New York City has a lot of restaurants. Some of them are pretty good; some of them are terrible. Since we love food and we love New York City, we’d thought it be interesting to have a food “borough off” between Brooklyn and Queens. The question: which borough has the better tacos? To achieve this important but ultimately impossible task (there are so many tacos to try even in just these two boroughs) Joseph and Carolyn sampled numerous places in their respective boroughs and out of these picked a winner for the other to try. Then they each decided: which is the best? The answer might surprise you.
Carolyn Eats Tacos In Queens
I have said many times that I could eat tacos for every meal and be happy. It’s true—I love tacos. So I was thrilled to accept this assignment to find the best tacos in Queens. With an empty belly and a craving for pork, I visited four taquerias over over the course of my summer in New York. Since there was an abundance of locations to choose from, I selected the four most promising restaurants from several “best of” lists that I found online. I decided to order al pastor tacos at each location, so I could best compare the different preparations.
The first location I visited ended up being my favorite! Taqueria Coatzingo was super easy to get to—a quick ride on the E train from the office. As soon as I sat down, I was presented with a basket of chips and a side of salsa, both of which were fresh and delicious—a good sign of things to come. The al pastor taco here was well-spiced and moist, with large pieces of meat, ample guacamole, and the spiciest grilled jalapeno I have ever had on the side. It was, however, missing pineapple (something I love in my al pastor tacos) and was a bit light on the cilantro. Even so, the flavorful meat overcame these shortcomings.
My second favorite location was a fifteen-minute drive from my home. Walking into Guadalajara De Dia 2 I knew not to expect a typical taqueria—at first glance, this location looks like a simple deli. But thanks to the internet, I knew there were tacos waiting for me inside! The al pastor taco here had an interesting flavor (in a good way—sweet and spicy) and it even had pineapple! Additionally, I was provided with a fresh green sauce and a smoky red sauce—both incredibly spicy but each amazing. Unfortunately, however, the meat was a bit dry. It should be noted that since I was in a rush to get home and walk my dog, I took these tacos to go—it’s possible that if I had eaten them fresh, my rating might have been higher.
I was very impressed by the tortillas used for the tacos at Aqui En Bella Puebla, which is why they pulled into third place. They tasted very fresh, and I later noticed that the menu advertised them as handmade. The al pastor taco was actually quite good—the meat was leaner here than in other locations, and I could easily taste the sautéed onions; however, these tacos were smaller in size, and missing the dollop of guacamole found in all other locations.
Finally, Tacos Morelos was the nicest-looking of the restaurants that I visited. Like Taqueria Coatzingo, I was provided with chips and salsa upon being seated. I think the chips and salsa here were even better than at Taqueria Coatzingo, but I couldn’t let that cloud my judgment—I had to focus on the tacos! Truth be told, I think these tacos looked the best of all the ones I tried, but they were my least favorite. I thought the al pastor taco could use some more flavor, and the tortilla was a bit dry. Additionally, the guacamole on top wasn’t very flavorful. Interestingly enough, this was my dining companion’s favorite location—different strokes for different folks!
Joseph Eats Tacos In Brooklyn
Tacos, how I love them. I really do. I often think about tacos—where I can get them, how many I can eat, how long will it be before I can eat more? Chipotle will do, but I’m partial to taco trucks and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. And if there’s someone making fresh corn tortillas on site, I might fall in love!
In this post, of course, we’re focusing on two boroughs, Brooklyn and Queens, and I was responsible for exploring Brooklyn, where I’ve lived for about ten years now. It seems almost unfair to leave out Manhattan, since both Carolyn and I really like Los Taocs No. 1 in Chelsea Market. (My favorite there is the juicy adobada on a corn tortilla, which they make fresh there). But back to Brooklyn.
The first Brooklyn tacos I had and really enjoyed was at Crown Heights institution Chavela’s—at the old and very tiny location on Classon Avenue. They now have a bigger operation on bustling Franklin Avenue and while I say good for them for their success, the quality of the food (while still decent) is not what it was. Still, the hongos with sautéed mushrooms, onions, and poblano peppers with crema fresca, and the pescado with fried tilapia, chipotle mayo, cabbage, pico de gallo, and lime are both solid tacos even if nothing special.
