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Taqueria Coatzingo -- why it is my favorite Mexican

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  • Brian S Nov 6, 2005 05:02 PM
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I don't think there is any doubt that Mexican cuisine is the most complex and sophisticated in the New World. (Sorry, Peru!) Many of the sauces date back to pre-Columbian times, and their startling blend of flavors seem like relics of an ancient, long-forgotten and inscrutably alien civilization.  But where to find them? I think it breaks the heart of any New York chowhound to read posts on Los Angeles board about mole dulce, or Yucatan barbecue, or the seven fabled moles of Oaxaca. You won't find them here. But you will find a surprising variety in a place all of you know about but few of you tap its hidden depths. Tacqueria Coatzingo. The trick is: ignore the printed menu. Order the specials. They are handwritten on tiny sheets of paper and left at each table. There is far more variety toward the end of the week. (If you go on, say, a Monday and there's nothing appealing, they make a mean mole poblano, available every day.) The food is, of course, from Pueblo (that's where the village of Coatzingo is located) and reminds me of the stuff that Mama would serve in a tiny village... if Mama were a very good cook. Here are some of my diary entries to illustrate my point.

July 25
Last time I ordered mixiote de puerco a plate arrived full of pig intestines cooked in green sauce with cactus. Tonight, it was chunks of pork stewed with olives in a rich, fiery red sauce flavored with an herb, almost medicinal, I'd never tasted before. If you go in a traditional Chinese herbal drug store in Chinatown, it smells like what I ate. I was the only one there who isn't Mexican and the only one to speak English. In that restaurant there is no way to know you aren't in central Mexico.
Except that I walked a few blocks afterward and found myself in India... streets thronged with Indians out for an evening stroll, all the women wearing Saris.

Aug 1
I had baby back ribs stewed in a sauce made of tomatoes and cactus leaves. Not as exciting as last week's meal, but good. The thing I like about this place is, though I've never been to Latin America, I believe that if I went to a tiny town in central Mexico, in the Puebla region where most immignants to NYC come from, and a family invited me to dinner at their house, and Mama was a good cook, she'd bring out dishes like these. This isn't my criterion for all restaurants. You can distinguish between those cuisines which are family based and those which are more elite based -- eg French and Chinese. If I go to the best French restaurant, I don't expect to get food like French Mama would cook, though many top French chefs, as a hobby, search out obscure peasant recipes.

Aug 10
Back to Tacqueria Coatzingo. Coatzingo is, my computer tells me, a tiny town in Puebla, Mexico. The Tacqueria looks as if it belongs there. I had Chuletas con salsa guajillo. The pork chops were in a fiery (thanks to the guajillo) red sauce with a spice like none I've tasted before... it had a flavor almost like dried tea leaves. Last time I went there I was disappointed, the food didnt seem exotic enough. That wasn't true tonight.

Aug 21
  Back to Tacqueria Coatzingo, that Mexican cantina in Jackson Heights, Queens. It's always a pleasure on a Sunday, when it's jammed with loud, happy Mexican families. I was lucky and got a seat without the usual Sunday wait.
       I ordered a special, beefsteak with salsa roja. Tough, overcooked alleged beef served in a red sauce so good you could serve shoe leather in that sauce and have people running back to buy more. A rich, thick sauce with spices I couldnt identify. I think if you had a food expert who knew every cuisine in the world but unacountably thought Mexicaln food was  limited to burritos and tacos, and you gave him that meal, he'd say "What planet did you get that from??"

September 5
was looking to see lots of family groups at this Mexican restaurant for Labor Day. But it was almost empty. Those who exploit illegals don't give them holidays off, especially Labor Day. I've heard a lot about birria but it just looks like a big hunk of meat, so I never ordered it. Today I did. It IS a big hunk of meat, but it has been simmered for hours in a mildly spiced red sauce, and you could eat it with a spoon. I did, and it is delicious.

September 21
Back to Tacqueria Coatzingo. Those sultry sullen waitresses seemed to recognize me but of course they tried not to show it. They seem to have an endless repertoire of dishes, and each time I go I find a special I've never seen before, either there or anywhere else. Last night it was chicken and potatoes and mushrooms in a green sauce different from their usual. Mild, with a faint spice I couldnt identify, and lots of chicken stock. Wild mushrooms, by the way, were a feature of traditional Aztec cuisine.

October 6
Back to my favorite Mexican, Coatzingo, in Jackson Heights Queens, where I had pollo in salsa roja con verdolagas. Chicken in a wonderful red sauce made of tomatoes, chicken stock, something acidic, and unidentifiable spices, with cooked purslane (!). According to my computer, verdolagas, or purslane, is  a "weedy trailing mat-forming herb with bright yellow flowers cultivated for its edible mildly acid leaves eaten raw or cooked " So I ate a weedy trailing matforming herb. It was good.
I noticed the service was a tiny bit worse than usual. Then I realized, I was wearing my Tequila Cancun Tshirt, so maybe the waitresses thought I was an oafish tourist and not a native. On the other hand, the service there is always a tiny bit worse than usual.

Taqueria Coatzingo 76-05 Roosevelt Ave Queens, NY 11372 (718) 424-1977. Daily 9:00 AM-6:00 AM

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  1. Thanks for the riveting account!

    Verdolagas is the bomb. Very rare stuff, very weird eating. What IS up with those weirdly aloof waitresses? The grill guys are real friendly.

