Kickstart My Guac (@ChavelasNYC Review – Crown Heights)

Before I even tell you about the tacos (and they were satisfying), you need to know about the guacamole.

Dat Guac

I mean, yes, Chavela’s does offer a standard “classic” guacamole. I’m sure it’s delicious and good but I’m not interested in writing about that. My dinner partner and I immediately noticed a special version, with smoked trout, pico de gallo and chile salsa. With great curiosity, and a little hesitation, we dove in.

Let’s be clear: If you don’t like smoked fish, you’re not going to like this. I myself am a fan and I absolutely loved this guacamole. It tasted like a Mexican take on lox and cream cheese. We could not stop attacking the guac, spreading it on  crispy tortilla rounds again and again. It also had a very spicy kick, which I tried to cool with a refreshing grapefruit margarita. (It didn’t work. So hot.) If you’re up for a flavor adventure, you have to get this.

Now onto the true objects of our affection…

Carne Enchilada, Nopales, Pescado

Carne Enchilada, Nopales, Pescado

Carne Enchilada - It’s pretty had to resist a taco that offers chunks of both roasted pork AND pineapples. They’re an unimpeachable flavor duo that BEGS to be devoured. MORE PLEASE. 4 out of 5 tortillas.

Nopales -  I was looking forward to this cactus taco, but found it to be disappointing. If there wasn’t a hunk of avocado in the taco, I’m not sure I would have finished this one. There are other catcus tacos out there… 2 out of 5 tortillas.

Pescado -  A redeeming third taco to close out this trio. Delightfully crispy with some chipotle mayonnaise and cabbage to add some crunch. PRO TIP: I schmeared some of that smoked guac onto this taco, creating a next level fish taco experience. 4 out of 5 tortillas.

I would definitely make the trek out to Crown Heights for another round of tacos at Chavela’s. Word on the street is that their brunch is not to be missed…

- Doc

Chavelas Restaurant
736 Franklin Avenue
Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Websitehttp://www.chavelasnyc.com/
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Down on the Corner…(@LaEsquinaNY Review – Nolita)

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A few months ago, I was drunkenly wandering through Nolita with my good buddy Tone-tilla, when we happened to walk past this little ‘diner-lookin’-tortilla-joint’ across from Petrosino Square. Having just eaten more tacos than I care to admit at Taqueria LES a few hours early, we didn’t stop. Still, I was determined to make it back there eventually as I really dug the vibe of the place. There was, however, a two-fold problem; (1) I didn’t catch the name and (2) I was too drunk to remember how to get there.

Assumably, it would be a while before I finally got to taste these tacos.

Yesterday morning, while I was preparing for a meeting in the Nolita area, Taco Queen was kind enough to look into some taco options I could check out for lunch. I opened her email, and there it was…the third link out of five…my little taco diner-dive, La Esquina! It was like that moment in Charlie & The Chocolate Factory when Charlie finds the golden ticket in the drain after he thinks his dream of visiting the factory was over.

La Esquina is a no-nonsense type of a tortilla ‘bar’. Like almost every other quality taqueria I’ve encountered in the city, its tight quarters mean I would recommend getting your tacos to go. However, on a beautiful spring day like yesterday that’s a moot point as its much more enjoyable to sit across the street in Petrosino Square anyways. This place is decidedly authentic and original. Next time you’ve got a beautiful day and you’re in Nolita, definitely hit La Esquina up for some lunchtime taco goodness.

Here’s a breakdown of the tacos I ate:

Papa, Nopales y Chorizo Taco - chorizo sausage, potatoes, cactus, shredded cabbage, salsa verde

Papa, Nopales y Chorizo Taco – chorizo sausage, potatoes, cactus, shredded cabbage, salsa verde

Papa, Nopales y Chorizo Taco – I was a little bit disappointed in this taco to be honest. Don’t get me wrong…it wasn’t bad, but chorizo (chorizo) and nopales (cactus) are two of my favorite tacos individually so I had high hopes for this guy. Unfortunately, the potatoes were a little bit mushy which overwhelmed the unique texture of the nopales I usually love and the heat of the chorizo. I probably wouldn’t get this taco again, 2.5 out of 5 tortillas

Hongo y Epazote - mushrooms, epazote, hominy, cilantro, salsa roja, queso blanco, rice, chipotle mayo

Hongo y Epazote – mushrooms, epazote, hominy, cilantro, salsa roja, queso blanco, rice, chipotle mayo

Hongo y Epazote Taco – Once again, the mushroom taco wins. I’ve found lately that mushroom tacos are becoming my favorite and this case was no exception. It was reminiscent of my G.O.A.T <greatest of all tacos> from Morocho, and confirmed that epazote is, in fact, an herb I greatly enjoy. On top of that the hominy (basically corn) and rice added a lot to this taco and the queso blanco and chipotle mayo were also delicious. It might have been a bit overstuffed, but in this case I wasn’t mad at that. 4.5 out of 5 tortillas

I’ll be back for the mushroom tacos and to give the rest of this unique menu a try!

