So, I got out of work today with the intention of hitting up the taco cart for some Taco Tuesday delights. But rain, mixed with the A train not running up to my stop for some godforsaken reason, altered my plans. Luckily, we got a new taco joint in the neighborhood a few weeks ago that Elizabeth and I have been meaning to try.

Four tacos from Villa Patron in Inwood, NY

Four tacos from Villa Patron in Inwood, NY

Villa Patron, just west of the 1 train on Dyckman Street has only been open for three weeks, but it seems like a nice joint. Moody lighting, plenty of space and a nice staff. Alas, it seemed a litle slow to get my taco quartet, but the wait was, thankfully, mostly worth it. I’m gonna do this a little different and break ’em down individually.

  • The chicken taco was dry. Seasoned well, flavorful, but drrrrry. I’d probably try them one more time to see if they were always that dry. If they’re not, they’d be pretty damn good.
  • The al pastor taco (basically spicy pork with pineapple–hot and sweet) was the best of the bunch. Really damn good. An excellent mix of hot and sweet, with delicious pork. That hit the spot!
  • Fish taco! I, uh, forgot to ask what kinda fish it was. Pffft, whatevs. Fishies! I was happy to see they didn’t fry the hell outta the fish and instead cooked it nicely with a bit of spice, leaving the fish very moist and tasty. And they put enough fish in that taco to fill two tacos. Yeah!
  • Oh shrimp taco, why have you forsaken me? While not as overcooked as the chicken, the lil’ shrimp were dry and lacking flavor, acting more like taco filler than taco fiesta.

Each taco was $2.50, not a bad price for restaurant tacos, especially when they’re really hefty tacos. The plate came with radish and limes, necessary bits. I didn’t try the guacamole, salsa or anything else, but I sure plan to.

Will we eat tacos from Villa Patron again? Most definitely!

Tacos at Midnight Doritos

Tacos at Midnight Doritos

While in the ‘burbs yesterday I spotted a bag of the new Late Night “Tacos at Midnight” flavor Doritos. I love Doritos…I love tacos…these should be the best things ever, right?

Well, they’re not that good. They don’t taste anything like tacos. Elizabeth says they sort of taste like Old El Paso taco seasoning, but my tongue either doesn’t know or doesn’t care. It’s a sort of hybrid flavor, but it didn’t do anything for me. Gimme cool ranch or the classic flavor.

Would we buy another bag of “Tacos at Midnight” Doritos? No.

Pork gordita

Pork gordita

On a more pleasant note, we diversified our selections at the Inwood taco cart yesterday with a steak burrito (massive and awesome!), a lengua, aka beef tongue, taco (one of the finest tongue tacos I’ve ever had) and a pork gordita. I’ve never actually had an authentic Mexican gordita, just the Taco Bell kind. The taco cart gordita was delicious, a mix of pork, lettuce and tomato, spices and sauce inside a thick, deep-fried corn tortilla. Foodgasm.

T&T!

T&T!

Of course, by T&T, I’m referring to tacos and tamales. And yes, I’m again posting about the taco truck–well, it’s really more of a taco cart–on Dyckman Street here in Inwood. We hadn’t tried their tamales when we last posted, but now with a few in my belly from repeated visits, I’m happy to report that they rule. The tamales come in only two flavors: chicken mole and chicken with green sauce.

Mole Chicken Tamale

Mole Chicken Tamale

They’re both killer, but I like the mole one a bit better. That said, they’re $1 each and so you’re pretty much required to get 2. Add those to a meal that includes magnificent tacos that have been getting better each time I go there and that makes for some magnificent eats. If you can make it up to the Inwood taco cart on the weekends, you won’t be disappointed.

As always, there are more photos on our Flickr.

Inwoods Taco Truck

Inwood's Taco Truck

I’d been feeling pretty crappy today, so when Elizabeth and I took a walk to run some errands, I was delighted to see the local taco truck make its first appearance of 2009. Located on the corner of Dyckman St. and Sherman Ave. way uptown in our neighborhood of Inwood, the taco truck is just one of the many awesome food carts and vendors located on the busy stretch of Dyckman (aka 200th St.).