    I've been hooked on their chalupas for years, but the two times I've ventured into specials, I've always found them fine but inert. But that was years ago. Time to try again!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jim Leff

      I am thrilled you enjoyed my account. Writing is hard work. I always remember the sportswriter who, when someone told him, boy you are lucky to have such an easy job, replied, writing is easy, you just open up a vein and bleed.
      The only special I have ever had that was inert was lengua a la mexicana. The sauce was bland and insipid and not Mexican at all. You guys who live in the nabe could simply cruise by, check out the specials, and if you see something good, order it, if not then go elsewhere. But many different and complex sauces are simply given the catchall label "salsa roja" or "salsa verde" My only criticism of them is that I believe they use powdered guajillo chiles.
      As for the waitresses, Mexican places get a lot of businesses from homesick single guys who stop by for a few beers. The restaurant with the prettiest waitresses get the guys.

      1. re: Brian S

        The quote is from Red Smith: "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open up a vein."

    2. p
      Professor Salt

      I am one of those enviable Los Angeles people who posts about our fine Mexican joints. I'm reading this post feeling somewhat jealous of your Poblano gem. Those specials sound well, special.

      Good for you guys!

      Link: http://professorsalt.com

      1. Thanks for a terrific report. Several vendors offer purslane at the Union Square Farmer's Market during the spring; it is very good and very nutritious. Not as odd as it sounds.

        2 Replies
        1. re: erica
          d
          david sprague

          there's a stand -- run by a mexican family, i believe -- that sells it at the jackson heights farmers market as well. the first time i ate it was at s'agapo in astoria; the chef mixed some into the spinach pie. nice touch!

          1. re: david sprague

            i heard that there are some unique usages of greens at s'agapo, like a grapeleaf spread.

            as for purslane, akin to watercress, a vendor by the name of nolasco at the hunters point farmers market was selling, organic without certification, during the summer.

            Link: http://www.reptilerooms.com/Sections+...

        2. And last night, another meal at Coatzingo, another winner. A meal at Taqueria Coatzingo is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. I ordered chicharron en salsa guajillo, expecting fried pork filets, or maybe deep fried pork rinds or belly. Instead I got thin gelatinous sheets, not fried but sauteed, of something with the consistency of sea cucumber, that gluey aquatic critter so prized by Chinese chefs. Chinese would have loved it. It came with a rich and red hot sauce made of guajillo chiles, minced red chiles, and onions. What did I just eat, I later asked the waitress, who unlike most spoke a bit of English. Pig skin, she replied.

          1. I've been back to Coatzingo many times since I posted this, and I've never been disappointed. You'd have to be one wild, wacky dreamer to dream up the specials they come up with. In the past few weeks I've had meatballs in a garish but yummy green sauce, pig feet in an equally delicious but totally different green sauce, oxtail in red sauce and in green sauce. All in a day's eating, not worth taking the time to tell you about, but what I had today certainly deserves a shout.

            Two weeks ago I saw written on the chalkboard "pansa negra de chivo" I asked the waitress what it was and she paused and searched for words. "Eh.... eh... eh.....es ...es...SANGRE!" A plate of blood didn't sound like what I wanted that night, so I passed. But as I was walking past today, on my way to a Colombian joint for a quiet meal of frijoles de garra (pork belly and beans) I noticed they had the pansa negra again. Why not, I thought.

            It was delicious!!! Soft squishy bits from inside the goat -- panza means belly or, in a goat, rumen, so that's probably what it was -- sauteed with a blood pudding, along with onions, fresh herbs and spices. It didn't taste gross, it didn't taste like blood at all. Almost sweet, like a pudding. I've always loved Spanish morcillas, blood sausage, and this was a whole plate of it. "I've just eaten blood!!" I told the waitress as I left. She smiled. "Aiiiiiiiiii! Que guapo!" she thought. What a man!!!

            1. Yes,I am delighted that CH brought this place to my attention.
              I have a question - several of the comments refer to some bad attitude even if the food is excellent?
              Do you think the Boss is reading CH because I have been there about once a week for the past 5-6 weeks and everybody has been just lovely and friendly even on Sunday when the place is so busy.
              Staff could not be nicer

              3 Replies
              1. re: micheal

                we haven't ventured into the specials yet (in part because both of our Spanish is very limited), but wanted to praise a regular menu item: Costillas Fritas (Fried Pork Ribs) comes in a lovely, lively salsa verde, full of cilantro and garlic. i usually find the tomatillo flavor in salsa verde to be overwhelming and too sour and don't like it -- not so with this sauce. magical. although, there is a small chance that my husband just thinks he's ordering the Costillas Fritas, because i think he's ordering the Costilla en Salsa Verde o Roja -- i suppose the only way we'll settle the argument is to make the sacrifice and order both at the same time.

                i wish they had Chile Relleno with fillings other than queso -- but maybe that's not the way it is in Pueblo?

                alekz

                1. re: charlie_b

                  I'm really glad you like it! I've noticed that their salsa verde is even better this year. I ordered pipian de puerco last week and got pork ribs in a green sauce made with ground pumpkin seeds and a lot of pieces of Mexican cactus. Yum!

                  My Spanish is rudimentary so when I order the specials what I get is sometimes a big surprise. Once I got what I thought would be fried pork belly (chicharron) and it was, well, different, and I asked the one waitress who spoke English, what did I just eat? Pigskin, she said.

