TACOS TACOS!!! I LOVE TACOS, but my taco epiphany came last summer in Southern California at a Taco stand and restaurant called Taqueria de Anda. These bite size wonders (I call them wonders because they are considered one of my seven wonders of the world) are delectable, addictive and haunt my dreams. For every respected Californian, tacos are apart of our collective memory. We defend our favorite tacos vehemently and when we are away from our holy land of tacos, we remember better times, when tacos and mouths are reunited.
In attempts to fulfill some deep Californian need, to search, find and devour tacos in any location, I set out for taco hunting in New York. Searching for tacos takes a lot more work than in San Francisco, where you can find an abundance of tacos and variations. I was under the assumption that my yearning for excellent tacos would never be fulfilled in New York. In Manhattan, Mexican restaurants make claims to having “authentic” “San Franciscan” burritos. But the beans lack the luster of the lardy-spiced beans of San Francisco, the guacamole is watery and the tortillas are shameful. But, in venturing out of Manhattan, a surprise of wonderful tacos awaits. Brooklyn acts as host to a vibrant community of taco making people.
And today, after Ric’s ingenious discovery, I tried a truly exemplary taco. Off the L train on the Jefferson stop, between Wyckoff and Starr a tortilla factory called Los Hermanos is busy making hundreds of tortillas. The humid tortilla-fied air greets you as you enter. There is a stand inside the taco factory where you can order tacos made with the freshest of tortillas. There is no division between the tortilla factory and the stand for tacos. During your lunch, you can watch women busy at work making stacks of tortillas and piling them into boxes to be shipped. When I came, three men from a Mariachi band were sitting with their backs turned and their cowboy hats eating their lunch (see picture). Virgin Marys are plastered against the wall and kitschy statues of animal and their young sit at the counter. The lady at the counter, who also cooks everything, barely reaches the height of the corner. All you can see is the top of a head as you give her your order.
The chicken tacos are by far the best. The tortillas are nice and warm and slightly toasted. Expect these tortillas to be thicker and chewier than the flour tortillas found at your grocery store. This is a different breed of tortilla all together. They have a slight sweetness of corn and a grainy texture. And they make you realize the extreme importance tortillas have in creating a great taco. They are filled with pulled chicken which has a mild flavor, lettuce, cilantro, onions and a drizzle of sour cream. They serve them with limes and red or green sauce. The limes add some much needed acidity along with my favorite, the mild green sauce that gives a kick. Yet, if you are a spicy fan, it won’t even reach your fire-o-meter. The tacos are simple, uncomplicated and a soft flavor. They are not overwhelming nor an explosion in your mouth. If you are craving a more intense taco, I would suggest the chorizo taco, which is a vibrant red color mirroring its highly aromatic and spiced nature. In my opinion, the chorizo was too greasy, but hey some people like that kind of thing.
I tried as well a beef pacados, which is a fried tortilla with refried beans on top, than beef, then sour cream and queso fresco. I thought this was a little greasy, dull in flavor and you didn’t get the super fresh quality of the tortilla that makes this place so special. I highly recommend taking the L train and fetching yourself some tacos, some coca colas (à la Mexican = Real Cane Sugar) and oh don’t forget some tortillas for the road. And don’t worry, if you get lost, follow your nose; you can smell the tortillas from 2 blocks away.