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Mex-To-Go (in Croton-on-Hudson)

Jim Leff Nov 6, 2013 04:53 PM

345 South Riverside Ave, 271-8646

What a surprise. My chow-dar rang off the hook as I passed this place, and I'm sure glad I went in. This is Mex maybe one quality notch down from the very best places in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. And that's only 'cuz traffic's light, so they need to reheat stuff. Fresh, this might be one of the top Mexes in the tristate area.

I got sopes (always get sopes rather than tacos when they're featured on a menu; they're usually homemade, and they're just better, period) with carnitas. Meat was spectacularly juicy and singed, toppings even included bits of real Oaxacan string cheese. Green sauce was perfect. Sopes themselves top-notch. These were a "9" on my surprisingly non-ditzy scale http://jimleff.info/eating-by-the-num...

I also got some black bean soup for tomorrow. Smelled good. I'm confident.

A couple surprises on the menu. Arepas! And Pupusas. I wouldn't be in a hurry to order these, as these guys seem solidly Mex, not Salvadoran or Colombian. But, still, cool. Rotisserie chicken might be good. And they do paella every friday for $15. Before I got stuff like that, though, I'd work through the flautas, quesadillas, tamales, etc. Maybe nix the tamales...this is masculine sizzly mex rather than grandmotherly mex - i.e. the sort of place that makes half-hearted tamales.

I'd deem this destination eating. Counter service only, but there's barebones tables inside plus fun picnic tables outside. And a great craft beer store across the street selling growlers of top-drawer rarities like Uinta wet hop and Bell's Two Hearted for fair prices. Who knew Croton-on-Hudson would become a chow destination??

Yelp is single-handedly destroying these sorts of places. Local yahoos (lowercase "y") have marked this place way down because it's not the sort of place that offers tequila shots. One reviewer mentioned "greasy" meat. It's not greasy….most Crotonites just have little experience with meat that's not grimly dried-out. What's this unfamiliar MOISTURE?

Yelp keeps reverting to the mean, and it just kills chow-ful great little places like this by reinforcing ignorance and stereotypes.

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  1. f
    foodiemom10583 RE: Jim Leff Nov 6, 2013 05:27 PM

    Seeing a handmade sope, with lots of fingerprints and slightly uneven sides, makes me a little giddy.

    3 Replies
    1. re: foodiemom10583
      Jim Leff RE: foodiemom10583 Nov 6, 2013 05:44 PM

      You 'n me both. I THINK (not sure) that there are not yet mass-produced soles. That's the only explanation I can think of for the fact that they're nearly always handmade in the limited # of places that offer them.

      1. re: Jim Leff
        Jim Leff RE: Jim Leff Nov 7, 2013 08:28 AM

        Whoops. Slopes, not soles.

        Soles are often mass-produced, but are rarely very toothsome.

        1. re: Jim Leff
          foodiemom10583 RE: Jim Leff Nov 8, 2013 01:56 PM

          No worries! I knew what you meant, though I've had a few sopes that would have been more useful as soles.

    2. v
      vinouspleasure RE: Jim Leff Nov 8, 2013 06:57 PM

      I'd given up on the place due to ridiculously small portion size (imagine a taco with a teaspoon of meat) except for the excellent rotisserie chicken. About a month ago I had dinner in nyc so my wife gave it a try, I tried a little of the leftovers and couldn't believe it was so good. turns out they had a change in ownership a couple of years ago and the food/portion size has improved.

      on the rest of your note, restaurants are catering to the changed demographic in croton and now we have a very good japanese/korean in osagao, the tavern at croton landing is great for pub food and made from scratch brunch (featuring warm, homemade donuts), the salumeria makes good sandwiches and of course we have ocean house, arguably the best seafood restaurant in the county (featuring a great corkage policy).

      >>.most Crotonites just have little experience with meat that's not grimly dried-out.

      dude, kinda insulting...you come by this knowledge based on a couple of yelp reviews of a mexican joint? to use your own words, feels like you're "reinforcing ignorance and stereotypes".

      5 Replies
      1. re: vinouspleasure
        Jim Leff RE: vinouspleasure Nov 8, 2013 09:49 PM

        Your assumption as to how I came to my conclusion is incorrect and unwarranted. And "most" doesn't mean "all" so I can't imagine why you'd be insulted.