                  1. re: Brian S

                    was that pipian de puerco a special or on the menu? (knowing you, most likely a special). i'll have to look for that. i actually would love to get a group together for Coatzingo, as i doubt i'll ever be able to convince the man to order past what he knows already and loves.

                    i usually lame out and get tacos because i don't want TONS of food. if i had better discipline, i would just order and have yummy leftovers.

                    but your posts have definitely inspired me to go off-menu and try the specials. i'll report back after i go.

                    thanks again. alekz

              2. awesome thread, brian, inspired by your writing, I rode with two companions to coatzingo and ordered off the menu. well, not technically since we got the birria, but then we also ordered tripe tacos (it was a special) and the pork ribs in green sauce with nopale. and a few tacos al pastor as well as a veg and chicken taco. everything was really good, strong flavors and tasted fresh as well as some great complexity.

                your description of birria was better than it tasted, but still quite delicious. soft and tender (albeit a bit stringy) beef in a soup that wasn't as thick as I would've liked, but quite deep in flavor; could almost be a piece of red-cooked beef, chinese-style, cooked for an extra 3 hours.

                the pork rib special was not quite what I ordered because I think we went for the castillos en salsa verde but she gave us the special anyway, cooked in a green sauce with nopale. I was expecting a dry garlicky sauce, almost like ribs tossed in a sauce with chunky stuff, but it was actually tender ribs bathed in this deep, mellow, but still very flavorful green sauce of mostly parsley and cilantro.

                everything came with beans, guac, corn tortillas and rice so we were able to make quite a few DIY tacos from the meat; really good. oh and we also had a few baskets of their nachos (housemade?) and made some really nice mini-nacho-things like braised beef with pinto beans, or pork in green sauce with fresh salsa. improvise!

                o and we ordered tacos as well; the tripe was pretty bananas, basically tasted like crispy pata, only soft. so good, very strong deep with a faint offality (sp?) that was perfectly acceptable, esp. when we squeezed a lime on it. the veg taco was quite nice; although I didn't have any, it had beans, guac, cheese, tomato, lettuce, and some other stuff. the al pastor was great, deep cinnamon-y flavor, almost like a sweet jerk.

                one thing with the tacos which was strange, when we ordered them (and everyone else too), they came like unbaked enchiladas (rolled straight) as opposed to the cone shape that they usually came in. but an hour later, we saw that everyone's tacos were the old shape, so there must be some weird shift where the early crew makes 'em straight (and hard to eat) while the later crew makes 'em in the hand-roll-style (at least on wednesdays).

                the other specials listed under the glass looked great as well: lengua, the mixed puerco, chicken enchilada al horno, and a few others. save those for next time.

                btw, on previous visits I've had the pancita which is an incredible tripe soup and also the beef soup which was way better than the birria, in my opinion. they also have some sopas de verde which should be incredible, seeing as so many of their entrees are in green sauce.

                16 Replies
                1. re: bigjeff

                  Thank you so very much for posting this. I think you are perhaps the first person to try the specials, and I'm insecure enough to doubt my judgment unless someone knowledgeable confirms it.

                  I've never ordered tacos but I always glance at other table's plates, and they are always cone-shaped. By the way if the lengua you saw listed was "lengua a la mexicana", skip it. It's the only disappointment I've ever had there.

                  1. re: Brian S

                    I've tried plenty of specials, especially soon after Coatzingo opened, and none of them were as good as the antojitos and tacos. The birria de res was always a board special until it got on the printed menu about a year or so ago. I've had the specials at El Poblano down the block that were far better than the ones at Coatzingo, but I haven't tried the specials at either place in a while to make an assessment. You really should try the stuff that I find is Coatzingo's strength, which are their antojitos. I know that bigjeff doesn't care for the lengua al vapor (steamed tongue) at Coatzingo, but I do find it one of their best items.

                    1. re: E Eto

                      I've never tried Poblano. I look in at that front counter where food prepared earlier languishes and walk on. I should try it. The Coatzingo specials always manage to blow my mind. Perhaps if I'd spent a lot of time in D.F. or even L.A., I'd say the specials weren't very special. But it's hard to find better east of the Rockes. Even here where I now am, in Tulsa, one state away from Mexico, it's not nearly as good.

                      1. re: E Eto

                        ya I like my tongue tacos either griddled and fried hard (like at tehitzingo) or really saucy and stewy (like at tacolandia); I tried ordering the lengua asada instead of al vapor once but I guess I still miscommunicated. have yet to try their chalupas tho but the cemitas are good too.

                        1. re: E Eto

                          I went to the 82nd Street one today and had some awesome carnitas, enough for two, by the way. I got them with green sauce, but I didn't notice that the sauce did much for it. The plate just delicious as a whole, with their good beans and rice. It made me remember my favorite carnitas place in Tijuana (Carnitas Uruápan across from the racetrack, though I've not been there for awhile). The ones here are fried, and I think they would be good with any sauce. I have liked most of the things I've tried at TC. I wasn't crazy about the meatballs special when I tried it at the original place. There's another thing that has a thick corn masa, perhaps chalupas, that was way too doughy for me, but everything else has been wonderful.

                          1. re: JH Jill

                            didn't know they had two locations? I've only been to the one around 76th street or so. any particular preference for either?

                            1. re: bigjeff

                              I go to the 82nd Street one because I live nearby. It's also a lighter space. I have had no complaints about the food there. I only went three times to the 76th Street one and my experience at 82nd has actually been better. Although, it must be said that I ordered flautas at 76th, and I tried them again here. They just don't do good flautas. They roll them too loose so the oil gets in and dries out the chicken.

