I'd long wanted to explore everything that Sunset Park had to offer by way of grub. As loyal readers may know, I've already hit up one of its two international culinary enclaves -- King's County Chinatown. Nevertheless, dim sum and fresh lychees aside, I had been remiss in checking out Sunset Park's other cultural claim to fame -- "Brooklyn's Little Latin America," blending Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico into a vibrant nabe all its own.
After years of Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex at Benny's Burritos and alike, I had a yearning for the real deal when it came to Latino fare. And, luckily, I finally found an intrepid foodie friend to join me in this adventure, a fine gent named Kyle, who came equipped with a handsome murse and -- more importantly -- comfortable shoes and taste-buds ready for anything.
Still, I had to wonder if the murse was a dead giveaway that we weren't "from these parts," as we stumbled into our first stop, the down-to-earth and hipster-free Tulcingo Deli VI. Entering the sparse, fluorescent lit dining room, we drew more than a few stares. But, thankfully, it soon subsided once we settled into a table, ordered a couple of Coronas and shared an Arabes Taco (pictured above), filled with lightly charred lamb, topped with chopped onion and bits of cilantro, and slathered with a tongue-tingling sauce.
Muy buen! But no matter how intriguing the rest of the menu or the Telenovela on the tube, we had to keep moving.
A few blocks down, we hit the more upscale Tacos Matamoros, where "grande" Chorizo and Pastor Tacos were ordered. The pair arrived, folded cone-style, hand-packed with buttery Guacamole to off-set the spicy sausage and marinated pork.
To compliment both, we raised glasses filled with Jarritos Toronja, offering bubbly relief from the tacos' peppery heat and a snappy, citrus kick of grapefruit to boot.
Our next destination was right across the street. There was no excuse not to keep forging ahead. So, la cuenta was paid and we journeyed to the other side of 5th Avenue to Tacos Xochimilco.
As soon as we walked into the restaurant, though, Kyle and I were taken aback.
Something was wrong. Something was very wrong -- very, very wrong and located smack dab the center of all the dining room tables.
Cabeza Tacos? I WISH! No. Unfortunately, it was this...
Honestly, I didn't know if I could go through with taking a seat beside a vase of these sky-blue faux-blooms. But the waitress' warm welcome and the fact that actually DID have a Cabeza Taco on the menu convinced me otherwise.
My hope for exotic meat-parts notwithstanding, Kyle urged me against Cabeza and eventually we settled on a pairing of Carnitas and Lengua Tacos. The latter was luscious, moist and magnificent.
The former was fine too and the overall experience encouraged us to be a bit brave and try a "pequeno" Barbacoa Taco -- a.k.a. a tiny Goat Taco, which ended up being more than a bit too forceful in its sure-footed goatiness...
For a finale, we decided to aim for a "T" alternative to the Taco and venture to the 24-hour fave Bakery La Flor, a well-worn bakery and coffee shop that is known for its massive Mexican Torta sandwiches.
The Chorizo and Eggs version, graced with slices of Jalapeno Peppers, stewed Red Beans, slivers of Tomato, lettuce, onions and more, didn't disappoint on the size scale (below is a snapshot of HALF of one of these gargantuan beauties), but admittedly it didn't live up to the tasty Taco options of the evening.
So, to take the edge off of our sorrow -- cause we certainly didn't need an edge taken off of our appetites -- we ordered up a classic Latin American dessert, Flan.
Dense, golden, eggy and capped with honey-sweet carmel, it only took a few gorgeous, tender bites to make us realize that this tour had come to a close.
The "N" train was calling our names. That said, we would definitely return to the nabe for more Latino delights. Or at least I would. Because, one way or another, I do plan on trying a Cabeza Taco one of these days-- and the more I think about it, some blue flowers might prove to be the perfect compliment.