Thursday, December 07, 2006


I've never been to a place that I had to swear I would only tell blood relatives about (I jokingly said that I would need to get married so I could bring my friends here, and H. negated that idea with a no nonsense look. Blood relatives only.).

Basically, we headed out for a night of drinks - friends, friends of friends, etc. It was loud and fun. But C hadn't eaten anything all day and even after 2 glasses of olives (I am so not exaggerating on that one, they had no food, no apps, no peanuts, just olives and so she ate 2 glasses worth - talk about a dry martini (badump bump)) she was still hungry. And so, our new friend H said that he knew a great place in ______shire (see my Jane Austen post for this one, it's actually a NY neighborhood, but I couldn't put anything in (even letters) without giving clues), which was only 11 street blocks and 1 avenue block from where we were. It was a taco place. C, being Mexican, was sceptical. I, being a food snob, was also sceptical. But he convinced us.

There was some hemming and hawing among the crowd at the bar and finally it was just the three of us, C, H and I left and caught a cab (2 things: 1. H was totally relieved as he was figuring that 3 was a good number for this place, 2. It's freezing outside, which is the only reason one would take a cab for the equivalent of 14 street blocks).

We got out at a rather un-preposessing corner. And then walked from there, one, two, third storefront. Were we stopping to buy lottery tickets? Did we need to pick up the latest copy of the Post? Was it time for a hit of Nicorette? No, really, we were going for dinner. There was a small neon sign in the window, "Mexican Food". At this point, I figured that I had had a decent lunch and so I was fine whatever happened. But, not only did I not have high hopes, I didn't have hopes (except for a tiny flutter in my stomach that said that it was too ridiculous to have this place be bad).

Miguel greeted H as an old friend and C and I as new ones (it's rather embarassing being the one with the worst Spanish when everone else's is effortless, but no one seemed to mind - perhaps I'm overly sensitive). We walked to the back, past the 9 guys on stools (H mentioned that he'd never seen it so crowded; I mentioned that I'd never seen that many men in grey and pink jackets in that neighborhood). The menu went from 'normal' to 'you really need to know what you're doing' in about 13 lines. I ordered from the top two - Bifstek and Enchilada (described as spicy carnitas). C ordered from the bottom and got Pork Belly and Pork Skin (they sound better in Spanish, but apparently, the translation has skipped my mind).

C also decided that she wanted a michelada to drink. H and I got Pacificos. She mixed her own, first the beer, then one condiment, then the next. They didn't have helado, which she was disappointed about (given that it was freezing outside, I was fine with that) and no salt for the rim, but even so, after I tried a sip, I was totally sold. And so she made me one too. It really did seem like it was going to be too much. But it was just so good. These are the ingredients. Really!

And then the tacos came. We got to put onions, green sauce, red sauce (or any combination thereof (H said he always uses all 3; C said that she had never seen a Mexican mix the red and the green; I mixed because they were there)) on the tacos and then dig in. And boy was this the high point of the week. This is a taco! I know that Mexican food in New York is generally abysmal. I know that I (used to) wait for trips to SF to have decent food - I completely wrote off NY, didn't even bother. But now I've been reborn. I now know there is good Mexican food in NY. And I know where to find it. And boy is it good. Really good.

My 2 tacos (Bifstek and Enchilada) were amazing (sorry, didn't want to use the flash - really didn't seem appropriate with the wall decor).

I also tried C's (forgot about the flash here, so it looks the best).

The Pork Belly (far right) was fabulous, the Pork Skin (middle) was rich - I'm not even sure whether I liked it or not (definitely didn't love it). It was just so rich; that was almost more important that the taste. (The left one was the Enchilada, same as mine - didn't try hers, but mine was fabulous).

I also learned that I am apparently a weird eater. Halfway through the meal, C had eaten 1 1/2 of her 3 tacos. H had eated 1 of his 2. I had eaten 1/2 of each of my 2. H said that it was like eating a hot dog and a hamburger side by side one bite at a time. I'm okay with that. I like to balance all flavors - that is probably how I'd eat a hotdog and hamburger at the same time. I just didn't realize that that was totally abnormal. And can I just say, with the beef and the pork that I had - balancing them was the perfect thing to do - they were so good - so very, very good.

I'm sorry that I can't give the address. H made me promise. And I take promises seriously (which means that everyone out there can trust me and take me to their favorite holes in the wall). That said, if you find me on the right kind of night, I might be willing to bring you along (oh yes, I'll be back (and C ordered delivery for tomorrow while we were there tonight, so she's a fan as well - I don't know if they had ever had a $37.00 order before she ordered a huge meal for dinner tomorrow; dinner for me tonight was $6 plus tip, including the drink (don't ask what I paid for 2 slightly better than mediocre Shiraz's at the bar beforehand).

PS While there are a couple of neighborhood clues in here, there aren't enough to find it. Which is too bad, as it really is worth it. But call me and we'll hit it late night.


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