One Great Lunch: Cascabel Taqueria on the Upper East Side
We don't often take restaurants up on offers of delivery. But frankly, we were so stunned that any Mexican restaurant would solicit our review—given our recent track record for reviewing restaurant taco lunches—that we decided to give Cascabel a shot.
And let me tell you, we're glad we did.
Even after a multiple-hour journey from the Upper East Side, these were some mighty tasty tacos. If these guys were around the corner, I'd probably be there every other day. As it is, I'm still planning a dinner visit—no matter how far up Second Avenue they might be. Chef and co-owner Todd Mitgang has proven he's got a way with spice.
Chorizo, lengua, and more, after the jump.
Our favorites were the house-made chorizo with smoked paprika (all tacos, two for $7.50). It's the smoky heat that hits first—a combination of roasted ancho chiles, pasilla chile, chile de arbol, and chile morita along with the paprika, we're told. But it fades to a subtle spice, notes of cinnamon and oregano, with a final lingering porkiness.
Also seriously delicious: the lengua, tender, fatty veal tongue with crisp slivers of spring onion and a vibrant garlic oil drizzled over the top.
Vegetarian options don't always get the same serious treatment that meats do, but the vegetal tacos here were excellent—an earthy blend of fingerling potatoes and oyster mushrooms, a kick from poblano peppers, a sprinkle of queso fresco. I went back for seconds.
Less suited to takeout were the camaron tacos, small bits of shrimp swimming in a garlicky black bean sauce that somehow didn't overwhelm them. But the flavors were spot-on; I'd head back just to try these fresh.
Finally, mounds of full-flavored carnitas, from a slow-roasted Berkshire pork butt, were topped with tangy threads of pickled red onion. These are generous, meaty tacos, more than stuffed enough for their double tortilla shell.
That pork butt shows up again in the Cemita Poblana, which they're calling New York's only authentic cemita. Whether or not that's true, it's one epic sandwich—an absolute pile of juicy meat, soaked through with a roasted chipotle sauce, layered with Oaxaca cheese, queso fresco, papalo (like a smellier cilantro), a bit of Champagne mango, and tons of avocado (whew!)—all soaking into a huge, if sweet, brioche bun. There is so much going on in each mouthful it's mind-boggling.
Is this orthodox Mexican fare? