Tacos Nuevo Mexico
It was a going with what you know weekend. There are all of these new places opening vaguely in the neighborhood, brick oven pizza three blocks up Henry Street and barbecue in Fort Greene and Park Slope but new frequently equals annoying. And for reasons I won’t go into (because they’re boring not because they’re salacious…I wish) this past week had enough built in trauma to push me into the arms of thoroughly charted food territory. It was my stand by South Slope isn’t all that near but Tacos Nuevo Mexico is the closest Mexican restaurant that doesn’t melt cheese on everything or serve chimichangas (sorry Mezcal’s). El Huipil is technically closer but I wasn’t all that impressed on my one and only visit.
I was first introduced to TNM by a former stalker who I was inadvertently leading on by entertaining his notion that I might sublet his 12th Street apartment while he was off busy starting and subsequently getting fired from a new out-of-state job (the same fate befell him at the NYC job where we became acquainted). He suggested we get drinks on the cantina side where I’ve never sat since. At the time I lived in Queens and barely knew the area, though I was tickled by the discovery that the much-maligned M train stopped in both neighborhoods, current and potential. Anyway, I’ll confess that the food didn’t leave much of an impression on me but that’s likely because alcohol was my primary focus.
I couldn’t even say at what point I became a Tacos Nuevo Mexico convert. I used to have a dilemma living on 31st Street where I was in between their 12th and 44th street locations. I’d usually end up at the Park Slope one because the atmosphere was more inviting and happened to be nearer to things like my bank, gym, a pharmacy, grocery stores, etc. (as opposed to upper Sunset Park which had/has none of those things). Fifth Avenue in the 40s and 50s is much more of a Mexican food hotbed than the teens, TNM is a bit of an anomaly (even more out of place is Milan’s, the Slovak joint off 22nd Street that I was always too irrationally scared to visit. I’ve never had an affinity for Eastern European culture despite accidentally living in a Bosnian/Roma/Serbian/Polish enclave for three years).
But yes, the food. I forget how good it is. There’s really no going wrong with their namesake tacos and there’s plenty of choice from tongue and tripe to routine chicken and carne asada. Rather than folded typical taco, these two-dollar treats come wrapped in a cone held together with waxed paper. As I was taking the above photo, our waitress swooped in and stuck a plastic fork in one. I don’t see how you could them hand held without creating a mess.
I went porky and had one carnitas, one pastor. I do like how they’ve decided that different fillings should have different salsas (though I can’t remember which came with green and which merited red). I originally ordered a taco de buche off the handwritten specials menu but they were out. I’m not even sure what I missed out on but felt up to a surprise. I figured buche was something mouthy but the waitress motioned with her hand on her neck. Throat tacos? Some sources say buche is cheek (very Batali) but most seem to point to pork stomach or more esoterically, the lining around the stomach. The thing is that even if I go back and am able to try the buche, I doubt I’ll be able to gauge which body organ it is by sight. Who knows what throats and stomach linings look like tucked into a corn tortilla?
They did have the huitalacoche (I must be spelling that wrong because when I Googled to check this site came up as the first hit, and lord knows I’m not that popular) quesadilla from the specials insert. The vivid red, white and green stripes almost succeeded in drawing attention away from the oozy black innards. I didn’t try the enchiladas tapatio, but I gathered that each of the three cylinders contained a different filling, kind of like a Mexican happy family. (10/3/06)
While put off for having quesadillas pushed on me at Plaza Garibaldi, I was happy to be a gringa here. One of the specials was entitled just that, and yes, was a pressed, cheese-filled tortillas. But the fillings were so me. I go nuts for anything Hawaiian, and get way too excited when I see Hawaiiana tortas (which isnt that often). Ham and pineapple rules. Ive always thought it made sense and was akin to al pastor style: pork and pineapple.
Finally Ive stumbled upon a fusing of all thats good in the world. A gringa is al pastor pork, pineapple and cheese all grilled to gooey crisp perfection. I think its the cheese that makes it gringa. Despite the Park Slope location and preponderance of large fussy American parties with babies compared to the Sunset Park branch, this is not a nachos and margarita parlor. I wonder who the gringa is intended for? I swear I saw a table of beer drinking Mexican men eating one too.
Ah, but I was at TNM on this occasion to sample micheladas, not gringas. (10/21/05)
I thought I had a grip on what huaraches were until I tried this taco stand in Queens and they had them on the menu as “big tacos,” which I didn’t actually see, but sounds different than what I’d had previously. (4/11/03)
Huaraches. I never knew them as anything beyond those woven shoes (amusingly, my father who’s Mexican, but quite suburban, about 99% accent-free would always say the word huaraches with crazy Spanish-inflected flourish, which would always put my sister and myself into stitches. And as this was the ’80s when huaraches were actually a big thing, we had plenty of opportunity for mimicry). But it turns out it’s also a tostada type affair on a thick chewy, corn base. Much tastier than shoe leather. Who knew? (3/21/03)
A good taco is hard to find, but due to my recent move I’m now in Mexican food central. This has been the first place on my sampling itinerary just because I’ve heard about it before (if anyone’s got the scoop on tacos, by all means clue me in). It took me a while to figure out that I’d been there before under completely different circumstances. I’m not too familiar with the neighborhood, so I was slow to realize I’d eaten there with my stalker (yes, I had (have?) one, though I’ve never detailed it publicly). It cast an odd aura over the restaurant, but I still enjoyed my torta pastor. I’d never had a torta before and was pleasantly surprised. It’s like taking the best aspects of a cheesesteak and combining it with a Vietnamese sandwich. Amazing really. Meaty, pickle-y, bready, saucy, messy and ouch, mouth-burning spicy. That’s a sandwich worth stalking. (5/3/01)
Tacos Nuevo Mexico * 491 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, NY