                          2. re: E Eto

                            the only thing I don't like about their tacos, is that they dont toast their tortillas. Do you guys know if they would do it on request? They seem to be always so busy, I couldn't dare to ask...

                          3. re: Brian S

                            By the way, I tried one of their specials a few months ago (on your rec) - a meatball dish - that I thought was wonderful and the best dish on the table where we ordered a bunch. On the other hand, I recently got a special for take-out from the 82nd st branch that was just ok (chicken in a green sauce).

                            But I'm not knowledgeable at all! Just my two cents.

                            1. re: The Turtle Bay Dove

                              I'm glad you liked the albondingas. I dont know if the 82 St specials are as good, I've never eaten there.

                              Yes you are knowledgeable. I might try the watercress at Sripraphai when I go back to NY, on your recommendation.

                              1. re: Brian S

                                Thank you so much, Brian S, for showing me the light! I have long bemoaned the absence of a true Mexican taqueria in NY- and this one was here, waiting for me all the while. I had a carnitas platter with green sauce, which was incredibly moist and tasty, with a bit of crispiness and just the right amount of "good" grease. I ate them with a fork at first, then quickly graduated to stuffing the tortillas full of pork.... I also tasted a couple of tacos- the al pastor and the carne asada. They were both good, served with guacamole on a double tortilla. The carne asada was tender and juicy, with plenty of cilantro. The al pastor was the real winner, though, with a tangy, spicy red sauce like nothing I have tasted before. I was happy. And they serve individual coca cola bottles from Mexico- impossible to find glass bottles of coke in that size here. I loved that! And yes, I was the only non-Mexican in the joint, but I did not detect any kind of difference in how the staff treated me. The waitresses smiled, and spoke to me in English (even though I tried to speak mostly Spanish), but mostly kept moving and did an efficient job. A couple of the guys stared, but I didn't mind at all- I kept my eyes on the Mexican MTV-like program they had on the TV (when they weren't on my food). Overall, a great little trip from Manhattan. Thanks again!

                                1. re: vvvindaloo

                                  Getting a reply like this makes the time it took to write my post worthwhile. I've just returned to NY so I should be able to post an update soon!

                              2. re: The Turtle Bay Dove

                                I was getting take-out from the Roosevelt Ave branch again the other night and couldn't resist trying the albondigas - these were definitely different than several months ago and even better - with a really complex rich spicy sauce. I was sure looking at the portion that I would have enough for at least lunch the next day if not three meals . . . and then I ate all of it!

                                1. re: The Turtle Bay Dove

                                  Just don't get the burrito vegetariano at Coatzingo - frozen veggies in an inordinately chewy tortilla. I'm still looking for a good veggie-friendly Mexican food in Queens (with a strict don't-ask don't-tell policy regarding the frijoles). So far, Tacos Mexico (Broadway and 38th st., Astoria). Someone let me know if they know something that I don't...

                                  1. re: bennyt

                                    it's been said many times but De Mole in sunnyside has a cactus burrito that is great and a few other veggie friendly dishes.

                                    1. re: Widmark

                                      Yes indeed, De Mole is quite good; I guess I should have clarified what I meant- I'm looking for a good veggie burrito at a more typical kind of taqueria (like Coatzingo).

                          4. I'm replying to link this to Coatzingo. If any post should have a link to Coatzingo, it's this one. I should add that all of my comments refer to the original 76-05 Roosevelt branch.

                            1. I just went back after being in exile in Oklahoma for nine months and the food is as good as ever. 3 PM and the place was quite crowded, and there was mariachi music on the box to keep it hopping. I had chicken and potatoes in green sauce and while I've had green sauces I like more that was not becausee it was less than perfectly made. About half the specials feature green sauce... but each dish has a different green sauce. The one I got was very much like a French sauce vert. Light, with most of the flavor coming from freshly ground greens (parsley maybe) rather than herbs or spices.

                              After I paid the waitress gave me a msngo lollipop coated with hot chili powder, imported from Mexico. It came from the new Coatzingo store next door, which features imports as well as baked goods. A delicious smell of freshly baked bread wafted onto the street... but I couldnt go in because I was carrying the lollipop and they might have thought I grabbed it.

                              -----
                              Taqueria Coatzingo
                              76-05 Roosevelt Ave, Queens, NY 11372

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: Brian S

                                Hey Brian, what's the deal with the sauce or style called "Mexicana"? How is this done or prepared there?

                                1. re: Silverjay

                                  referring to the lengua mexicana which always seems to be a special? I wonder myself; went over the weekend and had an insane cemita milanesa de pollo and my friends had the dark mole enchiliada (this sauce was actually so rich that we couldn't eat most of it; very funky and spicy stuff, very good) and of course the ol' standby: tripe tacos!

                                  1. re: Silverjay

                                    AVOID IT!! Lengua a la Mexicana was the one BAD thing I've ever had in this place. The tongue was great but the sauce tasted like they had just poured a can of Campbells tomato vegetable soup over the meat.

                                    I'm really glad you liked their mole poblano. I love it too.

                                    1. re: Brian S

                                      I have in the past been critical of Taqueria Coatzingo on account of their lackluster veggie-friendly options (well, admittedly, I can't reasonably expect to find something totally vegetarian, but I just can't eat anything that has explicit meat). But I tried the chiles rellenos last week - delicious! Definitely recommended.

                                      1. re: bennyt

                                        I am so glad you liked it! They actually had a veggie-friendly option last time I was there -- Mexico has wonderful vegetables. It was huazontle, layered with Mexican cheese and surrounded by dumpling dough, with a lake of homemade tomato sauce. It was like lasagna! Unfortunately the huazontle was very dry and chewy because it is hard to obtain fresh huazontle in NYC.

                                        1. re: Brian S

                                          Wow, that's interesting- never seen huazontle in NYC; the only place I've had it was in Mexico City.
                                          At any rate- I wasn't suggesting that they don't have veggie-friendly options, it's just that they're not so great. The burrito vegetariano is filled with frozen veggies, and the quesadillas de qeso are filled with a ridiculous amount of not-quite-melted cheese (I've ordered it a couple of times). For veggie friendly, I much prefer Tacos Mexico; they have quesadillas de huitlacoche and de flor de calabaza (both delish, the latter especially so), their chilaquiles are great, and their vegetarian burrito is better than that of Coatzingo (although not so exciting in its own right).

                                2. Most people who eat at Coatzingo seem to go for the tacos, but for me the daily specials are where the joy is. They are written (actually since this year computer-printed) on a sheet of paper left at each table. Yesterday I managed to snag a copy (after getting permission). Here, to entice you, is my translation. (Warning: I am not fluent in Spanish)

                                  Steak in green sauce with squash (note: Mexican steak means a thin overcooked sheet of beef)

                                  Pork chops in green sauce with cactus

                                  Huazontles (a Mexican vegetable like spinach) in tomato sauce

                                  Chicken cooked in a paper pouch with various spices (mixiote)

                                  Pig feet with chili sauce or baked

                                  Chicken in a green sauce made with pumpkin seeds (pipian)

                                  Barbecued goat meat

                                  Goat rumen served cooked plain or cooked in goat blood

                                  Boneless chicken in tomato sauce (tinga)

                                  Chicken in green sauce with potatoes

                                  All specials now cost $11.50 and come with forgettable yet filling yellow rice and refried beans, as well as tortillas.

                                  The specials do indeed change from day to day. If you go today, you probably won't find any of the above list from yesterday (October 13, 2007) on today's list.

                                  You might have noticed that a lot of things above are made with green sauce (salsa verde). Usually, if the chef has time, it is a different sauce for each entree... but all of them of course are green in color.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: Brian S

                                    I've become a regular at TC and if I had total disregard for my stomach, I might make an evening of something in a TC green sauce and run over to Spicy Mina for rice pudding right afterwards. These can be, to my mind, two of the most delectable substances I've experienced in the city. I haven't noticed any major differences from item to item in the sauces called "salsa verde", though they do seem to vary from night to night- particularly in cilantro influence. They always taste freshly made though. Interestingly, on one of the special's menus that I snagged, it has items listed in "en salsa verde/verdo"....I've usually seen the pipian identified as such on the menu.

                                    The best item I've had has been the lengua in salsa verde. Actually, the beef ribs (costillas) could be ideal, but I found them a bit substandard in quality. I fantasize taking some of the pork ribs from my favorite Polish place in W'burg/Greenpoint and topping them with TC's salsa verde. That could be deadly delicious...

                                    1. re: Silverjay

                                      This makes my day that someone else loves the specials!!!

                                      "en salsa verde/verdo" means green sauce with verdolagas, or purslane. And yes the pipian was called pipian on the menu, I translated it as green sauce.

                                      1. re: Brian S

                                        I love this discussion. This is why I moved to Queens.

                                        1. re: Brian S

                                          If it's that easy to make your day, let me throw my hat in the ring as well. My friend and I have been going there recently, based on your recommendation, and while I've been pretty underwhelmed by the regular menu stuff I've tasted (that other people got), I've always ordered off the specials menu and I've always been thrilled. So, thank you very much for adding another restaurant to my list of standards. This is exactly the sort of home-run recommendation that makes Chowhound great.

                                          1. re: ratatosk

                                            thank you so much!

                                            1. re: Brian S

                                              Brian,
                                              No one has posted to this thread today so let me make your day today.
                                              I've been to TC a few times over the past several years but based on your posts here, I've been going at least once a month for the past 6 months.
                                              My wife and I always order from the daily specials. Anything "enchipotle" is excellent. And I love all the different green sauces. The purslaine sauce is good, the pipian better and the tomatillo sauce is the best. That's the one that comes with the "Lengua en Salsa Verde".
                                              Thanks again for reminding me how great TC is. It's now my favorite Mexican restaurant.

                                      2. re: Brian S

                                        Had a group dinner here the other night with some Mexican friends (from Baja). They were excited about eating the tacos, as apparently Puebla is known for tacos (I didn't know that at least). Even in Baja, many of the stands and shops are run by Poblanos. They raved about the birria, though I found it a bit too dry. And I didn't try it, but they said the al pastor was good but a bit dry as well. Their main comment was the fact that the tortillas are not grilled...The algondigas en chipotle were good, though not outstanding. The lengua en salsa verde was as always, spectacular. I haven't had a dish there better than this.

                                        Based on this thread, I was curious about the different green sauces, but when we asked the waitress she explained that they only make one green sauce with the same recipe every time. She said the differences come from the power of the particular jalapeños used and the influence of the meat it is cooked and served with. What I realized is that the juices from the beef tongue turn the sauce up a few notches for me.