Only a few blocks away is a small but popular taco place that I go on a regular basis: Gueros. While they recently made some additions to the menu, my standard is the brisket with cheddar, rajas, roasted onion, green salsa, au jus on a flour tortilla. Even though they don’t make the tortillas on site and I usually prefer corn tortillas, this taco is unique and excellent and the flour tortilla perfectly complements the brisket—my only complaint is that sometimes it can be a little too watery/runny. Still every time I’ve had it—which is many, many times—the brisket has always been tender and delicious. The picadillo taco is also another great choice and has some nice spice. While the good old days of the restaurant putting margaritas in convenient to-go cups is over (after a police crackdown), it’s still worth a visit. And on the weekend their breakfast burrito is also an excellent excuse to have a margarita at noon.
Sunset Park with its large Hispanic population has several restaurants with recommended tacos. The first place I tried was Tacos el Bronco. I went to the truck outpost of this popular restaurant. The al pastor was greasy and a bit lackluster. The veal head was much better with nice tender bits, but I have to admit, I was a little underwhelmed. Continuing onto Sunset Park, I went to Rico's Tacos, where there is no alcohol but they let us BYOB. Here I had the al pastor which was flavorful and not too greasy and a step above el Bronco. The pollo, however, was very dry and quite simply not good. The lengua was tender but a bit tasteless. It had some special sauce which I couldn’t identify, but which really perked things up. While the ambiance of the place was friendly and had a great neighborhood vibe, the food quality was not as high as I was hoping for.
Not to dwell on the negatives, but speaking of disappointing tacos, I finally made it out to the highly recommend Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos. This BYOB place is in a large factory in Bushwick filled with a lot of young people who apparently don’t know what tacos should taste like. Despite the advantage (one would think) of the tortillas being cooked twenty feet from the diners, I thought they were dry and tough and tasted weeks old. The taco ingredients were also old and stale. This place made me depressed. Maybe because it was so highly recommended and I had high expectations. (It should be noted that people say I am quite picky—I mean discerning).
But onto more positives. The recently opened Varrio 408 in Park Slope is definitely worth a trip. The tortillas, which they make on site, are fresh and tasty—a fresh tortilla makes such a difference. I had the al pastor. This was tender and juicy and combined with the freshly-made tortilla was excellent. The carne asada al carbon was also tender and delicious. You can add your own toppings, which like Carolyn said, is a huge plus. This place was so much better than the highly rated but disappointing Fatty Daddy Taco only a few blocks away. I had the grilled fish and al pastor taco there but I’d rather not talk about them.
But my number one pick for Brooklyn? A place called Chilos. On the border of Clinton Hill and Bed-Stuy and only a few blocks down from Dough, this bar has a taco truck in the backyard along with outdoor seating. I should mention it is also only a few blocks from my home—which I thank God for every day. I try to go at least once a week. How are all the tacos? Well, I’ve only tried two. While I really should branch out I love their cochinita (a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatán, where I first was introduced to it) and so I really don’t want anything else. It’s that good. The cochinita is moist and dripping with flavor. The tortillas, while not made on site, are still decent. The smoked beef is also excellent. Final seal of approval: my girlfriend, who is from California, says it’s her favorite taco place in all of New York City.
Carolyn Goes To Brooklyn – Chilo’s
Having selected my favorite of the four, it was time to visit Chilos—Joseph’s selection for the best tacos in Brooklyn. I must say this was a very cool location, but on to the food! I really enjoyed the salsa/toppings selection—being able to personalize your own taco is awesome, although they were out of some things when I visited. As for the taco itself, I couldn’t get al pastor, so I got carnitas instead. There was a lot of good flavor in the meat, but it was somewhat greasy and the tortilla was a bit dry.
Choosing between Chilos and Taqueria Coatzingo was a close call, but I have to give the Queens-based establishment the win. That said, I’m not sure either location beats Los Tacos No. 1 in Chelsea Market.
Joseph Goes To Queens - Taqueria Coatzingo
One Sunday afternoon I made my way out to Coatzingo. The restaurant is located on a busy block on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, home to a great many restaurants. When I arrived the restaurant was full of families having their Sunday meal, which is always a good sign. I loved the orange chairs and green tabletops and green walls, and how you can hear the roar of the 7 train. The chips and salsa to start were excellent. I ordered the carne asada and the al pastor. The asada was fairly tender and flavorful but the tortillas were a bit boring and dry. The al pastor was also decent but the abundance of fatty pieces turned me off. I have to say: I liked Chilos much better. But if there’s one thing Carolyn and I can agree on, it’s how much we love Los Tacos No. 1, which I suppose is the real winner.