Authentic Mexican in Queens or Brooklyn?
I recently moved here from Los Angeles. I know New York's Mexican is not at all comparable to LA, but I have to believe there are a couple of places out there that will make me less homesick. Things I have yet to find- a good soft taco, a satisfying carne asada burrito, or menudo. So far, I have been to a place called El Coyote (the mole was pretty good) and I am planning on visiting El Jarro in Sunnyside. I also hear good things about Sunset Park in Brooklyn though no specific places. Suggestions will be very much appreciated.
Dear Little V,
I grew up in Orange County and have yet to find the kind of Mexican food here that will stop the homesickness, especially in the burrito department. There are lots of Mexicans in Sunset Park and in Jackson Heights, among other places. If you do a search for tacos, you will find lots of info on taco trucks along the 7 train, as well as Taquería Tulcingo and others. It's not hard to find good tacos. But forget the burritos. All burritos I have encountered here are made with rice. This is not norteño food. Although, if someone has found a good burrito without rice, I'll be more than happy to travel to test it out.
Burrito styles vary though, even in California. Certainly most burritos in San Francisco, where I lived for several years, have rice in them - even in places that are almost entirely patronized by Mexicans. These S.F.-style Cal-Mex or "Mission-style" burritos are the type most commonly available in NYC and can be readily found in certain gringo neighborhoods. Many of these places are in Manhattan, but there's also La Taqueria on 7th Ave. in Park Slope whose menu revolves around them. Of course, they're nowhere near as good as the ones found along Mission or 24th St. in S.F., but some aren't too bad. It would be interesting to speculate on the reasons why the San Francisco style burrito prospered in NYC, while the L.A. style has to be ordered specially (you can always just ask them to leave the rice out), but this really isn't the place for that.
However, if you're talking Mexican restaurants catering to a mostly Mexican clientele, like those found in Sunset Park or Jackson Heights, then you're just going to have to get used to the fact that the food served by Mexican New Yorkers - who are mostly from Puebla and other areas south of Mexico City - is going to be significantly different from the Mexican food made by Mexicans in California, who are mostly from the north. There's lots of good and very authentic Mexican food available in NYC, but you'll have to enjoy it on its own terms. For one thing, the flour tortilla that's central to so much California Mexican food is foreign to Mexicans from the south, where the corn tortilla is king. Sure flour toritillas are available, and things called "burritos" are made, but expecting an L.A.-like experience out of these is a bit like expecting a New Englander to make great barbeque.
El Jarro (now apparently renamed "De Mole") is certainly a very good place to go. Try Tacos Matamoros on 5th Ave. & 47th St. in Sunset Park or Taqueria Coatzingo on Roosevelt near 76th St. in JH, or better yet walk the strip on 5th Ave. in the 40's or Roosevelt Ave. under the 7 train and check things out for yourself, or just search this board for the many many recommendations that have been made here over the years.
re: Woodside Al
Nice post, thanks for mentioning the southern vs northern Mexican thing--never thought about that. I have only been to southern Mexico and I found the food at, for instance, El Jarro to be very excellently similar to what I had in Mexico, but then various Californians have said "no way" and now I understand maybe why. Also, of course, why there aren't San Diego-style fish tacos here.
Another tip, of course, for an authentic Central/South American scene are the old Red Hook Ballfields, newly mainstreamified by the Times article this week.
re: Woodside Al
It's good that you laid some of that out for non-Californians and new-New Yorker-Californians alike. I just had a minute at 6 a.m. and dashed that off from one Southern Californian to another before going to work.
I might add to your description that here in New York, most of the Mexican food also involves black beans instead of pintos, another change for us. Norteño food does use corn tortillas for many dishes. It's just that burritos are not really native to places like Puebla, as far as I know.
Aside from the burrito thing, there is a place called El Huipil, in redhook, that is supposed to make killer posole on the weekend. Have not tried it yet.
There are a lot of good taco places in Astoria (on Broadway between like 28th st and 44th st), and a few have a full menu. I've never tried burritos at any of the places but friends have before and said they were good, though I don't think they are California style. My favorite is El Potro, on Broadway and 44th street, excellent carnitas!
I feel like this question comes up periodically. Somewhere on these boards, Eric Eto has a historically awesome rundown of the Mexican option along Roosevelt Avenue that's worth searching for. I'd add these recommendations in Brooklyn:
My current Sunset Park favorite is Tacos Nuevos Mexico #3 on 5th Avenue around 45th Street or so (I may have the cross-street wrong). Fantastic tacos al pastor.
Mexico Lindo y Que Rico on Coney Island Avenue and Albemarle has wonderful barbacoa (goat) tacos on the weekends. Nearby, Taqueria Poblano (betraying the Puebla origins, I suppose) on Church and East 8th Street has great cemitas.
I haven't been up to the Bronx in a while, but there are a lot of Mexican options there. My sentimental favorite was Real Azteca, on 163rd Street just west of Southern Blvd. (6 train to Hunts Point). Good daily specials, great tortas.
Jack, you need to come up here sometime for a return visit to Real Azteca. Preferably on a Friday, when there's generally birria (plus pozole and pancita.)
Since people have been talking about the regional origins of the places mentioned here, I should add that IIRC the people who run the place are from Michoacan; I'll check on that and add a correction if needed.