Wednesday, August 24, 2011

NYC Taco Hunt Part 1 - East Harlem


It was the week of the great heat wave. I was in NY for six days then off to the UK for a 3-week vacation. It was 100 degrees most days and humid and felt much hotter in the subway. The original plan was to hit up as many taco trucks and taquerias as I could and fit in a couple of the fancier taquerias. It didn’t really work out that way. It was just too fucking hot to get around like I wanted to. I had a great guide while in the city who didn’t eat meat (fish only) so bless her little heart for letting me drag her around in this heat to eat tacos.

The first thing I noticed about tacos in NYC was the price. Everything is more expensive in NYC so I wasn't that surprised when people would tell me how cheap some tacos were at a particular taqueria or truck only to find out by cheap they meant $2.50 per taco. The tacos are generally bigger than you will find in LA but most of the tacos I paid $2 - $2.50 for could be had in LA for closer to $1.


The first spot we hit up was El Aguila in East Harlem. The plaque on the wall mentioned them being really good at making authentic Mexican food. First stop and I’ve hit the jackpot, I thought.





The tacos were $2.50 each and came on medium sized tortillas. The bistek could have been chopped up more and could have had more flavor. The carnitas, which was cooked in a cazo, was quite good but the tortillas were very dry. The salsa verde went well with the pork and had a good kick to it. The salsa roja had a lot of heat, which masked the lack of flavor from the steak. I only tried two meats so I can't make any definitive judgement on El Aguila but the tacos were pricey and didn't really do much for me.


We walked a few blocks until we came to the El Paso Taco Truck. I ordered the same thing (bistek, carnitas). Everything was poor about these tacos: the meat, the salsa, tortillas that were pulled right out of the bag. My tacos would have come topped with lettuce if I hadn’t objected. These were slightly cheaper at $2 but at least El Aguila had good salsas.


I stood at the truck with my plate of tacos when a kid came up to me and asked where I was from and if I liked tacos. It was a funny question. I said I was from LA and that I did like tacos. People were really friendly in Harlem.

I took photos of my tacos, had a couple bites of each one, then tossed them in the bin. The kid looked at me disappointingly, as if he felt I lied to him about liking tacos. But I had good reason not to fill my stomach with mediocrity. My next stop was Tacos Mix.


Tacos Mix came highly recommended by just about everyone that heard I was going to NYC. I was told they had real al pastor cut from the spit so I had my hopes up. There was a bit of a line inside the small taco shack and with only one man on the grill and collecting money it took about 10 minutes to get my tacos. By this time I was pretty full not only from tacos but also from a ceviche I had at El Paso Taqueria.



The al pastor ($2) was cut right from the spit on to the tortilla and topped with pineapple. It was like an east coast version of Tacos Leo. The flavor and the texture were spot on and the salsa verde added a little spice. Like with Tacos Leo, these tacos can be eatin without any salsa. For all those that feel NYC is an al pastor wasteland please head to Tacos Mix. You won’t be disappointed.

Harlem had more to offer but it was hot and muggy and it was time to head back.When we got on the subway some crazy woman was screaming hysterically at some man who was ignoring her. A guy with a thick New-Yorker accent said loud enough for everyone to hear, “there’s always one,there's a crazy fuck on every train.” It was real funny at the time, maybe because we were worn out and sweating from the inside. All we could do was laugh. The laughter poured out of us like sweat; manic and uncontrollable.

The crazy woman got off the train and kept yelling, this time at no one in particular. The guy with the heavy New-Yorker accent reminded everyone she was gone now. “There she goes,” he said. “Every train has one,” he said again. I looked at B and said, “Tomorrow we do Brooklyn”. Her eyes said “Another night like this and I will strangle you.” “Ok we’ll go to the cinema tomorrow” I said, “Then Friday we do Brooklyn.“

El Aguila
137 E 116th St
(between Park Ave & Lexington Ave)
New York, NY 10029
Neighborhood: East Harlem
tacos $2.50 each


El Paso Taco Truck
175-9 E 116th St.
New York, NY 10029

tacos $2 each

Tacos Mix
234 E 116th St
New York, NY 10029
tacos $2 each



  1. Those Paso tacos do seem very poor: tomatoes, cold looking tortillas, and a bit of cabbage? That ain't right, ey.

  2. tortillas pulled right out of the bag then in to plate. ugh...the tortilla prep in NYC was comical


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