Tia Julia Mexican Antojitos truck Roosevelt/91st
Tia Julia has been my recent go-to place for tortas and cemitas. I was clued in to Tia Julia when I passed by and noticed all the clamor with a line of people ordering tortas milanesas (made with fried cutlets of beef or chicken). And then I noticed others ordering quesadillas and tlacoyos, something I don't see very often on a Mexican menu in NYC.
The crowd: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3042/2897198849_6f0b7c5bbc_b.jpg
The menu: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3123/2897197603_c0ffa4f864_b.jpg
Specials menu: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3284/2897198313_98a17b47db_b.jpg
Despite the small crowd of people, the folks at Tia Julia worked with surprising efficiency, especially with their milanesas, serving up tortas and cemitas with freshly fried cutlets. This looks like their best seller, and they have it down to a system. I've only had the cemitas there so far, attracted by the mound of cheese they plop on the sandwich. They also go so far as to put papalo leaves (a Mexican herb that looks like watercress, but tastes more like culantro) in the cemita when you tell them to put in everything ("con todo"). Otherwise, I've seen a container of self-serve papalo on the counter along with the salsas and jalepeños. Speaking of condiments, the pickled jalepeños they serve look to be homemade.
Ceminta milanesa de res: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3269/2898043456_94cc24053b_b.jpg
The other featured items are the quesadillas and tlacoyos, judging by what I've seen ordered, with tacos playing a smaller but supporting role. The quesadillas are more substantial than the ones I've had at other stands (including the quesadilla stand around the 80s), made with the expected hand-pressed masa tortilla. The tlacoyos are stuffed turnovers made with masa dough, served with a dousing with sauce. The carnitas taco I had from them was also way above average. I'll likely work my way through more of the menu, but thus far after a few visits, I haven't had a clunker and don't really expect there to be one. I'm especially intrigued by the daily specials, and the cemita de pata.
looks like they're closed on Thursdays
I know I'm the most vocal cheerleader for this place, but today I was really feeling like having a cemita, and it was 23°F when I left the house thinking it would be safe for a quick order and return. I braved the cold weather and freezing slush and got there to find a crowd of people. The mole de panza was the big seller when I was there (still haven't tried it yet, KareRaisu, BTW). The believers of Tia Julia seem to be very dedicated. After my feet thawed and I ate my still warm cemita, I was very happy.
OK, I've been to Tia Julia about 6-7 times since the first post and I've tried a variant of most everything on the menu, and I still want to keep going back. The cemitas and tortas are leagues better than I've had in dozens of places along Roosevelt, and they are their best sellers, as I unfortunately became aware of when I tried to order one on a weekend evening, and all the sandwiches were sold out. They were also out of quesadillas. My consolation was a tlacoyo and then some tacos at Guichos down a few blocks. If you have an eating partner, the perfect combination for me is splitting a cemita de res, and a carnitas quesadilla (the quesadilla is on a large homemade tortilla filled to the gills with juicy pork and melty quesillo cheese -- like a taco on steroids).
I tried Los Girasoles since johnk reminded me about it (after its appearance in the NYTimes), but there just isn't a comparison. Watching the Tia Julia team put together their food with remarkable efficiency and expertise, the other places seem slightly amateurish. Even the ladies at Guichos had trouble with many orders when they got slammed with orders.
Speaking of amateurs, I finally tried the Fogoncito #2 truck that's always parked on Roosevelt/Forley (or Elbertson?). It's definitely not the same team as the one when I reported on it when they were parked in Woodside. And the food is mostly skippable. The most interesting part of the experience there is that they have a kind of salsa bar with 5 different salsas (which were pretty good). I also noticed a For Sale sign on the truck, so it looks like these guys are trying to get out of the taco truck biz. Hopefully they'll find some good buyers.
If you venture down Roosevelt on a Friday or Saturday night, there's a carnival atmosphere with all the vendors and people out. There's an entire smorgasbord of food offerings that make the Redhook ballfields seem like small potatoes. And the one thing that makes me appreciate Tia Julia is that they offer something different than every other Mexican cart/truck there. Sure, some carts make good (sometimes great) tacos, but they all seem to do the same things. Tia Julia asserts a different identity and at least for me (and the throngs of people who line up there), it's working. Next on my agenda there are the daily specials and the combination plates.
re: E Eto
Sounds amazing...thanks for sharing! So there's no prices on the menu? Do the sopes come as an order or individually?
I'm still a bit confused at the difference between cemitas and tortas. Is it just the bread? I saw on another page that cemitas may have fewer filling, like no beans, no peppers, etc...but it definitely appeared to have beans in your photo.
Have you had the cemitas de pata yet?
Are there any Oaxacan carts in the area? Every time I see the word "tlacoyo" I get excited thinking I read "tlayuda." I like tlacoyos too, but tlayudas...sigh.
Eric, your post saved me last Wed when I ventured out to Queens for Sri and it was closed! I was pooped, heading back to Jersey, and didn't want to shlep, when I remembered Tia Julia (although I doubt that's the name of the man who served me...) The quesadilla de carnitas was as yummy as you suggested - Nancy, it was $5 for a very large and filling one. I especially enjoyed the hot pepper buried inside....
Hey, what time have you guys been going? Is this place around for weekday lunch? It's a HUGE schlep but my boss is out of the office for 2 more days :)! It's harder to go after work because then I have the 90 minute ride back to BK to think about...but a long lunch might be possible.