New York City Taco Tour Part Two: An Eating Marathon

The Best Tacos in New York

Earlier this year, my friend Eric and I toured the East Side of Manhattan in search of the best tacos in New York. When my two Australian friends came to visit back in November, they asked me “What’s the best way to see the Village?” The question birthed part two of the New York City Taco Tour.
While most New Yorkers were uptown watching the New York City Marathon, Dave, Yvonne, and I warmed up for the New York City Marathon Taco Tour by jogging down the Highline Park. We had established two rules for this adventure: we could only eat at establishments that sold individual tacos and we could eat nothing but tacos. Even if complimentary chips and salsa were served, we had to be strong. Our goal was marathon-themed: 26.2 tacos between the three of us.

Graffiti at Highline Park New York City in the Fall

 

The Best Tacos in New York

 

After we jogged down the Highline, we sprinted into the Chelsea Markets. While this posh shopping center in the heart of the uber-pricy Meat Packing District doesn’t seem like the most suitable place for a taco stand, Los Tacos 1 served the best taco on the tour. With a splash of guac and an assortment of countertop salsas, the pork tacos combined the perfect amount of spice and flavor.

 

After Los Tacos, we suddenly lost the taco trail. (This was evident from the lack of cheering we heard from those gathered along the route. “Move,” someone had said a few blocks earlier, which was encouraging.) Unlike the East Village, tacos in the West Village were harder to come by, which is quite shocking since we were at least a mile closer to Mexico. I was unwilling to rely on the Yelp app that sniffs out nearby bites based on the eater’s set parameters, (but my friend Matt Jayson nee Matthew Jay nee Matt Cwern, who you might remember from such posts as the Best Fall Festivals in Brooklyn, had no problem using this tool when he met us a few minutes later).

 

When Matt Jayson joined the New York City Marathon Taco Tour, we discovered the second best taco on the worst block in Manhattan: SoHo’s Broadway. On the corner of Broadway and Spring, we tapped the turquoise Tribeca Taco Truck and tasted chorizo, one of ten tasty choices that topped the two tortillas. (Tengo taco tongue twisters.) The trucker-chef offered up nine sauces, but I went with the basics of picante rojo and avocado crema.

 

New York City Taco Tour

 

Normally, I like to visit new places on the taco tour, but after two hours of walking and ingesting only a pair of tacos, I decided to steer the race toward La Esquina Taqueria on Kenmare and Pinche Taqueria on Bleecker and Lafayette. Personally, I love the former’s tongue taco and the latter’s fish taco, but after spending $3.00 at Los Tacos 1 and the Tribeca Taco Truck and having to drop about $4.00 on each of these old favorites, I was less impressed. Furthermore, as the Aussies and Matt Jayson noted, La Esquina had a little too much going on, which disguised the taste and texture of the lengua. The number one lesson for all you tacos enthusiasts, don’t let the beans rob the essence of tongue.

New York City Taco Tour

 

At Pinche Taqueria, we happened to pick up three more Aussies, which would bring us to our 26.2-taco goal way too quickly. So we converted to kilometers and moved onward to the trendy Tacombi on East Houston and Prince. Two words: Expensive and Eh. Once I saw that they had a taco truck parked inside their shop, I knew I was going to regret this pitstop. I felt like German Silva when he had taken a wrong turn during the 1994 Marathon. But even Silva recovered from the misdirection to win the race.

 

Everyone left over bites of their below-average pollo con mole and the can-of-cream-corn-tasting maiz y poblano and wore looks of disappointment on their face, like they had just hit the wall. So I took a page out of Silva’s book (and a bite of my pork belly taco, which was the priciest taco on the entire tour at $5.50, but was actually delicious) and rallied my racers.

 

We decided to voyage east, where Snack Dragon on Orchard Street served the least authentic taco. But the mood was just right. With lampshades made from glued together sunglasses and strobe lights illuminating the dark taco shop, the self-proclaimed, crown-wearing Taco Queen allowed us to control the beats, which, with a bunch of Aussies, resulted in the following playlist: American Boy and Jay Z’s New York.

 

New York City Taco Tour

 

At this point in the New York City Marathon Taco Tour, the Aussie girls were all tacoed out, sad considering three of them were only three tacos in. But Matt Jayson, Dave, and I wanted one more taco, so we cruised up Second Avenue to St. Marks Street where Taqueria Diana featured true nobility: pork slabs roasted on the spit and stood crowned with a pineapple.

 

After Queen Diana’s, Dave proclaimed that he had eaten ten tacos. But after a recount, it was revealed that he was one taco shy. We all felt bad that his number stood in single digits.

 

Luckily, just up the block, was Otto’s Tacos. We arrived at the door, but a woman stopped us.

 

“Otto’s Tacos is only open for friends and family tonight. Tomorrow we open to the public.”

 

“But we’re on a taco tour,” we all shouted loud enough for the runners fifty-odd blocks north to hear.

 

“Hold on,” she said and went inside to consult with someone. When she returned, she invited us in to sample some of Otto’s five tacos and chat with Otto.

 

“We have no freezers,” Otto explained, trumpeting the freshness of his creations, which rang true with each bit of my guac-heavy, shrimp-with-cilantro-cream-sauce taco that sat on the freshest of tortillas.

 

I had eaten nine tacos on that momentous day, helping us crush the collective 42-taco goal for the New York City Marathon Taco Tour of 2013. But Dave had a grin on his face as he stomached his tenth. I realized that I would need to train harder for 2014 as we would continue to seek out the best tacos in New York.

 

Who’s with me?

 

New York City Taco Tour

 

Posted on by Noah Lederman in I Ate What?, New York, Or Bust

8 Responses to New York City Taco Tour Part Two: An Eating Marathon

  1. Alana

    what?! no dos toros?!

    • Noah Lederman

      While Dos Toros is quite delicious, it disqualified itself due to many of the unmentioned rules: too far north and too familiar. Next tour, I promise.

  2. Sam

    I’ve seen you eat! 10 tacos? Kid, you can do that! No problem.

    • Noah Lederman

      I’m trying not to appear like too much of a glutton.

  3. NORM

    If you ever expand the taco hunt to NJ I have 2 great places for you. Mogo’s in Asbury Park makes a ridiculous tofu taco, while the taco truck inside the Revel Hotel in Atlantic City is tough to beat. If you decide to change venues and search for the best hot dog my pal Shmoo and I might sign on as we were raised on those bad boys. Having shared the wonders of Utica Joe’s I’m not so sure there will be anything comparable. But I’m not one to back down from a challenge. Bring on the beef!

    • Noah Lederman

      Norm, now I’ll have to expand my taco tour to Jersey, though I’m skeptical of, yet somewhat intrigued by a tofu taco.

  4. Juliann

    Yum! I’m not sure I would have thought to do a taco tour in New York City (makes me think of the Old El Paso salsa commercials), but now I would consider it. The pictures of these tacos are mouth-watering!
    Juliann recently posted…Christmas Comes to Santa ClausMy Profile

    • Noah Lederman

      Taco tours in New York are the tastiest routes around the city.

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