A Taste of Brooklyn: 4 Regions, 4 Neighborhoods, 4 Taco Shops

Taquerias, in particular American taquerias, are places to not only have tacos, but a plethora of other dishes too – chilaquiles, eggs, tamales and tortas, to name a few. But not all taco shops are created equal. Taco shop offerings, from entrees to antojitos (small cravings) and tacos vary by region and state, so it wouldn’t be uncommon to stumble upon unfamiliar hidden gems that are regional treasures. 

Brooklyn has become a hub for taco shops – there are over forty taquerias operating in the borough, helped by the fact that almost 20% of residents in Brooklyn are of Mexican heritage. Mexicans who moved to Brooklyn mostly came from Puebla, Guerrero, and Morelos, finding new homes and settling in large numbers in Sunset Park, Crown Heights and Bushwick in the late 1970s and 1980s, peaking in 1980 at almost 30%, before spreading out and establishing themselves in Queens, the Bronx and beyond.

This taqueria guide offers a curated taste of four Mexican state-specific cuisines, in four different neighborhoods. Relish in Mexico’s colorful culinary landscape, a living example of the complexities, and surprises, within Mexican cuisine, all just a train ride away. 

Williamsburg

 

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La Superior – Mexico D.F./Coyoacan

295 Berry St

If La Superior looks like something straight out of Coyoacan, it’s because chef and partner Felipe Mendez-Candelas is from there and modeled it after his hometown. The taqueria got its start in Candelas’s Greenpoint apartment in the absence of legit Mexican street food in New York City.”  

The taqueria found a home in Williamsburg on Berry Street and opened its doors in the summer of 2008. 

This taco joint is atypical: it’s Michelin-guide recommended but remains affordable with tacos at $3.50 each, and diet-accessible with plenty of vegetarian options. New York Magazine’s coverage of La Superior highlights a menu item that is particularly special to the restaurant, and widely loved in Mexico City: esquites. 

Esquites are antojitos typically found streetside made up of butter sauteed corn kernels slathered with mayonnaise, queso fresco (or queso cotija) and served hot with a tasty broth in a cup. More Mexico City and Coyoacan staples like alambre de res (think of it as a deconstructed taco: a plate of grilled skirt steak with a side of five tortillas and salsa), Mexico City-style spicy chilaquiles with sour cream, cheese with a sunny-side-up egg, and a plethora of tacos to choose from are available to devour.

295 Berry St, Brooklyn, NY 11249, Sunday to Thursday 12 p.m. to 12 a.m., Friday to Saturday 12 p.m. to 2 a.m.

 

Bushwick

Enchiladas with amarillo and negro moles. Irina Groushevaia/Bklyner.

Gordo’s Cantina – Guanajuato 

140 St Nicholas Avenue

Gordo’s Cantina, which we recently wrote about, began as a pop-up in 2013 serving a lesser-known Mexican street food staple: a bacon-wrapped hot-dog with pico de gallo they dubbed, El Chapo. Since then, Paulina Loyo-Grigonis and JR Savage’s taco stand has beefed up their menu, first in Long Island City and now at their new home in Bushwick, to include more of Loyo-Grigonis’s state dishes. 

She’s from Leon, Guanajuato, a town known for its mines, shoe production, tortas, carne arrachera (which they have) and tacos de carnitas. Gordo’s Cantina’s menu satisfies a Leonés’s cravings, serving items like enchiladas mineras, a typical dish from Leon that is telling of its mining history (“mining” is in the name),  drenched in a guajillo salsa that boasts a characteristically red color over tortillas folded and filled with carrot and potato. The arrachera steak is also a commonly enjoyed food in Leon, and at Gordo’s Cantina one can have the filling in all its manifestations: as a taco, burrito and quesadilla.

