Revisiting Mexican places in El Barrio
Ok. El paso -the one that used to be on 104 & lex, which was their best location and my to go mexican in the area for the last 10 years- is not an option anymore. The moved a block away, expanded, got expensive (almost Mercadito prices now), replaced the mexican waiters/waitresses for these girls who dont speak spanish (they dont understand the spanish speaking clientele), the vibe and music is awful, no more jukebox......bad move. Anyway, i would like to know your opinions on the rest of the Mexican places in El barrio (taco mix etc) as of today. Which dishes are good at X or Y place. It would be nice to make an update on all those places.
I'm happy to report on a satisfying experience at La Casa de los Tacos last Friday night, where I ventured with a fellow Nor-Cal transplant in search of a serviceable surrogate for the Mission tacos and tortas we'd left behind. Though the interior was decidedly bleak and institutional, the friendly staff and boisterous after-work clientele were endearing enough to compensate for the otherwise-drab atmosphere.
Our takeout order consisted of:
- 2 Chicken Tacos
- 1 Taco de Camarones
- 1 Taco de Carnitas
- 1 Taco al Pastor
- 1 Torta de Carnitas
Portions were generous - literally twice the amount of meat and melted cheese as I've come to expect from the standard taco cart/truck/stand in any of the 5 boroughs. Note that adding fixings - shredded iceberg lettuce, onions, avocado, 1 meager slice of tomato (i.e. "con todo") - jumps the price from $2 up to $3. I'd still say it's well worth it, as two of these tacos make for a substantial meal. Seasoning on the meat was subdued - but authentic enough - for both the chicken and carnitas items; the pork al pastor was the standout for me - spicy and succulent. The shrimp looked slightly better than it tasted - ordering it with cheese was a mistake in hindsight.
Though the torta seemed a bit on the bready side at first glance, all the ingredients played nicely with one another, coagulating in the sort of wonderful gooey harmony that elevates any respectable torta into the uppermost reaches of the meat+bread+veggie spectrum.
After stuffing my fat face with 2 tacos, I promised myself I'd only eat half of the torta and save the other half for the next day; however, upon further examination, the remaining half of the sandwich looked like it needed a little trimming in order to, you know, keep the fillings from overflowing and making a mess out of the whole affair once I wrapped it up. 30 seconds later, I held nothing but a broken promise in my carnitas-stained fingertips.
The only low notes I detected were the aforementioned stingy tomato topping, as well as some uninspired house salsas (red and green alike). This is a far cry from haute-Mexican cuisine to be sure, but I'm already looking forward to a return trip to sample a few of the house specials.
La Casa de los Tacos
2277 1st Ave, New York, NY 10035