        Btw, a small amount of meat is exactly right for authentic Mexican tacos. Only in the 'burbs do people expect them to be piled with meat. No offense or anything! :)

        1. re: Jim Leff
          Elisa515 RE: Jim Leff Nov 8, 2013 10:09 PM

          Jim, maybe people (who may or not be local) who write on Yelp don't know about meat, but Mex-to-go has been in business almost entirely fueled by localites for several years now. I dare say plenty of us do appreciate meat that isn't dried out.

          We're certainly glad you enjoyed this place! It's a good reminder to go there more often. And next time you're in the neighborhood, consider getting a sandwich at La Monica across the street. I especially recommend the Nonna and the Marilena.

          1. re: Elisa515
            Jim Leff RE: Elisa515 Nov 9, 2013 07:59 AM

            Will try La Monica, thanks. Also, the craft beer growler place mentioned above is Green Growler Grocery 368 South Riverside Ave. Their selection is primo.

            1. re: Jim Leff
              Elisa515 RE: Jim Leff Nov 9, 2013 09:06 AM

              And the owners are really great. The have tastings at least once a week, very sociable.

          2. re: Jim Leff
            vinouspleasure RE: Jim Leff Nov 9, 2013 12:40 PM

            Respect what you've done with this site but suggest you spend a little less time understanding food and more time understanding people.

        2. Marge RE: Jim Leff Nov 9, 2013 08:05 AM

          What did you think of the soup? I love it, although it is a little salty for my taste. Last (and only) time I had the rotisserie chicken I did not like it at all, it was flabby and greasy (yes, greasy, not moist--greasy). In fairness to the yelpers, this place has gone through several owners/incarnations since it opened. The current one is definitely the best.

          9 Replies
          1. re: Marge
            Jim Leff RE: Marge Nov 9, 2013 08:51 AM


            A little salty for me, too, but actually a notch LESS salty than most commercial soups, I think. Also, just a bit simple. But I'm being picky, and comparing it to humungously great black bean soups I've had. If I lived there, I'd get it.

            What time did you pick up your chicken? The albatross with this place, as I said, is its low traffic flow. They scramble and scheme to make things work at low volume, but I'd imagine the chickens would be pretty flaccid by early evening. If I were you, I'd try one at like 1 o'clock before completely writing them off.

            If it was a thriving, teeming establishment, anything would be good at any time. But as-is, we need to work around the impediment as much as they do.

            1. re: Jim Leff
              Marge RE: Jim Leff Nov 9, 2013 10:03 AM

              As I recall, they don't start selling the chicken until 5pm (unless that's changed). BTW Jim--since you turned me on to kabocha pancakes at H Mart, they haven't had them again :(

              1. re: Marge
                Jim Leff RE: Marge Nov 9, 2013 01:46 PM

                Ok, then try them at 5. Again, I'm ever-cognizant of freshness limitations here. If more people appreciated the place, there'd be better flow and more consistent results at off hours.

                H Mart has been drifting downhill on so many aspects that I don't get my hopes up for much there. Bear in mind at they do most cooking on weekends, so if you check late in the week they tend to be pretty barren on many prepared items.

                1. re: Jim Leff
                  JMF RE: Jim Leff Nov 13, 2013 05:40 AM

                  Jim, addressing your H Mart comment. I have to agree. It's a shame how many of the prepared items are getting much worse, less choice, and even being "Americanized."

                  1. re: JMF
                    chowdom RE: JMF Nov 13, 2013 11:42 AM

                    I purchased fried filet of sole which turned out to be
                    tilapia... nice!!! Into the trash it went.

                    1. re: chowdom
                      Elisa515 RE: chowdom Nov 13, 2013 11:52 AM

                      To clarify: this was at H-Mart, right? Not at the place discussed in the subject header?

                      1. re: Elisa515
                        foodiemom10583 RE: Elisa515 Nov 13, 2013 12:06 PM

                        I was "called out" on a thread for referencing my experience at a restaurant in the title of a thread when the conversation had diverged a bit.

                        I think we need to be a little more relaxed and enjoy some tangential topical discussions within threads, just as we would had we been having the discussion in person. As long as the conversation doesn't go from food to the art of motorcycle maintenance (and in some cases, that may even apply), it should be viewed as a natural progression.

                        1. re: foodiemom10583
                          Elisa515 RE: foodiemom10583 Nov 13, 2013 12:19 PM

                          I wasn't being un-relaxed; the comment I asked about wasn't specific (yes I know what it replied to, but still) and I wanted to have it clarified.

                          (also, specifically about this one, I'd hate to see carping about a big commercial enterprise be confused with comments about a small local venue)

                          I'm not opposed to natural thread drift. :)

                          1. re: Elisa515
                            foodiemom10583 RE: Elisa515 Nov 13, 2013 12:31 PM

                            I see where you're coming from. As these threads do tend to flow conversationally, I sometimes find it hard not to interject what comes immediately to mind upon reading certain comments.