A true Leonés –– who is a huge fan of the torta, is known for singing the adage, “no tengo ni para la torta,” when their wallets are feeling too light to spare change for this bolillo bread sandwich staple (a relatively cheap snack or lunch) ––  would arguably need a torta on the menu for it to feel authentic. Gordo’s delivers, serving two tortas on their everyday menu: milanesa, a thinly sliced meat that’s breaded and fried, and their Torta del Gordo, tucked with marinated pork meat. The Guacamaya torta, a definitive sandwich from León, with two types of salsas, chicharron and avocado on bolillo bread, is also available, but for now only offered as a special. 

To dip your toes in Gordo’s menu, try their breakfast burritos offered on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for only $5. 

Keep up with their Instagram for daily specials and visit them Thursday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday – Wednesday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Crown Heights

 

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Taqueria Milear – Hidalgo

752 Nostrand Ave

The couple that owns this five-year-old taqueria, Artemio Baltazar Serapio and Marisol Lopez Mendoza, met while Mendoza was working churning out quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, and gorditas at a small stand in Hidalgo, Mexico.

Co-owner Serapio said people should expect different flavors that aren’t typical of Mexican food because the region they’re from is Huatesca, Hidalguense. Huatesca is an indigenous region in central Mexico encompassing parts of a few states, these include: Hidalgo, Puebla, Guanajuato, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, San Luis Potosí and Querétaro.

Taqueria Milear’s enchiladas are topped with a tomato-based salsa roja versus the more widely beloved salsa verde, and their mole is spicier than the popular mole Poblano which tends to be on the sweeter side. All their recipes, however, are family recipes Mendoza learned from her grandma at thirteen years-old, and some that Serapio learned from his mom –– brought to simmer together and bring Hidalguense flavor to Crown Heights with a personal touch. 

Milear plans on adding more Hidalguense dishes to his menu, like bocoles, little arepa-like corn cakes cooked with chorizo folded into the dough, and some fresh toppings to finish it off. More vegetarian options are on the horizon too, Serapio said he grew up on a lot of vegetarian dishes but they didn’t have the label, it was just called making do with what you have. For now, none of his tamales are made with manteca (pork fat), instead he uses olive oil, making his two vegetable tamales fully vegetarian. They also plan on adding a traditional vegetable soup on the menu that would be all vegan. 

Just don’t go rushing quite yet –– they are busy with renovations from a small fire on the third floor of their building. Keep up with them on Instagram for dates on their reopening! 

 

Gravesend

 

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El Gallo Taqueria – Morelos

214 Highlawn Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11223

Twenty-three years ago, Alejandro and Herminio Torres’s parents moved from Morelos, Mexico to Brooklyn, New York and opened up their own slice of Mexico in Gravesend: a taqueria named El Charrito. El Charrito sold antojitos, breakfast items, tortas, burritos, Morelos-style tacos and more before they sold the restaurant in 2003. Fourteen years later, their sons picked up the torch to continue with the family business and opened El Gallo Taqueria in its memory, in the same neighborhood, and same building in 2017.

The new iteration of this family’s legacy keeps it simple, serving up tacos, tortas, cemitas and enchiladas to their neighborhood, with a variety of fillings to choose from crossing over from El Charrito. Fillings like carnitas, chorizo, lengua, carne asada, suadero, grilled chicken, and shrimp have remained and can be had on any “vessel” you desire, from tacos to burritos, quesadillas, bowls and more. 

El Gallo’s menu, in contrast with their parents’ taqueria, is a bit more of contemporary Mexican-American fusion. Dishes like their Gallo fries, served with your choice of protein, chipotle mayo and Gallo sauce, are a nod to the southern California-style carne asada fries that originated in San Diego –– a dish with Mexican influence but conceptualized for an American appetite. Unlike El Charrito, El Gallo serves nachos, with your choice of meat topped with the works: beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, pickled jalapeno, Monterey jack cheese, and Mexican sour cream. 

Grab brunch, lunch, dinner, or just some antojitos, and keep this family’s heirloom dishes alive for years to come. 

Follow them on Instagram and visit them Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 12 a.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 12 a.m.

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