El Paso Taqueria - Sorry, folks, it's not worth a special trip; back to the yuppie joints for me
Read good things about it so I went to the 97th St. branch last night. It's cramped and poorly lit, but had some decent energy. The tortillas were the best part of my tacos, but the flavor of the fillings was far too muted. I know there are a lot of people who get worked up over the prices at places like Mercadito and Pampano, well, I got to tell you, their tacos are prepared with a lot more finesse and attention to detail. The chicken, beef and pork in the tacos at El Paso were fine, but not in the same league as the aforementioned, where, on a good day, I feel like I'm in the hands of a talented high-end restaurant chef.
Moreover, while the food at El Pas Taqueria was fresh and filling and basically quite decent, if I had to choose between returning for tacos or going to the equally inexpensive, take-away window at Pampano Taqueria (located in the ugliest food court in NYC), there's no question I'd choose the latter.
There were two other odd things about about El Paso: one, you can't tell from reading the menu that they have a liquor license. You have to either ask about beer, wine, or margaritas or notice that another diner has ordered them. It's almost as if they're trying to sabotage their beverage sales. I and the woman at the table next to me both asked whether alcohol was served because, as far as we could tell, only non-alcoholic drinks were available.
Secondly, I was disappointed to get taken on the price of a an appetizer special (a mushroom quesadilla, supposedly with huitlacohe, but none was discernible). Normally I would have asked the price ($12.95), but let my guard down because it doesn't feel like the kind of place that you would have to be alert to that kind of thing.
In sum, if you're in the 92nd St. Y area, and can't get in to Sfoglia, don't want to BYO at Yura, or just want affordable Mexican (but watch out for the specials), I would give it a try, but keep your expectations in check.
It's a neighborhood place for us, so we go occasionally. I was there last night - and I felt that the food was sorely lacking salt, which I rarely think. My husband loves huitlacoche, saw it on the specials menu in the quesadilla, and asked for some as a side - he said it was ok - and I think they charged $7.00 - but didn't surprise me as huitlacoche isn't cheap. If you are feeling like Mexican in that neighborhood, try Itzocan Bistro some time - I think it is 102nd & Lex - excellent - Mexican ingredients prepared in part using French techniques - they have some wonderful huitlacoche dishes.
I thought some of the dishes wee undersalted too. I also think I would have been more forgiving of the price of that special had there been some evidence of huitlacoche in it. I will give Itzocan a try.