                                        One dish I regretted not ordering, which I hadn't seen before, was the mixiotes de chivo- a kind of a stewed/steamed goat meat thing done in an aluminum foil tent. Our friends hadn't heard of "mixiotes" but this is pretty much how it was described by the waitress- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixiote. I would say we desperately need a report on this dish.

                                        1. re: Silverjay

                                          I'm thrilled that you and your friends liked the food. As for the mixiotes, if you read the July 25 entry of my original post, you'll see that they serve a lot of things and describe them as mixiotes. I've had the mixiotes de pollo and those are the traditional ones, and very good, the chicken stewed in a red sauce that steams in because of the bag it is in. I've had mixiotes in lots of places in NYC and these are among the best. I've never seen the traditional bag made out of cactus leaf. Most NY places use paper. Sometines Coatzingo uses plastic (!!), and it works surprisingly well. This method of cooking was discovered independently in France (en papillote) and in China, by the way.

                                      3. I'm usually inclined to go with tacos since besides spending half as much as the specials, you get to have a variety of different meats.

                                        But I got the pipian al pollo last week, which I liked better than the mole poblano that I tried a year ago or so. The mole I found funky, in a bad way. I don't really like the chicken skin in the specials, it's a bit slimy.

                                        Oddly enough, I heard the song "Boat on the River" by Styx during my dinner (among a few other English songs). That would be strange to hear in a cookie cutter bar that plays classic rock all night, but entirely bizarre in a place like Coatzingo.

                                        1. in all the talk about coatzingo, I walked by their other location on 82nd street (between roosevelt and baxter, half a block from the 7 train station) and, its a partner/affiliate/identical, etc. same menu, same stuff, and my walkaway tripe taco was the same crispy, oozy, offal-y goodness. might want to give the "other" location some bidness, although there is something to be said for maintaining "regular" status.

                                          12 Replies
                                          1. re: bigjeff

                                            Well, Taqueria Coatzingo has just catapulted itself into first place among my favorite Mexican eateries in NYC. I previously had little to say about it, since my wife and I are "don't ask don't tell" vegetarians when it comes to Mexican food. Thus, we have traditionally found Tacos Mexico (in Astoria) to have more and better options for us (e.g., flor de calabaza quesadillas) - although the chiles rellenos at Coatzingo is far superior to that of Tacos Mexico. At any rate, whenever I am in the company of a carnivore, I take him or her to Coatzingo, because the food there just looks so incredible. Last week I took my brother there, and noticed huazontles on the specials menu, so I ordered it for myself (huazontles is some kind of green vegetable that was part of the cuisine in pre-Columbian times). (Now that I look at some of the earlier postings on this thread, Brian S had recommended the huazontles to me before)

                                            I had had huazontles only once before, at El Bajio in Mexico City- there, it resembled sauteed spinach, although quite earthy, sprinkled with a bit of queso fresco and served with tortillas. I had never seen it on the menu in the States, so I thought it was a rare opportunity. The Coatzingo version was stuffed with queso blanco and battered and fried, and smothered in a bright orange tomato sauce of some sort- I really wish I spoke Spanish so that I could have asked about that sauce; it was so spicy and aromatic, and tasted like it must have had several different chilis in it, and perhaps some cinnamon. To the extent that I was able to do so, I cut up the fried/stuffed huazantles and put it in tortillas with a generous spoonful of orange sauce and frijoles and rice (the latter two items may constitute a taco-eating faux pas, I'm not sure). Pretty fantastic. I was slightly vexed, however, because the huazontles contained a tangle of stems that were a bit too thick and woody to eat easily, and yet they were inextricable from the veggie/cheese/batter mass of the huazontle itself. Being a novice to this dish, I'm not sure if that's typical and one just has eat around them, or else eat them with some amount of difficulty. In any event, this dish was by far the most interesting I've had at any Mexican place in this city.

                                            1. re: bennyt

                                              Sorry - late response - but I've been away.

                                              When I had the huazontles, I was mystified - I'd never had them before, and had no idea what they were when I ordered them. I ended up sort of picking them up by the thick end of the stem and biting down loosely, then pulling away so that the thick stems stayed attached and the tiny leaves and thinnest stems detached in my mouth with the batter, cheese, and sauce. Finding the right tooth pressure was a bit of work, and I still had to spit out the occasional stem, but I managed to eat most of the plateful.

                                              The next week, I was having lunch with a colleague of mine from Mexico. She was impressed that I knew a place in NYC to get huazontles. But - and here's the reason I'm typing this - I asked her about the stems, and she said that that was typical, and that the way I slid the stuff off with my teeth and threw out the thick stems was pretty much the way to eat them. So, kind of a pain to eat, but I agree - the most interesting food I've had in ages. It really jarred me from my normal way of thinking about food, back to the idea that this was some random organism that, unlike thousands of similar plants, had been chosen as something to eat.

                                              1. re: ratatosk

                                                I appreciate your input with regard to huazontles. Your last point is particularly well-taken- the way to eat huazontles is, when it comes right down to it, no more unconventional than the way anything else is eaten; it's merely an accident of circumstance that most of the foods I'm used to are conformable to the spear-on-a-fork-and-eat-in-one-bite-sized-portion approach.

                                                1. re: bennyt

                                                  I recently had huazontles for the first time in Ensenada - I think it's interesting (and would describe the flavor more like Broccoli than Spinach as was mentioned earlier), but it's not my favorite.

                                                  At the same meal I had mixiote made with lamb which was great.