Spicy Pork Taco

Spicy Pork Taco

I’d only had a chance to eat tacos from the taco truck once or twice before–and they were great–so I had to grab one today, even though I wasn’t really hungry. I decided to go all-out with a spicy pork taco, all the fixins, including spicy sauce, lettuce, tomato and guacamole. Oh, and it was good. Not the best pork taco and probably a little hampered by all the extra stuff, but the flavors were really solid. And I WILL be going back, quite a lot, over the next few months. Hooray tacos!

There are more photos on Flickr and we’ll post more about this taco truck as we experience all its wonders.

Our La Fiesta Feast!

Our La Fiesta Feast!

With a hankering for tacos and no desire to go too far from home, we ordered tacos and a mammoth burrito from La Fiesta, the taqueria Elizabeth found in Washington Heights a few weeks back. At $2 per taco, I decided to taste the rainbow of tacos and get six of ’em: steak, pork, chicken, spicy pork, al pastor and chorizo. Now, I’m not such a savage that I’d eat all six at once, but after downing the steak, spicy pork and chicken tacos, I damn near grabbed the other three.

The tacos at La Fiesta are exquisitely tasty, spiced wonderfully and very similar to the ones at Tehuitzingo Deli Grocery down in Hell’s Kitchen…though La Fiesta’s tacos come topped with a bit more onion and cilantro than at TDG. Still, they’re not just similar in terms of the rockin’ flavors–these tacos are a lil’ small. It’s easy and affordable to down three or four of these in a snap.

La Fiesta has officially become my go-to taco place when I’m at home. Hell yeah! More photos on Flickr.

We’ve had good tacos, bad tacos, great tacos and forgettable tacos, stretching back to when we first started to talk about doing this blog. Through it all, we’ve come to decide that, so far, we’ve found three definitively and consistently great taco places. I don’t think we can say that these are the BEST taco joints in NYC–everyone has different ideas of good tacos and we really haven’t eaten at enough NYC taquerias to be so bold, but here are our CURRENT picks for Top 3 Taco places in NYC.

1. Castro’s Mexican Restaurant – Absolutely amazing hard tacos, exceptional green sauce, off the chain tortilla chips, great meats (steak and pork being their best), kickassedly huge tostadas and perfect for eating in or taking out. Hell, whenever we go there, I have to order a few soft tacos to go so I can have them for lunch afterwards.
511 Myrtle Ave Brooklyn, NY  11205
718.398.1459

2.  Tehuitzingo Deli Grocery – Great variety of meats, very tasty. It’s much better as a take out joint as the actual taqueria is just a booth in the back of a deli with a few barstools and 3 countertops to eat at. But the two ladies that cook the tacos really cook the HELL out of the tacos. They’re pretty small and inexpensive, so getting 3-4 is almost required. I tip my hat to fellow Marvelite C.B. Cebulski for tipping us off to this place.
695 10th Ave, New York, NY 10036
212.397.5956

3. Taquerea Y La Fonda Mexicana – This spot up near Columbia University has monstrously big tacos that are awesome when they’re not too greasy. My biggest gripe with it is that you just don’t know what you’ll get when you go. When they’re on, hot damn, they’re outta this world. When they’re not…meh. That said, the good far outweighs the bad. Get some!
968 Amsterdam Avenue, New York NY 10025
212.531.0383

We’ll do more in-depth reviews of those places soon. I kind of hope our Top 3 changes as we go on, because that means we’re eatin’ some good-ass tacos!

Qdoba logo

Qdoba logo

Mexican-ish fast food joint Qdoba has a nifty little deal. Sign up for their frequent eater card, give them your birthday and every year, you get a free burrito or entree of your choice. Well, it’s buy one, get one, but it’s still kinda free. My boss, John Cerilli, and I share the same birth-date and last week we got the same email: free food from Qdoba!

Before I go into the tacos, I will say that I have a soft spot for Qdoba. The Q (as we…or I…called it back then) located in the Palisades Center Mall in West Nyack, NY was a frequent haunt for my friends and I who worked at Wizard Magazine. It wasn’t great food, but it was cheap, quick and sometimes one of their gigantic burritos just hit the spot.