          2. d
            DGresh RE: Jim Leff Nov 10, 2013 04:34 AM

            Do the owners of Umami still own MexToGo?


            10 Replies
            1. re: DGresh
              Marge RE: DGresh Nov 10, 2013 05:17 AM

              No. http://food.lohudblogs.com/2012/02/06...

              1. re: Marge
                DGresh RE: Marge Nov 10, 2013 05:41 AM

                Its' a bit confusing; the article you posted from Feb '12 says that Ms. Viznay is the owner, but apparently in June '12 the Journal News said that Purdy and Pratt are the owners. Well whatever. It sounded like it was perhaps more authentic than I would expect from Purdy and Pratt, which was why I asked.

                1. re: DGresh
                  Marge RE: DGresh Nov 10, 2013 06:03 AM

                  Yeah, the good old Journal News....I'm sure it's been a while since Purdy and Pratt owned it!

                  1. re: Marge
                    DGresh RE: Marge Nov 10, 2013 06:23 AM

                    Yeah, I figured it was a case of "fine journalism" :)

                2. re: Marge
                  dma1250 RE: Marge Nov 12, 2013 04:33 AM

                  I could be wrong about this, but my recollection is that the person mentioned in the article was always the owner, along with Purdy and someone else. Purdy was the backer, but there was also a Latino owner/chef from the get-go.

                  I've always liked the food, but the service is atrocious. They say 20 minutes but they mean 40, and they always forget something. I now call from Grand Central and then I still have to wait when I finally get there! (And, by the way, a lot of their business is from commuters just driving through Croton from the station.)

                  1. re: dma1250
                    Marge RE: dma1250 Nov 12, 2013 05:00 AM

                    The original co-owner was a male who worked for Purdy--I'm fairly certain that Purdy/Pratt/Olin no longer is affiliated with Mextogo (which was originally called Mexigo) http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/ar...

                    1. re: dma1250
                      Jim Leff RE: dma1250 Nov 12, 2013 10:12 AM

                      People want deliciousness, people want authenticity, people want low prices.....all the benefits of little un-shiny places run by real people doing things the real way without pandering. Yet most people also expect efficiency from such places.

                      When real people are cooking my food, and doing so authentically from their tradition, I expect errors and delays - a certain non-linearity. There are exceptions - tight ships that are also delicious/authentic/inexpensive - but I never expect that.

                      So I roll with the punches (just as I try to strategize the best hours to patronize low-traffic establishments). Eating great means the customer's got to work hard and make sacrifices, too! Efficient food tends to taste like efficient food!

                      1. re: Jim Leff
                        dma1250 RE: Jim Leff Nov 12, 2013 10:55 AM

                        I thought this was the same person who co-owned it with Purdy/Pratt from the start, but the facebook page doesn't mention them so they probably sold their stakes. The name of the place changed right after they opened, so that wasn't part of an ownership change.

                        A take-out place that lives or dies based on a commuter crowd grabbing food on the way home from the train can't afford to be sloppy with timing or getting orders right. When I go to a little hole-in-the-wall in Ossining or Peekskill on a weekend night I'm prepared to chill and let the food come as it may. But not in a take-out place. Think of the California Taquerias in Brooklyn--good food, handmade to order by "real" people, and super quick. That's what I expect.

                        1. re: dma1250
                          Marge RE: dma1250 Nov 12, 2013 11:37 AM

                          I agree--they are not doing you a favor taking your money for their food. They are in business, and consistent inaccuracies in timing and order are annoying. I also think that this discussion is getting a little carried away as to the "greatness" of this establishment--in my experiences, while some of their food is quite good, I have had several not so good experiences--i.e. oversalted food, flabby/greasy chicken (purchased at 5 o clock). Oh yeah, and stale chipotle brownies. It seems to me that a lot of absolute accolades and assumptions about the negative experiences of others are being made on the basis of one "9" rated sopes meal!

                          1. re: Marge
                            Jim Leff RE: Marge Nov 12, 2013 11:33 PM

                            Even the most fleeting manifestation of deliciousness is never an accident. I'm quite forgiving of any place that can conjure it.

                            The notion that soulful little restaurants must meet mainstream American expectations of efficiency and consistency is definitely the majority opinion, and my different opinion is a slim minority one (even on this site, ironically enough). Thanks for at least briefly having entertained a different mode of thinking about things!

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