New Rochelle Mexican - a report (finally)
OK, thanks to some trips shuffling family back and forth from JFK, I was able to finally sneak out to test out some of the places I've been hearing about from people on this board in New Rochelle.
So, in two late evening trips to NR, I tried four restaurants and 9 different tacos. I'll break down each below. But what is abundantly clear is that there is so much good stuff on these menus that sampling only tacos is like having only pasta at a great italian restaurant. Oh well... had to start somewhere.
* Taqueria El Chino Estilo Quitupan - 72 Center Ave - 914-636-9615
This place is the smallest, most "divey" of the group. Interestingly, though, they've got pictures and maps of Quitupan all around the place, a small town in Jalisco (info I now know thanks to google). I ordered my two default tacos, carnitas and al pastor. Way too often, the biggest complaint I have about taquerias is the dried out carnitas. But at this place, they were very good. nice, moist, rich and flavorful. Best of all, not dry at all. The al pastor was fine, not superb, but above average. But carnitas was better. Since the owners takes such pride in their home city, it would be interesting to find out if they feature anything uniquely from Quitupan. I didn't have time to figure that out, but it's a worthy venture.
* The Mexican Corner Restaurant - 491 Main, 914-633-9696
This place is great. not sure why its taken me so long to get there, since its been talked about here for a number of years. Of all the places, I liked the feel inside of this place best. Feels like a quaint neighborly diner, but with authentic mexican food. Friendly staff too. I ordered the same, carnitas and al pastor. The tacos were both quite good. Not great, but from all I've read, you go there for other things (which I didn't have time to try). This is the place I'll take my kids back to, since it just seems so accommodating in that way. Really looking forward to the pozole, tamales and sopes there.
* El Michoacano - 485 Main St., 914-654-9315
By sheer virtue of its name, I had to try the carnitas (in my mind, carnitas to michoacan is like pulled pork to north carolina). Even with those expectations, I was totally surprised. Not only was the carnitas moist, extra rich and flavorful, but the sauted (caramelized almost) onions and peppers were totally unexpected and phenomenal. They added a great sweetness that was really good. I think I ordered an al pastor as well, but don't remember it at all. The carnitas was just that good. Of all the tacos, this was probably my favorite. So rich it was almost decadent, if that is possible.
* Little Mexican Cafe - 581 Main., 914-636-3701
This was the place I'd been really be anxious to try, ever since JSexton's recent posts about their al pastor tacos (and the fact it is spit roasted... mmm...). I hadn't realized this was going to be a proper sit down restaurant. I needed to order take out, but, like all the other places, this place deserves more time than just take out. Can't wait to go back. Anyhow, I ordered two al pastor tacos. Both were very good. Very very good, actually. Best al pastor tacos I've had in this area. I think lunchtime is probably a better time to get them, then they'd be more freshly roasted, but they were nicely roasted all the same, slight char from the spit, and, best of all, coupled with a little nicely roasted pineapple as well. Tender, flavorful... all I really ask for in a taco. And their adobo that they marinate the pork in isn't as overpowering as it often is with al pastor. Anyhow, they might not be as good as my favorite stand in baja california, but they certainly fit the bill. Very good.
Well, that's it. All the places were very good. VERY good, actually. And I feel like I've barely scratched the surface. There are so many more restaurants all of you have been talking about in New Rochelle (herradura, tlaquepaque, etc.) that I need to try. And I need to really get deeper into the menus at each of these places to give them their fair shake.
Thanks to all you New Rochelle experts - appreciate all the suggestions. I look forward to keep hearing about everyone's experiences at these places - particularly how certain dishes fare at the restaurants and what new ones are worth trying.
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Thanks, adamclyde-such a thoughtful and helpful post! I'm off to try carnitas at el michoacano next.
One thing about Little Mexican Cafe--the business has sort of evolved in a very organic way. Originally, the cafe included just the left side of the current space, which comprises a bar with a very simple kitchen--where the tacos al pastor are made. There was a griddle and some basic cooking equipment, a long wooden bar to eat at and in the back, a pool table and some chairs. Then the right side of the building was later vacated by its previous tenants, a chinese restaurant. This space included the dining room and a much more elaborate kitchen in the back, plus a handy parking area accessable off Huguenot st. So what was once closer to a taqueria evolved into a much more ambitious restaurant.
If you're not up to the tablecloth and napkin scene in the dining room, you can just walk into the left side of the space and sit at the bar to eat. It's quite pleasant and cheerful--they do a big breakfast, snack and casual lunch trade at the bar.
I agree about Mexican Corner--it's just a bright, pleasant place with good food and a cheerful vibe. The space (to my mind)is much nicer than a lot of the Main street restos--surrounded on two sides with windows and simply, but happily, decorated. I'm very fond of the beef burritos there. One problem--no liquor license, so a beer is out of the question.
re: J. Sexton
went to little mexican cafe yesterday right after work--didn't see the aforementioned spit, so is it something that is out during peak time? our food was brought from the back, as opposed to prepped out in front.
in any case, the al pastor tacos were amazing. love the crispy fatty parts. sopes looked and tasted like it was home(hand)made--a tad too doughy in the middle, and i wasn't thrilled with the cheese choice--like a melted mozarella instead of queso fresco. also (not sure if it's authentic or not), sopes didn't have any other toppings (lettuce, tomato) other than the meat and cheese.
we also tried a ceviche tostada, which was great. they mainly used small shrimp, maybe bits of other fish. very tangy and flavorful. the guy next to us had a seafood soup that looked very tasty, especially with the weather being so cold windy out. but the al pastor! definitely the hit of the night.
the main reason i loved the place, aside from the food, was the atmosphere. we sat at the bar to eat since it was really too early for the dinner crowd. there's a pool table past the bar area that was occupied by a number of guys. fussball table in the very back. soccer got turned on the tv, and some patrons sang backup to a shakira song that played. seemed like the majority of the people in the bar area were locals or frequent visitors, since they bantered with the waitresses. it was homey and cozy and friendly. i can't wait to come back.
The spit rig is behind the bar, near the front window. If you see the griddle behind the bar, it's just to the left of that. It's kind of an elaborate contraption, I can't believe that they remove it entirely, but maybe...It probably was just not running, having spit-roasted all that they needed for the day. My impression that the pork was coated in was a very simple chili rub and not chipotle--maybe even just cayenne, although I wouldn't rule out other dried chilis like arbol and ancho, dried and pulverized.
I showed up on a taco crawl on a saturday afternoon, about 3ish--the rig was up and running. Maybe they roast in the afternoon.