La Esquina
114 Kenmare St.
btw Lafayette & Centre
New York, NY 10012

Website: http://www.esquinanyc.com/
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Eat Your Brussels Sprouts…No seriously do it (Brussels Sprout and Caramelized Shallot Salsa Taco Recipe)

You know what’s a bullshit myth? That brussels sprouts are gross…

If you’re five-years old, I get it. Your palate isn’t mature enough to understand that these little bundles of nutrition are actually tasty. More importantly, you’re probably too young to have realized that if you smother any vegetable in butter, garlic, salt and pepper it magically becomes delicious. But if you are older than five, do yourself a favor and reassess brussels sprouts…its part of being a functioning member of society…plus butter.

That being said, the Doc stumbled upon this recipe recently and, knowing my love for interesting veggie taco options and brussels sprouts in general, sent it my way. Last night, I finally got the chance to make them, and let’s just say…the next round of Taqueria LES is on me for the Doc as a thank you for putting me on to this.

I won’t clutter this post with directions, as Jessica at How Sweet Eats did an amazing job and I followed her directions to a tee. Instead, I will just tell you why you should, in fact, eat your brussels sprouts…in taco form. These tacos manage to hit all three major points of the flavor triangle…spicy, sweet & savory. The brown sugar-caramelized shallot salsa, which also featured baked grape tomatoes and fresh torn cilantro, is pretty much the sort of awesomeness usually reserved for slow-cooking delicious meats. That sweetness is balanced beautifully by the healthy dose of salt in this recipe (not too mention butter), and finally throw in the way the garlic/paprika/red pepper flake combo punches through to add a perfect amount of kick and you’ve got a pretty interesting flavor party going on in every bite. When you sprinkle a little manchego cheese into the mix, you end up with one hell of a taco.

Bottom line is this, ask yourself these three questions; do you like nopales (cactus) tacos? Do you like butter? Are tacos god’s greatest gift? If you answered yes to at least two of these questions then eat these tacos…eat lots of these tacos!

Brussels Sprout and Caramelized Shallot Salsa Tacos

Brussels Sprout and Caramelized Shallot Salsa Tacos

The directions one more time in case you missed them –> http://www.howsweeteats.com/2014/01/brussels-sprouts-tacos-with-caramelized-shallot-salsa/

Love & Guac,

TS


The Art of the Taco (Tacos El Dorado Truck Review – Flatbush)

We have a special post for all you today! One of our great friends, the inimitable Nick Kozak, reviewed a taco truck in his section of Brooklyn. But this is no ordinary Taco Slut review. This is coming to you LIVE (previously recorded) on video. Nick’s review brings us great joy and we are so happy share it with you!

The taco presentation from this truck is noteworthy. Along with the tacos, they provide you with a cup of salsa and guacamole. If that’s not enough for you, you also get a tin foil present of limes and radishes, essential taco friends.

Nick reviews for us the following tacos: al pastor, pollo, and lengua.

Overall, Nick gives this truck 4 out of 5 tortillas. Check out the video for the specifics!

We hope for this to be the first of many future video reviews. Please stay tuned for more from Nick. Mr. Nick Kozak has many videos for you to see. Check them all out at his YouTube page! Thanks again, Nick.

- Doc

Tacos El Dorado Truck
East 17th Street and Church Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11226

Website: Here’s a Yelp Page?
Facebook: No Friends :(
Twitter: No Tweets, Just Meats


All You Need is Love (@OttosTacos Review – East Village)

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Doc: Thanks again man, I really love the tortillas. There is something special about them.
Otto: Thank you sir, its cus they’re made with love.

Made with love. It sounds cliche to say it, but wouldn’t all tacos be better if they were made with love? Not by some line cook shoveling ‘Taco Tuesday’ mystery meat into a limp, soggy soft tortilla that’s going to break upon first bite. Thankfully, there are a few places and people that take pride in the art of tacoism; Otto is one of those guys. One simple look at their mission statement tells you all you need to know about this place; and its not just lip-service.

