Bonita in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Bonita in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Ryan: We went to Williamsburg, Brooklyn to see Beirut a few weeks back and decided to grab tacos at Bonita, a Mexican restaurant we’d been to once before. Our first trip there was pretty underwhelming for me as I ordered the fish tacos and was left wanting more food–and tastier food. But this was about a year later, and with Tacos Por Vida in mind, I wanted to give Bonita another shot.

3 beef tacos at Bonita in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

3 beef tacos at Bonita in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Oh lord, what a mistake. We ordered glasses of sangria and they were watered down and overpriced. We ordered chips and salsa. Honestly? I can’t remember the salsa, but the chips were decent. Definitely overpriced ($6!) and we had to order the dang chips. What self-respecting Mexican joint doesn’t give you chips?! Oh, but their biggest affront was with their tacos. The three beef taco plate was only $11, but they were three of the tiniest tacos ever. The taco shells were, no joke, much smaller than any other tacos I’ve had here. I’m pretty sure they were the same size as the little tortillas that came with my entree at Rosa Mexicano. Baffling, to see them used for tacos.

Aside from being disgracefully small, the tacos just weren’t that great. The beef wasn’t cooked, spiced or even simply flavored in a way that would EVER make me want to eat there again. I’m actually a bit annoyed that we wasted our time and money at Bonita. Please, if you consider going there dear reader, don’t. Not worth it.

Chicken Burrito at Bonita

Chicken Burrito at Bonita

Elizabeth: I have to add something here.  I take full responsibility for urging the return trip to Bonita.  Last year, unlike Ryan, I quite enjoyed my food.  My chicken burrito contained nicely seasoned whole pinto beans, flavorful meat and a nice amount of cheese.  And–bonus!–it was warm and toasty on the outside from a light grilling.  I wanted another, or at least a different type of good burrito in this (relative) burrito wasteland of NYC.

As is obvious from the tone of this post, my repeat experience didn’t live up to my expectations.  For one, I’d recently had an amazing burrito at La Fiesta, and topping it would be unlikely.  However, Bonita’s burrito would have been a disappointment no matter what.  On my plate arrived a medium-sized burrito, a perfect proportion in my mind (I never understand why the slightly smaller version is never available these days.  Sigh.).  Instead of a medium-sized flour tortilla containing beans, meat and cheese, though, I soon discovered that the burrito consisted mostly of a giant tortilla wrapped in on itself.  At least one third of the burrito was nothing more than the flour tortilla, a providing a dry, tasteless and textureless experience.

Taco Truck in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Taco Truck in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Ryan: Fortunately, my foodie night was sorta saved by the Williamsburg taco truck. For $2.50, I got a single beef taco. Ah! But you could fit two and a half Bonita (maybe all three) tacos into that one taco truck feast–it was a big one. And flavor? Yes! Was it spicy? A bit; not too much, but enough to give it a lil’ kick. The beef itself was probably of the same quality level as what Bonita was serving.

Beef Taco, Taco Truck Style

Beef Taco, Taco Truck Style

Elizabeth: I was somewhat stuffed with flour tortilla (I know, I know, it’s getting old. I’ll stop harping on it.), so I decided to forgo extra food.  But I was extremely cold, so I ordered a Mexican hot chocolate.  It had just the right amount of spice and warmth to really get the night back on track.

Ryan: We were going to hit the taco truck up initially, since it’s stationed right outside the subway, but we decided not to due to the weather. And I damn near froze my fingers off that night while scarfing down the taco on our way to the Beirut show. But ya know what? It was worth it. Hooray for the taco truck! To hell with Bonita.

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!

After Ryan’s birthday extravaganza, I wasn’t expecting tacos for lunch today. I did have lunch and museum plans with my pal Daphne, though, and we decided to let our museum choice–The Hispanic Society, at 155th and Broadway–dictate our lunch selection.

Out of necessity, Daphne, a vegetarian, did some research. With the Caribbean foods that dominate Washington Heights, it’s often hard to find a place that isn’t all about meat, doesn’t include pork in the beans, or chicken broth in the rice.  That’s fine for my omnivorous tastes, but not part of the day’s plans.  Daphne found La Fiesta, a small, taqueria-style Mexican restaurant, only a few blocks from the museum.  And it had vegetarian tacos and burritos!  Success!

As we entered La Fiesta, the grill and food prep area stood to the left.  I was pleased to see tender-looking meats in bubbling tomatillo sauces, fresh chopped cilantro, onions, and limes, and queso oaxaca among the ingredients–this was no Dominican/Mexican hybrid, but a place with genuine Mexican flair.  La Fiesta’s dining area has a number of two-seater tables, a moderate, comfortable amount of space for lunch, but not set up for large groups.   (Of course, we were one of two occupied tables at lunch, so this was not a problem.)

While we waited for our tacos, we split an order of guacamole and chips.  The guacamole was a little smoother than I tend to like it, but the chips were delightful: crunchy, robust-flavored, with just the right amount of salt, and not too greasy, they stood out from many other taqueria chips.

Each taco, accompanied by slices of lime and radish, came tightly wrapped in paper.  I can’t really comment on the flavor of Daphne’s vegetarian tacos, but they looked delightfully cheesy (Oaxaca, I think).  I had one Al Pastor and one bistec taco, each topped with onions and cilantro.  I don’t know if the Al Pastor was properly from a rotisserie (the Mexico City way, based on Middle Eastern cooking methods), but it was tender, juicy, and a little sweet, just like it should be.  Compared to the well rounded and well balanced flavors of the Al Pastor, the bistec did not particularly stand out.  It was just a bistec taco, albeit a better-than-average one.

Sadly, since this was a surprise lunch, there are no photos to document the occasion.  But I fully intend to drag Ryan back for a second visit, where I intend to explore some other menu items, maybe a cemita, the sandwich of Pueblo, or a torta or a sope, all of which were on the menu.  And then there will be photos!  Lots and lots of photos!

Finally, stay tuned for our exploration of high-class Mexican in NYC at Rosa Mexicana!