1/2 I think “you order like a Mexican” is a compliment. At least in a Bronx tacqueria. I’m not sure how I’d feel about the same comment at an haute French stalwart (which are fading fast—I couldn’t immediately come up with a proper name to insert).
The Bronx is still uncharted territory for me (I didn’t even realize there were numerous bridges between the borough and upper Manhattan), and I’m fuzzy on neighborhoods, though I’m pretty sure this was my first foray into Hunts Point. My only knowledge of that pocket of the city is from that HBO special from a few years back. It’s not that sketchy, hookers weren’t roaming the streets and there’s even an ABC Carpet & Home outlet semi-nearby.
Though after that shopping anomaly, Conway is about as classy as it gets. (They don’t even have a web presence, they’re so budget-minded. I was amazed that on my grandma’s one and only NYC visit she managed to discover Conway all on her own. She’s like the physical embodiment of Conway.) Then it turns into the classics on Southern Boulevard. You know, your Jimmy Jazz, Pretty Girl and Radio Shack (which didn’t have a single answering machine—is this an extinct electronic?). I was enticed by a colorful Forever 21-esque shop called Disco 1, and I’m still not sure what to think about the two wood-planked, wild west looking stores that I’m fairly sure were called Jean Star.
Hunts Point isn’t hyper-Mexican. It appeared that Dominican and African-American influences were stronger. Real Azteca was the only place of its ilk that I spied. I’m not sure how I made the mistake but I’d confused this tiny, take out joint with Estrellita Poblana, a roomier affair. It worked out for the best, though because we had grill side seats. After taking a stool and surveying the scene it became apparent that quesadillas were the main attraction. We’d already ordered carnitas tacos and a torta, though.
Tacos use doubled-up packaged corn tortillas, but the quesadillas occupying nearly all the griddle space are pressed from fresh masa into thick disks and filled with items like huitalacoche or mushrooms and white cheese. I’m fairly certain they use shredded muenster cheese, which is non-traditional to say the least.
As a nod to the mixed patronage, there are hamburgers, bagels and omelets on offer, and default taco toppings include cilantro, onions, lettuce and tomato. It was when I was asked if I wanted all four that I was given pause and nearly had to insist that I only needed the cilantro and onions, prompting the “you order like a Mexican” response. I was trying to do it right.
The plastic wall menu listed weekend specials of pancita, which I think is akin to menudo (but I’d already eaten homemade for breakfast) and birria, a goat stew I became acquainted with last month in Chicago. What seemed like a simple storefront bears further exploring. Admittedly, it could be some time before I make it back up there.
As happens more than you might expect, I felt too self-conscious to take photos, even though it was my first outing with my new camera. I did snap Latin fusion sushi pics later that evening and peking duck sushi a few days later. I didn’t write up Citrus because the mood didn’t strike or Empire Szechuan Village because it’s for a nymag.com listing (a brand new side gig). Sorry tacos, here’s to random untraditional sushi.
Real Azteca * E 163rd St., Bronx, NY