Californians enjoy touting their “authentic” Mexican food and complaining about New York’s absence of a good burrito. Being a native San Diegan, I did my fair share of complaining when I first migrated to NYC for college. I missed my Tijuana-style tacos and freshly-griddled tortillas. Rice in a burrito? Obscene. A burrito wrapped in aluminum foil? Blasphemy.
Quickly I realized that what I missed was Californian Mexican food, not authentic Mexican food. I missed the California burrito, a uniquely San Diegan creation made of French fries, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, a fresh flour tortilla, carne asada, no rice – all wrapped in paper instead of tin foil, so the burrito wouldn’t gain any unappetizing moistness.
Unsurprisingly, a burrito with French fries instead of rice represents Southern California better than Mexico. But beyond the greasy burritos, San Diego is also known for its many taquerias. These taquerias did tacos the right way, with lightly grilled meat, fresh onions and cilantro, and hot sauce, wrapped in two corn tortillas.
Thankfully, I’ve had better luck finding street tacos than California burritos. The outer boroughs are full of authentic taquerias, but one of my favorite places in Manhattan is Tehuitzingo, part deli, part taqueria, and part grocery store.
Like many taquerias, Tehuitzingo is not fancy. Hanging Christmas lights and paper decorations, however, give Tehuitzingo a kitschy charm. The space is small, with several plastic stools and counters. You order at the counter, and the menu is relatively brief.
Although Tehuitzingo sells burritos, the real gems of the hybrid taqueria-deli-grocery store are its tacos. All tacos are served the same way, just with different types of meats for each taco. As mentioned earlier, these tacos are done the right way – cilantro, raw onion, hot sauce, grilled meat, and two corn tortillas.
Between my friend and I, we ordered six tacos: goat, beef tongue, potatoes with jalapenos, roast pork, tripe, and pig ear. Although we were feeling adventurous with the ear and the tripe, both were a little too odd for our tastes. Because pig ear is a common Sichuanese appetizer, I always associated it with a tendon-y texture, but this pig ear was gelatinous and reminded me of cafeteria mystery meat. The tripe also didn’t have the chew I’m accustomed to.
The roast pork and the beef tongue were definitely the standouts of the meal. The spices of the meats, along with their tenderness, went well with the fresh veggies and the mild tortillas. Although the stranger meats were off-putting, Tehuitzingo thoroughly satisfied my cravings for street tacos until the next time I go home to sunny San Diego.
- Roger Li
Tehuitzingo, 695 10th Ave (b/w 47th St & 48th St), (212) 397-5956, A/C/E to 50th St, Mon-Sun 9am-5pm.