Otto’s Tacos is an LA-inspired grab-and-go taqueria, focusing on freshly prepared tacos. We make all of our tortillas, salsas and marinades from scratch every day. Our goal is to bring a bounty of bold flavors from our kitchen onto your plates. We hope to serve you the best tacos and Mexican food you’ve ever had and, if for some reason you are ever disappointed, just ask for Otto; he’ll make sure it’s taken care of…

We didn’t even have to ask for Otto…he was right there manning the tortilla grill. As we were walking out and thanking the crew for the delicious tacos they provided, the Doc actually spoke with him unknowingly. The verdict, he’s a genuinely good dude that makes a genuinely good taco. The tortillas aren’t your typical corn variety, as they’re a little sturdier, and to be quite honest, a bit more flavorful. Inside each tortilla you get a mountain of protein with a nice compliment of cilantro, onions and green or red salsa. For a little extra you can add a heaping helping of delicious, homemade guacamole…we suggest you do. Another point of excellence with Otto’s is that the tacos have a little kick to them, even without adding hot sauce into the mix. As a result, you don’t have to alter the intended flavor of the taco to get that heat you crave. Overall, these were pretty much top notch tacos that the Doc and I (as well as our dinner friend / drinking buddy @SidViciousDelicious) were more than pleased with.

There is a small downside to this taqueria and its twofold. (1) Its basically a taqueria inside a closet, and with word  spreading about how awesome the food is, getting a seat is a little tough. And (2) no liquor license yet. So you’re going to have to head to one of the eleventy billion dive bars off St. Marks before and after your tacos for cervezas. Small price to pay  for this high quality of a taco treat!

Here’s the lowdown…

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Chicken Taco – Otto’s

Chicken Taco –  (TS Review) –  These chicken tacos were on point. Had I not been so in love with the mushroom tacos I probably would have been ranting and raving about this a little more. Still the chicken was expertly grilled and marinaded in some sort of homemade goodness you expect your best ‘bbq friend’ to make at home. The kind of marinade that you and your friends talk about all year long, and you can’t have a cookout without it. I didn’t get guac on this taco as I saw the amount of protein they put in the tacos and I thought I’d let it ride with just the onions, cilantro and green salsa. It held up and I’m happy with that decision, even if the guac I had on the mushroom tacos was friggin’ amazing! 4 out of 5 tortillas.

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Mushroom Tacos

Mushroom Taco (TS Review) -  In case my chicken taco review didn’t make it abundantly clear…I loved this taco. Recently mushroom tacos have been my favorite variety, and aside from the Morocho Peruvian Hongo Tacos in Union Square, this might be the best mushroom taco I’ve come across. As was the case with the chicken, this taco could have stood up sans guacamole, but I decided to give it a go anyway and the guac was excellent. It was really well whipped, giving it a light refreshing taste, and it complimented the mild heat from the green salsa and the marinade on the ‘shrooms perfectly. I think I’ve only given like 3 of these out in the year and a half the Doc and I have been writing about tacos, but I give this taco a perfect score; 5 out of 5 tortillas!

Note from the Doc: Firstly, there’s a lot to be said about a good tortilla. Usually, it’s the kind friend keeping all the taco fillings in place while you consume the goodness. Its presence taken for granted. You know when you have a bad tortilla, though. The badness can be distracting. Otto’s tortillas are just the introduction to a delicious taco experience. The first thing I said to the TS after I bit into the shrimp was, “Dude! These tortillas!”

Shrimp Taco - (Doc Review) -  When you see this taco, you can only think, “So many shrimps!” And what delicious shrimps they were. The Serrano cream provided an excellent kick, making every bit delectable. This is a can’t miss seafood taco. You little shrimps get 4.5 out of 5 tortillas.

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Carne Asada & Shrimp Tacos

Carne Asada Taco – (Doc Review) – Sometimes, the best part about a steak taco is the taste of the seared bits of steak. The caramelized mixture of meat and spices proves to be irresistible. Otto’s carne asada has this and then some. The red salsa topping this also gives you the spice you know crave. I got mine with guac as well because, COME ON. 4 out of 5 tortillas for the carne.

Otto’s Tacos
141 Second Avenue
btw St. Marks Place & East 9th Street
New York, NY 10033

Website: http://www.ottostacos.com
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Meet Me at The Corner! (@LaEsquinaNY Cafe Review – Nolita)

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For all the years that I have been going down to the SoHo/Chinatown/ Nolita/Whatever part of Manhattan, there has always been a storefront that caught my eye. You see it if you look south after getting off the Spring St. 6 train stop. In bright neon letters it reads, THE CORNER DELI. All those years, and I never went in until last night.

Credit: Lars Klove for The New York Times

What took me so long? Well, I only recently found out that below that vintage marquee was not one but THREE taco eateries. In the front, right under that sign, is a little taco shack with limited seating but a full taco menu. Around the corner, to the right, is the Cafe. (Entrance pictured up top.) Hidden from view is a secret entrance to a swanky brasserie downstairs, for the upmarket taco hustler.

For dinner last night, I chose the Cafe. It’s not as tiny as the taco shack up front, but I would call it an intimate setting.  The place started getting packed at around 7:30, so it did not hurt to get there a little early.

