Sunday, January 27, 2008
No Más (Tacos Mexico, 32-08 38th Street)
If we weren't eating at every restaurant in Astoria, we might be eating at this straightforward taqueria more often. Even though we admire the pool table in the side room and the cattle skulls (or were they goat?), it's not the sort of place where gringos like us might ever feel entirely at home -- the TV plays soccer matches or Univision telenovelas; the jukebox blares Los Tigres del Norte and mariachi band music; the waitresses don't know much English -- but that wouldn't keep us from becoming regulars. On a recent afternoon visit, we certainly felt treated as such. The waitress gestured for us to sit anywhere, and chips and salsa were on our table before we had a chance to take off our coats. The chips came in a paper bag inside a basket; the salsa was well blended rather than chunky and leaned more toward peppers than tomatoes. But these are minor details, what's important is that they were supplied gratis without us having to ask, and we were asked repeatedly if we wanted more. In years past, when we were on a much tighter budget, this kind of hospitality would have left a deep impression.
Though Tacos Mexico offered the customary range of Mexican options, we decided to stick with the namesake. We ordered our tacos by pointing at the menu -- pollo asado, carne asada, birria (we didn't venture into lengua or cabeza territory, though these were offered) -- and they came shortly thereafter, wrapped in paper and garnished with lime and radishes and Tapatío on the side. As befitting the somewhat humble surroundings, these were not ambitious preparations: just meat mixed with onions, cilantro, and ample heaps of guacamole on corn tortillas. The birria, meat stewed in a rich chili pepper-laden sauce, was sufficiently spicy and delicious, though sloppy, and the grilled meat tacos were well above average, superior even than the beloved taco cart on 30th and Newtown Avenues.
After we finished, we lounged for a while, declining chip refills, no más por favor, and having our water glasses repeatedly topped off, until we finally realized that as far as the employees were concerned, we could sit at our table all day. It doesn't seem to be the taqueria way to bring a check to the table, so finally, somewhat reluctantly, we went to the counter to pay and were stunned to discover how satisfied we could become for so little.
Will we go again? Has competition for taco numero uno, but the chips and salsa indicate yes.