3 tacos at Qdoba

3 tacos at Qdoba

Anyway, Cerilli and I decided to head to Qdoba to enjoy some free food–once last week and once this coming week. I, of course, chomped down on their three-taco plate during our first visit. I even went for hard tacos, cheese and tomatoes–no need to try and get something authentic when nothing there is authentic, right? I really didn’t expect good tacos, but they a little bit crappier than I’d anticipated. Bland meat (both the steak and the pork) and very little of it. Taco shells were crap. I don’t even think there was salsa.

And I’m going back. This week, I think I’ll go back and try the soft tacos. Mix it up a bit! Then, maybe, I’ll head to Chipotle and do some sort of crappy fast food taco face-off! Although, that means I’ll have to pay for (probably) lackluster tacos. Meh.

Taqueria Corona

Dining area and grill

Elizabeth: The first time I went to Taqueria Corona in 1994, I hated it.  I had an enchilada with a side of rice and beans, and to me, it was wrong.  All wrong.  The enchilada was covered in cheese, which was burnt to a crisp like the top of a pizza.  The saffron rice and black beans didn’t taste at all Mexican to me, and I left thinking that my companions were unsophisticated ignoramuses with severe palate disorders.  Oh, the taco snobbery of a college freshman!

The grill and bar

The grill and bar

The next time I went, dragged there for some special event nearly two years later, I reluctantly decided to give it another chance (if just not to be a jerk to my dinner companions).  This time, I ordered chicken soft tacos and some rice and beans.  After the first mouthful of beans and rice, I made a pleasant discovery: they tasted almost (but not exactly) like the black beans and rice I’d had on our university orchestra’s trip to Costa Rica.  And then I bit into the soft taco, with delightfully smoky grilled chicken and a lime-infused pico de gallo on a lightly toasted flour tortilla.  The taco was not quite Mexican, either.  But it was bursting with flavor and remarkably satisfying.

Sometime after that, I discovered that my association of the beans and rice with Central America–rather than Mexico–wasn’t all that off: the restaurant’s owner hails from El Salvador, and that has definitely made it into the mix.  If you are looking for authentic Mexican food, Taqueria Corona is not the place to find it.  If you like good food, you will find it there.

Taqueria Corona

Taqueria Corona

Throughout college, I would eat at Taqueria Corona at least once every two weeks.  At the time, it was incredibly cheap ($7.95 for the Numero Uno, described below), convenient to Loyola, and, over time, became a place I associated with good food and good friends.  Thus, when Ryan and I visited New Orleans, it joined the list of potential taco consumption.

At this point, I’m going to hand the review over to Ryan, who can give you a better impression of the present-day Taqueria Corona, without the hazy filter of nostalgia.

Ryan: We were just about to leave New Orleans and deciding on what to have for luch. We almost went for po-boys (an excellent choice), but then Elizabeth threw out the idea of going to an El Salvadoran taqueria. Well, the choice was clear and we hit Taqueria Corona on Magazine Street just in time–the restaurant stops seating people at 2pm (until they open back up for dinner a few hours later).

I really liked the look of the place. It was a bit tacky and over the top, but sometimes that’s fun. The place was crowded and I knew it was going to be a three-taco meal for me. We ordered chips and pico de gallo, but they never actually brought that out. Oh well.

Tres Tacos

Tres Tacos

I ordered a rib-eye carne asada taco, a pork taco and a tongue taco. Tongue’s an acquired taste and generally I like it a LOT more on a sandwich from a good deli than in a taco, though I’ve had some good tongue tacos before. This one, well, it wasn’t all that. It was, somehow, softer than tongue usually is, too wet and not as flavorful as I’d expected. The pork taco was far better–the tortilla was packed with delicous chunks of slightly spicy pork. Good stuff! But truly, the steak taco stole the show for me. Thick strips of wonderfully marinated steak with some green onion, it was kind of like the steak you get with fajitas. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

My main issue with the tacos–all of them–was the tortilla. Flour tortillas just don’t taste right to me anymore. Kinda gummy and excessive, they took away from all the tacoey goodness. And the salsa was fine, but not really memorable.  Back to you in the studio, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth:  I can see what Ryan is saying about flour tortillas, but I still like them.   The challenge to consume the taco in time before it turns gummy is part of the fun for me; I also prefer burritos to tacos (Shhh!  Don’t tell!).