                                                  I can't wait to try this place out!

                                                  1. re: dark knight

                                                    Okay - so I went tonight for the first time - had a great meal. The only minor complaint I might have is that the tortillas aren't mind blowingly good like some of the ones I had in Ensenada recently. And the horchata was a little sweeter than I like it.

                                                    We ordered the Barbacoa de Chivo from the specials, which came with a spicy soup which was decent, but not great. The goat was very good. We also got 3 tacos - 1 pastor, 1 carbon, and 1 spicy pork. All 3 tacos were amazingly tender and very good.

                                                    The specials were (in case someone wants to research before going because I was clueless what a number of them were - although obviously they will change):

                                                    Adobo de Puerco
                                                    Bistec en Salsa Verde/Hongos
                                                    Chicharron ala Mexicana
                                                    Chuletas en Salsa Verde
                                                    Mole Verde de Pollo
                                                    Nopales Rellenos Guisados
                                                    Pechugas Rellenas
                                                    Pipian de Puerco
                                                    Plata de Barbacoa de Chivo
                                                    Plata Pansa Blanca
                                                    Plata Pansa Negra
                                                    Plata Tinga de Pollo
                                                    Tacos de Cabeza
                                                    Tortas de Queso/Puerco
                                                    Tortitas de Queso Adobada

                                                    1. re: dark knight

                                                      Of course if I'd read this thread more closely, I'd realize that Brian S. explains what a number of the specials are like the Pipian and the Tinga.

                                                      1. re: dark knight

                                                        I'm glad you had a good meal! I'll do my best with the list of specials

                                                        baked pork

                                                        steak in green sauce with mushrooms

                                                        I'm not sure what they mean by chicharron, they use the word differently from other places, sometimes it means pigskin... and a la Mexicana is a horrid soupy sauce, the one thing I've ever had here that I didn't like

                                                        pork chops in green sauce

                                                        chicken in a green mole (a new one on me!)

                                                        stuffed stewed cactus

                                                        stuffed chicken breasts

                                                        chicken in a green sauce made from pumpkin seeds (they don't do the pipian as well as some other places do, this is one of their few faults)

                                                        barbecued goat

                                                        goat's rumen plain

                                                        goat's rumen cooked in goat's blood (delicious and if you didnt know what it was you would think it's a lovely pudding)

                                                        boneless white chicken pieces in a red sauce

                                                        head tacos

                                                        cheese or pork tortas

                                                        grilled cheese tortas

                                                        1. re: Brian S

                                                          I'm pretty sure that "Tortas de Queso/Puerco" is a "head cheese torta" and "Tortitas de Queso Adobada" speaks to something dipped in red sauce, not grilled. I usually cross reference the language in the specials with translated language from the fixed menu.

                                                          1. re: Silverjay

                                                            I'm glad I didn't order that head cheese torta because I thought it was some basic cheese with pork tostada or something!

                                                            Thanks Brian S. - very much appreciate all the information you provide on this thread.

                                                            Have you tried the head tacos? Or the Posole?

                                                            One other minor drawback I forgot to mention, I don't think they have Pacifico, just Corona and Modelo and one other beer which escapes me.

                                                            A number of diners had seafood plates which made me curious about those as well.

                                                            1. re: dark knight

                                                              I've done that at another taqueria... que guero! Also, be advised that "carnitas" can be very different at a Puebla place than what you would get out west where it's usually roasted pork butt or shoulder that is then chopped into cubes and fried. Here, it often is everything but the oink... bits of cheek, ears etc... not that there's anything with that!

                                                          2. re: Brian S

                                                            Aha! Pansa is goat's rumen, you say. Well, good thing I'm on the E train pretty regularly these days, because that's vaulting right to the top of my list. Ever since reading Frank X. Tolbert's essay on "The Gentleman from Odessa" stew, I've been longing to try rumen (calf's rumen, actually, but I'll take what I can get). This is the first time that it has appeared to be a realistic option for me.

                                                            How exciting! I am, yet again, heavily indebted to your expertise.

                                                            1. re: ratatosk

                                                              It tasted so good! But it's a special, so you can't be sure they will have it on any given day. Most days they probably don't make it. Weekends are your best bet. Or you could phone and say "Hay pansa?" Glad to have helped you!

                                              2. As someone who used to eat the Thursday cocido with the robbery detail at La Abeja on N. Figueroa in LA and pioneered Guero Canela on S 12th in Tucson before the hipsters I believe that NYC currently has some of the best Mexican food in the world. Even here on Satan Island there are a half dozen store/taqueria joints that are superb and yes, the specials are usually the way to go. Can't wait to get up to Coatzingo... Roosevelt Ave should be named a Unesco World Heritage site!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Flaco

                                                  SERIOUSLY in regards to the World Heritage Site bit.

                                                2. I'm not sure I get the enthusiasm for T. Coatzingo. Based on this discussion, I went with a friend. She had a soggy mess of chile rellenos. I had the pork chops in salsa roja con verdolagas. The meat was nasty, also in too much sauce, and the pile of verdolagas on top tasted like hay. I'll give them points for ambition, but none for execution, and a mark down for crappy meat. The best part was that twice while we were there one of Brian S.'s "sultry" waitresses came out and mopped the floor with a strong disinfectant -- like the way Burger King in Tegucigalpa uses the smell of cleaning fluid to convince you it's hygenic. Dumpy, but not in a good way.

                                                  Anyone got a rec for better Mex in Corona-Elmhurst?