Started off with chips and guacamole, naturally. Accompanying the guac was what appeared to be a jar of salsa, much like what you would find at the grocery store. I thought this was a little weird, until I tasted it. Very delicious, slightly sweet and just a touch of spiciness. Who cares how it’s presented when it tastes like that? The waitress even wrapped it up, lid on, in a to-go bag when I left. (For the $15 price of the chips & guac, I’m gonna make this experience LAST.)

You’re gonna take that salsa home, right? Right.

Now for the main event, I ordered three kinds of tacos: Pescado (fish), Bistec (steak) and Cochinita Pibil (pulled pork). A solid line up for what was shaping up to be a great meal.

Pescado

Pescado

Pescado – The fish came grilled on a skewer, topped with salsa verde, cabbage, pickled red onions and turnips. Squeeze some lime on that, and you’ve got a damn good taco! The fish was nice and flakey and the salsa verde had just the right amount of spice. This little fish gets 4 out of 5 tortillas.

Bistec - The steak taco was topped with some red salsa, onions and cilantro. All together, it wasn’t doing much for me. I did eat some of the little bits of steak by itself and it tasted nicely charred and salty. So you know, delicious. I think this taste may have gotten lost in all that salsa. 2.5 out of 5 tortillas, if only for those steak bits.

Cochinita Pibil - Pulled pork is always a champion in my taco book and this one did not disappoint. The taco was topped with cabbage, pickled onions and bits of jalapeño for a kick. The pork was moist with flavor and the toppings really brought it all together. That’ll do, pig4 out of 5 tortillas.

From left: Cochinita Pibil, Bistec

From left: Cochinita Pibil, Bistec

One of these days, hopefully sooner than later, I want to check out the tiny taqueria out front. Judging by the menu online, they have even more tasty taco offerings. Even closer to home, I see that La Esquina has also opened a location in Williamsburg. Just another place for us all to enjoy some tacos. Tough life!

- Doc

La Esquina Cafe (The Corner)
114 Kenmare St. (On Lafayette St.)
Manhattan, NY 10012

Website: http://www.esquinanyc.com/
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Great Seats, Good Tacos (San Loco Review – Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

Photo courtesy of joesafiend.blogspot.com

I had heard tales of San Loco from many-a-friends. The way it was described to me, as a late-night-eat-your-taco-and-find-a-random-guy-or-girl-to-bring-home left me somewhat skeptical about the quality I was going to experience, nevertheless I was in the neighborhood and searching for tacos so I gave it a go.

I was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t overwhelmed, but these were solid tacos…and somewhat unique in terms of the interplay between the tortilla and its contents. I was also surprised that it was a family-friendly establishment. Assuming they weren’t bringing their children there to tell them about the night they were consummated, there were several families enjoying a nice meal together. Perhaps its because I was there at 6 pm not 2 am, but still I was glad to see it.

Another element of San Loco that surprised me was the size. Its a relatively big taqueria (easily twice the size of Taqueria LES) with a front and back sitting area as well as a sizable bar; not the typical late night taco spot I was expecting. The best part for me was the upholstery (pictured above). The overall decor was pretty amazing (super heroes, lucha libres, bright colors..) but the dogs playing poker seat covers were epic.

I spoke with my friend about the lack of sluttiness at San Loco afterwards, and he informed me that I was at the wrong location. There is another San Loco in the East Village that was across the street from the old Angels & Kings. Apparently it was common practice for people to pour out of A&K into San Loco to find someone to bring home (sort of like a non-digital version of tindr/grindr, but with tacos). So, the moral of the story is you can bring your kids to San Loco (at least in Williamburg) and have a solid taco meal. That being said, here is what you can expect in terms of tacos:

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As you can see, not much differentiating between each type of taco

Pinto Bean Taco - I generally prefer black bean to pintos, but unfortunately that wasn’t an option here. Still, the pinto bean tacos were pretty solid. They came with the standard (too much) lettuce, cheese, lettuce and generic hot sauce. I wasn’t overwhelmed, but I was happy. I gave it a 3 out of 5 tortillas.

Steamed Veggie Taco - The steamed veggie tacos had sort of a fajita concept with the peppers and onions. There were definitely too many sautéed onions on it. It did have sweet potatoes though, and this was the tacos saving grace. I’m going to give this a 3 out of 5 tortillas as well, but if pressed I would choose the pinto bean taco over the steamed veggies.

Chipotle Chicken - Winner, winner chicken dinner! I know I have a bit of a soft spot for el pollo bueno (sorry Doc, I don’t stand with you on this one) but this was an excellent taco. Slow-cooked, shredded chicken and a delicious sauce. The marinade had a nice homestyle adobo taste; I was into it. 3.5 out of 5 tortillas for the chicken.

Love & Guac,
TS

San Loco
160 N. 4th St.
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Website: http://www.sanloco.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/San-Loco
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sanloco


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