Saturday, November 12, 2022

Eating in New York: Los Tacos No. 1

In my advance research for good eats to try during my trip to New York City, I decided to favour authenticity and value over fancy and bougie. And when Los Tacos No. 1 came up in both my googling and a friend recommendation, who also reminded me of this Bon Appetit video I enjoyed before they were cancelled, I knew I had to give it a try.

They have five locations in NYC, and luckily one location was right near my boss' hotel near Times Square. So during a lunch hour break between meetings I dashed across the street and joined the line that stretched out the door -- nearly always a sign of good food.

Luckily, the line moved steadily and they had a guy managing it and ensuring the traffic flowed smoothly. 

They have a number of different Mexican specialties that all look delicious, but it's Los Tacos No. 1 so I had to have tacos for my first visit. I decided to get three, all on corn tortillas (you can also choose flour or corn); carne asada, pollo asado and adoba -- aka grilled steak, grilled chicken and marinated pork. They also have nopal, or grilled cactus, I guess as a vegetarian option. But three was enough for me.

They also have a wide variety of beverages on offer. I was tempted by the agua fresca, but they also have Mexican soft drinks (ie real sugar, not high fructose corn syrup) and I couldn't resist an orange Fanta -- ironically, I drank them a lot when in Germany so it was mixing memories of Germany for me with the food of Mexico. The grape was also tempting.

I placed my order and was given a ticket -- signs all over warn you no ticket, no tacos. You are then ushered to one of the taco prep stations where your tacos are made fresh to order right in front of you -- it's like a Mexican Subway but with taco artists. Behind them, meat turns on a spit and is also grilled on open flame. I asked for mine con todo, which means onions, cilantro, salsa and guacamole. There was also a self-serve bar to the side with salsas of various spice levels.

In no time at all I had my three tacos and, adding on some fresh salsa I found a spot to stand and eat at one of the stand-up bars and stocked up on napkins, as I knew this would be delicious but messy.

Common to all three tacos was the fresh and pliable corn tortilla which added a sweet corn note and the fresh onion, salsa, cilantro and guac. Everything tasted delicious and fresh, and recently so. 

I began on the right with the pork. I'm not always a pulled pork guy but this was tasty and juicy and very flavourful. Second favourite.

In the middle was the chicken, and this was my favourite. Juicy, fresh, nice char really adding depth to the flavour. I could eat three of the pollo.

On the right was the steak. It was good, but was my least favourite of the three. The steak was a little dry, and didn't have the flavour notes of the chicken and the pork. 

Probably as authentic a taco experience as you're going to get out of Mexico, it definitely earns a spot on my must-visits for future trips to New York City. Definitely check it out when you're there. The line was even longer on the street when I left but if they'd asked, I would say it's well worth the wait.

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