I might be obsessed with some elements and as you probably may have noticed, tacos are part of it. So when Cinco de Mayo happened, I realized it was another good excuse to have a taco crawl all day. My run in Central Park North in the morning reminded me (just in case I had forgotten) I am actually living in Spanish Harlem, and for once I was pretty happy to hang out in my neighborhood. National Mexican music screaming in the colorful streets, Harlem is great to get coconut ice cream for $1 and huge fresh squeezed orange juice for half the price of the rest of Manhattan.
Unfortunately, East Harlem is not known to have the best Mexican food in town. Is it because it is mainly made up of Puerto Ricans? I decide to head to the only decent place recommended by most of the guides and foodies: Taco Mix, located on 116th st and 3rd avenue. The line is long, way too long, since we have to wait 30’ to get the precious taco Al Pastor. The pork is sliced to order off a rotating spit and covered with a pineapple that is probably giving only the juice to the meat. No cube of fruit, they are just covered with the traditional cilantro-raw onions mix. If you want to try the traditional Mexican taco, Taco Mix is the place to go.
Quesadilla de Tetuano
Quesadilla de Huitlacoche y Trufas
Toloache 82 is a lot fancier, located in Yorkville. It seems you cannot go wrong with the menu. The guacamole is one of the best I had, the quesadillas are definitely looking original and the black truffle on one of them is really savory even though they won’t feed you. The fish taco is generous, baja-style tilapia with spicy-jicama slaw (Mexican coleslaw-style), topped with guacamole. I would not rate them favorite fish taco but they really worth it (click here for the taco-crawl). Anyway the restaurant offers one of the best Mexican foods in the city, so I would recommend to spend you next dinner out there.
Tequilla Park Taqueria
Tequilla Park Taqueria
For your upcoming Margarita night, head to Tequilla Park Taqueria. Located on the second floor of the Hudson Lodge, the huge taco-margarita garden is great to hang out, watch people or play the babyfoot. Watch out because your night will cost you a lot with the $16 margarita and the $8 baby-tacos.
Urban food-crawl is all about getting the best of a single dish or area. My first crawl is dedicated to tacos. Since my first trip to California in March 2012, I’ve been obsessed with this Mexican dish. I would say even more with fish tacos. But the real ones, not those fake crispy tacos you can have at Taco Bell or any other bad Tex-Mex restaurant.
For my friends overseas, what is a good taco? Pork, chicken, shrimp, salmon or even lobster, onions, cilantro, salsa and avocado for the California version wrapped into a fresh homemade corn or flour tortilla. Since I am in NYC I’ve been tracking the best one. This is not California, I agree, but you can still find great options in the Big Apple.
2. Empellon Cocina, East Village: a whole chapter should be dedicated to Empellon Cocina. Acclaimed by the press to be one of the best new restaurants in town, I do agree. The tacos are really simple, maybe too much at the first sight with its sea scallops and caramelized cauliflower. A bit expensive ($16 for 2), but extremely tasty, having sea scallops in a tacos does worth the price.
3. La Esquina, Nolita : go for lunch at the Café. The restaurant is actually way nicer than the outdoor area. Get the fish tacos, really tasty, with red cabbage that makes it taste different ($9 for 2). The corner Deli, a bit tacky, is one of the three restaurants at the same spot. Come by night, a hidden restaurant, La Brasserie, opens downstairs. Reservation 3 weeks ahead though… La Esquina, Café 114 Kenmare, New York, NY 10012 (646) 613-1333
4. Dokebi Bar & Grill, Williamsburg: If you are looking for a Korean BBQ place, head to Williamsburg. This restaurant has such good vibes, and the music playlist is so much better than any Korean joint you will ever find in the depressing Korean town. But the surprise is the Korean style tacos. Go for the fish taco, battered white fish, only $4 each, with plenty of other options. It doesn’t look Korean at all, with its apparent brick wall, modern art wall and its red Vichy tablecloths. If you like kimchi and fish tacos you will love this nice fusion. Dokebi Bar & Grill 199 Grand St Brooklyn, NY 11211 718) 782-1424
5. Friedman’s lunch, Chelsea. The Chelsea Market reminds me the Ferry Building in San Francisco. The food looks great everywhere, but because it is busy and indoor in the basement, you need to find a cozy place to sit. Friedman’s Lunch offers you the solution. Good quality of fish, plenty, grilled and not fried, with fresh vegetable and covered with a white sauce, the fish tacos is a really good value ($13 for 2) Friedman’s Lunch at the Chelsea Market 75 9th Ave New York, NY 10011 (212) 929-7100
6. Brooklyn Taco at Donna, South Williamsburg : As part of the Armory show, Donna, the hot cocktail spot in South Williamsburg is hosting Brooklyn Taco each Saturday of March. The venu is fantastic, the bar is relax and the decor elegant and beautiful. Grab a cocktail ($7 happy hour) and a cole-braised pork tacos ($4), promised you will enjoy your night!
7. El Toro Blanco, West Village: I already talked about this new spot, go see the review here.
8. Pinche Taqueria, Nolita: Just like an authentic taqueria, you don’t want to spend to much time in there. Good just to grab a taco and leave. This place got pretty good reviews, but once again I got disappointed since I thought it was not tasty enough (despite the whole guacamole on the top). Tacos are really cheap though ($2.95-$3.95) and you probably feel closer to Mexico than places like El Toro Blanco.
10. El Aguila: I live in Spanish Harlem, and oddly this is not the best area to get good tacos. Made with industrial tortillas, the meat is not really tender. I would not recommend the trip, even though I am sure East Harlem has some good suprises… El Aguila 137 E 116th St # 1 New York, NY 10029 (212) 410-2450