Sunday, January 20, 2008
As Kid Frost pumps in the background. My Mexican hiphop knowledge is extremely limited to 1 artist- possibly 2 or 3 if you add B-Real, Sen Dog and Psycho Realm. I'm not apologetic for it, that's just the way it is.
What I am sorry about is that it took me so long to fully appreciate Mexican cuisine and not this watered down Tex Mex garbage most of the US is accustomed to. Taco Bell and school lunch tacos were my first introduction to este comida, and while some of that shit tastes goods- remember Meximelts in highschool mixing the Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper- it is doesn't come close to what the real deal tastes like. I've never seen a hard shell taco on a menu, and a taco should be served 1 way- in 2 small tortillas with the meat - chopped cutlets or steaks for the most part not doused in sauce, onion, cilantro, a little lime juice, maybe lettuce and tomato, some of that Mexican cheese or white cheese sauce, and some salsa verde or roja depending on what you prefer. I wouldn't say we've been duped, we just haven't tried hard enough. Well I'm trying. By the way, this really doesn't apply to the West Coasters- you know what time it is- or at least you should.
There is a hotbed of Mexican spots all over Spanish Harlem or Little Mexico- I would say 116th to 100th from Park to the East River, primarily the 103rd and Lexington area. Once I stared venturing out there spots kept popping up. Recently I've seen several restaurants close- I hope this isn't a trend and that new places emerge. Ciela Azteca right above the 103rd St. 6 train stop was delicious- tacos, steak, chicken, you name it. Just the other day I noticed that it's no longer there and a Carniceria (butcher shop/meat store for the gringos) opened in the location. That's a shame. Another restaurant diagonal from Ciela, which I never tried, closed as well.
But we're not here to mourn. We're here to celebrate y tener una fiesta. With that I bring you Puebla's Chula on 106th between Lexington and 3rd Ave. The place changed their name from Taqueria something, but the chef said that only management changed hands and everything else was the same. I was a little nervous when I approached, but those feelings were assuaged shortly after biting into the torta- that's a Mexican sandwich, again for the gringos/as.
We ordered a Torta Bistec Asado, a Mexican Sandwich served on a roll with grilled steak, lettuce, tomato, beans, cheese (a slice with a soft consistency similar to mozzerella), onions, cilantro and mayo, and 2 orders of flautas, one with pollo asado and the other with carne asada. Flautas are crispy tortilla rolls stuffed with your choice of meat served with lettuce and tomatoes, a light sour cream and some crumbled white cheese. The cheese has a slightly sweet consistency. Somewhat bland by itself, adding some green salsa, or the red which has a chipotle smokiness to it, really gives the dish a boost. The torta is a great sandwich- winner of the most underrated award. It kills Boar's Head.
Communication was a big problem. The waitress wasn't so fluent in English, and I, even though I murdered the Spanish Regents back in the day, wasn't getting my Latin point of view across. I ordered Pozole de pollo, which I hear is a chicken soup/stew, but it never came. It was on the specials board outside and I wanted to try it, but for some reason it never made it to the table. It was even written on the check- not charged- but it never mustered the courage to introduce itself. There was also a problem ordering the flautas, I cancelled the steak but it came anyway. Turned out to be a good thing since the 4th dish never showed up. We washed the dish down with some Tamarindo Jarritos, authentic Mexican soda.
On my first trip we ordered some tacos, pollo asado and carne asada- both were extremely on point. I wouldn't let the communication issues deter anybody's mission of getting their Comida Mexicana on- we're lucky to have access to all this great food and culture so deal with it and learn a little.
When the weather gets nicer ordering some tacos and going to Central Park's Harlem Meer, or the Conservatory Gardens- a little south of 110th Street- is the move. This is some great date shit. You can take credit for it- I won't mind. Museum mile starts up there and you have the Museum of the City of NY and El Museo Del Barrio. A lot of really fun things to do in a neighborhood that isn't appreciated enough.
For the hiphop head into sneakers, fitteds, and graf- a quick itinerary. For hard to find kicks, shirts and fitteds hit up Goliath on 105th between 3rd and Lex. The best fitted spot in Harlem, Jiggy Sports aka Pegasus is on 109th and 3rd- the colors will make your mind bug- seriously. And the Graffiti Hall of Fame is on 106th and Park- always has something pleasing to the eyes.
167 E. 106th St. bet. Lexington and 3rd Ave.
Monday to Friday- 7am to 10pm
Saturday and Sunday 9am to 9pm