Numero Uno

Numero Uno

In terms of my order, I got the usual: The Numero Uno, a combination that comes with a small chicken burrito, chicken soft taco, beef flauta, and rice and beans.  It is–and always has been–more food than one should consume at one sitting, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t done it before.  The chicken burrito is nothing like what you would find on the West Coast: only black beans, chicken, and a smooth, tomato salsa, it is not pick-up-able, nor is it filled with the extras, such as rice, sour cream, guacamole, or cheese, that you would find in Taqueria Corona’s giant, stand-alone burritos.  Having lived in San Francisco, I can say that the burritos at TC will not win any authenticity contests, but they are (in their smaller form) a flavorful addition to the combo.

Having discussed the chicken soft taco and rice and beans already (They’re still good!), I turn now to the highlight of the meal: the deep-fried, gooey beef and cheese flauta.  Topped with sour cream and guacamole, it’s the comfort food of all comfort foods, even amongst all the carbohydrates and fats already on the plate.  Hard on the outside, gooey on the inside: what could be better?

And on that note, back to you, Ryan!

Ryan: The flauta was the shit! Seriously, if we ever go back, I’m getting two steak tacos and a flauta. Overall, Taqueria Corona was good, but not great.

We posted more photos on Flickr!

Superior Grill, Baton Rouge, LA

Superior Grill, Baton Rouge, LA

I had very  high expectations of Superior Grill before I even stepped off the plane from New York. Elizabeth had talked this place up so much that I expected Don Mattingly (former New York Yankees first baseman, my favorite player and my former childhood hero) and Jesus to cook and bring the tacos to us themselves. Hell, the family down here has made a tradition of going to Superior Grill for Christmas Eve dinner! It HAD to be good.

Welcome to Superior Grill

Welcome to Superior Grill

The decor, both inside and outside, said, “Hello Ryan, come in and eat our tacos. We want to fill your belly with deliciousness and make you happy. Be not afraid, just feast.” The wait staff was friendly and our table was immediately gifted with a heaping helping of warm, crispy chips and just spicy enough salsa. I’m a bit of a chip fiend, specifically when it comes to curled/folded chips.  I go ga-ga for ’em. The chips here were quite good, not overpowering in taste, obviously built more for dippin’ and enjoying the salsa. Good stuff! And when we devoured most of the chips and two containers of salsa, they quickly brought us a fresh (so hot!) batch of chips and four containers of salsa. Aces!

Meal-wise, we ordered a few things. I got the three taco plate (two steak brisket and one pork taco), Elizabeth got the one  beef taco/one chicken enchilada/one cheese enchilada combo, her sister Juli got the tortilla soup and her boy-toy Steven got the chicken fajita plate. I can’t comment on Juli and Steven’s food, though they seemed happy with their grub. I tasted Elizabeth’s dish and thought the beef taco (hard) was pretty decent, the chicken enchilada was real good and the cheese enchilada was great. My tacos?

Tacos!

Tacos!

Simply put: they rocked. Before adding the salsa, pico de gallo and guacamole to the tacos, I tasted them as they were. The steak brisket tacos perfectly cooked, juicy, extremely flavorful and pretty much made my mouth sing. It was a different cut of meat from what I’m used to in NYC, but hot damn that was excellent. That photo really doesn’t do it justice. The pork taco wasn’t quite as good. The pork was cut into chunks and a little dry despite being served with onions and peppers already in the taco, but it was still a pretty darn good taco nonetheless. By itself, I’m sure the pork taco would have pleased me, but against such a magnificent display of steak taco goodness, it just couldn’t compete.

The plate also came with rice and beans (good but not out of this world), pico de gallo, lettuce and serrano peppers (which I didn’t have, since I don’t like too much spice). The guacamole there was righteous and I suggest getting a side order for any dish you order.

All in all, Superior Grill won my heart and my taste buds with excellent food, great service and some damn fine tacos. When we figure out a proper review scale, we’ll add that in here, but I’d put this place somewhere in the vicinity of awesome.

See all the photos on Taco Por Vida’s Flickr gallery.