5 Front Street, Brooklyn
This Saturday I joined a couple of friends in Brooklyn for eating, drinking, and gallavanting. We met up in Dumbo and headed over to Gran Electrica for margaritas and tacos. The restaurant is spacious and consists of multiple rooms as well as a big backyard area with loads of tables, so we chose to sit outside to take advantage of the unusually Spring-like mid-July afternoon. We shared a crab tostada and an assortment of meat tacos (beef brisket, carnitas, and tongue). The food was prepared well and really flavorful, and the tamarind margarita that I drank was tart, sweet, and refreshing.
By early evening, we had ended up in another part of Brooklyn and finished our day off with some excellent handmade ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery (which I had first sampled at Choice Eats 2012). Their salted “crack” caramel flavor is crazy good.
Rockefeller Center, NYC
A few months ago I ate at Bill’s Bar & Burger for the first time. Considering their name, I figured I had to try a cheeseburger. I also had sweet potato fries, and the chopped salad. The burger was nothing special, the fries were okay, and the salad was tasty, but none of it would draw me back again. However, during that meal, I kept noticing that people all around me were ordering a dish I had overlooked on the menu. I made a mental note to come back at least one more time and try the Blackened Mahi Tacos.
I finally went back and tried the tacos and they were really delicious. I understand why it appeared to be so popular during my first trip. The fish was cooked nicely and had a well-seasoned crust on most of the surface. Beneath the fish was shredded lettuce, a small dollop of basic guacamole, and some crunchy cole slaw, and on top, a generous drizzle of chipotle aioli and diced tomatoes and onions.
Yum. They might not be authentic Mexican tacos but the flavors and textures were great. I’ll gladly go back to Bill’s again to have these.
11 Doyers Street, NYC
Tucked away on Chinatown’s Doyer Street, a tiny unassuming street that makes me feel like I’m not in New York, or even the U.S. for that matter, are next door neighbors #9 & #11. The two establishments at these addresses share the same owners and a no-sign-outside-try-and-find-us speakeasy attitude.
Mexican restaurant Pulqueria is accessed by somehow locating a staircase from the street that leads down to the floor below and then picking from three random doors in a tiny vestibule. I don’t know what’s behind two of the doors because fortunately my friend and I picked the winner on the first try. Through the door and the heavy curtain just past it, we found ourselves in a surprisingly spacious restaurant with a large tiki-inspired bar room on one side and a dining room on the other.
The Negroni Mexicano starts out with a small amount of mezcal in a cocktail glass which is set on fire before getting combined with aperol, vermouth, and bitters. It’s intensely smoky and paired well with the spicy flavors of the dishes I sampled. Their guacamole was decent enough, with the avocado not fully pureed and prepared with minimum fuss.
The friendly bartender talked us in to trying the taco verduras, filled with grilled cactus among other ingredients. The flavors and seasonings were great but I would have liked more cactus. Definitely a good suggestion, though. The slow roasted pork in the cochinita pibil taco was juicy, and the addition of annato seed added a vibrant red color.
Next time I go I’ll make sure to try their pulque, a fermented agave beverage that is said to be created by lightning flashing in the fields.
Next week: cocktails at sister bar Apotheke
111 West 17th Street, NYC
Cheese baked in a small cast iron skillet is available with a few different mix-in options. The one I tried was “Norteno” style, with ground up chorizo beneath the thick and gooey blanket of cheese. The tasty crust that formed on top from being under the broiler (or maybe by being sprinkled with tequila and set on fire?) was the best part.
Tacos de Carne Asada
Extremely pricey at $7 a taco, but the meat was flavorful and perfectly grilled.
Taquitos de Chilorio
Of the three dishes these small, crispy pork rolls had the least oomph, but the duo of dipping sauces was delicious.
The steak tacos are also available in an entree size, and the skillet of queso is accompanied with a cup of guacamole and flour tortillas. This amount of food was perfect for two people.
The Margarita Clasica (not pictured) that I ordered to wash all this down with was not good. The tartness was overpowering and the tequila seemed non-existant, so I was basically drinking a watered down, sour limeade. I have a hunch sitting at the bar during happy hour (when the margaritas are only $5) makes a difference with how the drinks turn out.