                                                  10 Replies
                                                  1. re: guide boy

                                                    Did you order from the specials?

                                                    1. re: JFores

                                                      Yeah, the pork chops w/ verdolagas were a special. Unique ingredient, not run of the mill Mex, but the dish still sucked.

                                                      1. re: guide boy

                                                        That's too bad. But really, this thread probably needed a reality check on this place. It's an urban, inexpensive taqueria with good tacos and some other homestyle hits on the specials menu.. I still like it though and my Mexican chowhound friends enjoyed their meal there...I'm telling you, tongue in green sauce and tongue tacos. Tongilicious!

                                                        1. re: guide boy

                                                          That's sad. I haven't been back there since Christmas break (going to uni in England) and I really enjoyed tongue in a red sauce and my companion ordered a "steak" dish which was surprisingly good given the usual interpretation of the word steak.

                                                      2. re: guide boy

                                                        I'm sorry you lucked out. I've never had a bad meal like that there. I went a few days ago and had beef ribs in a brownish mole sauce. Fantastic! Did you go really late at night? If they were mopping the floor it must have been near closing. I've had the pork chops in red sauce with verdolagas and it was great.

                                                        1. re: Brian S

                                                          We were there 930 or 10 pm. Compared to other Mexican I've had (even in NYC) by no means would I call the chuletas great.

                                                          1. re: guide boy

                                                            Where in NYC have you had better?

                                                            1. re: dark knight

                                                              Tacos Matamoros, 5th Ave and 45th St, Brooklyn
                                                              La Flor Bakery, 5th Ave and 42nd St Brooklyn
                                                              Restaurante Poblano, Church Ave and E. 7th St, Brooklyn

                                                              1. re: guide boy

                                                                Thanks - I thought you meant Manhattan for some reason. I do want to try those places in Sunset Park.

                                                        2. re: guide boy

                                                          I was a bit appalled by the chile rellenos on my recent visit as well. Not recommended. Although I live nearby, it disappoints me even more that I just didn't get tacos, or other antojitos, since those are the best items at Coatzingo.

                                                        3. Brian S, your review of Coatzingo is spot on!

                                                          When I moved to JH in 2006 I tried one taco from every Mexican restaurant on the Roosevelt strip and for some reason Coatzingo stood out. I made it my regular spot. At first I only ordered tacos but on a whim I tried the mole verde soup and was blown away by it's deliciousness.

                                                          I didn't even realize they offered specials! In my mind Taqueria Coatzingo was a taco truck you could sit inside of, so why would they make specials?

                                                          Definitely getting the special tomorrow night.

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: Michael B

                                                            went for breakfast yesterday, had chorizo and eggs. huge plate of rice, beans, guacamole and a 50/50 eggs/chorizo scramble. honestly one of the tastiest breakfasts ive had in a while. never tried thier breakfast and knew it had to be good.

                                                            ATTACHED A PHOTO
                                                            not the best quality photo sorry

                                                             
                                                            1. re: chefjellynow

                                                              i saw on some post somewhere a menu foR TC, seen it in person many times, wondering where it was at. want to order takeout and wifey needs literature :)

                                                              1. re: chefjellynow

                                                                Enjoy http://www.bridgeandtunnelclub.com/bi...

                                                                1. re: stuartlafonda

                                                                  tyvm stuart

                                                                  1. re: chefjellynow

                                                                    I think prices have gone up a bit. As I recall, the entrees listed as $9.95 are now $11.50 -- and worth it! They now have a nice glossy take-out menu to add to your menu collection.

                                                                    1. re: Brian S

                                                                      yea i seen the price differences, i was there 2x this week lol, my dad and bro came up from PA and both times i took them there...just didnt have a takeout for home

                                                          2. Just found this on a search for "best tacos al pastor in NYC;" really excellent review! Looks like a pilgrimage is necessary. Have you been there of late?

                                                            7 Replies
                                                            1. re: howdini

                                                              a couple of times a month, since i'm only three blocks away. still really great, particularly the al pastor and lengua dishes. the specials -- chalkboard at the counter, not always mentioned by the waitresses -- are usually worth a look most days as well.

                                                              note: skip the guacamole as a stand-alone item. it's more the traditional mexican sauce, not the chunkier tex-mex dip most folks are accustomed to. soups are hit-miss, though i like the posole and the birria de res.

                                                              1. re: debinqueens

                                                                Thanks, deb!

                                                              2. re: howdini

                                                                Glad to see this place is still going strong! I have so many fond memories of it. As far as I know, it's best to go to the original 76 Street one, and the most amazing thing is the chalkboard specials.

                                                                1. re: Brian S

                                                                  l'm gonna try to get a lunch group out there...many thanks for this thread, old as it is!

                                                                  1. re: Brian S

                                                                    yes, the original is definitely still the best. wow, brian, it's good to see you post here. been a regular -- under a different screen name back then -- since the '90s, and your contributions turned me on to so many places over the years.

                                                                  2. re: howdini

                                                                    Yeah still great. One my favorite ways to enjoy the al pastor is on what they call a Chalupa. Double taco open face with al pastor, cheese, sauce and crema, no guacamole, for the reason mentioned by "debinqueens". Second best way to have it is as Chilaquiles with a fried egg on top, delicious and enough food for four people.

                                                                    1. re: stuartlafonda

                                                                      Oh, dang: that chalupa sounds great, and chilaquiles is one of my favorite dishes, period! Thanks for the rec!