar and restaurant. Spicy food as expected. Had a coupon so it was well worth it.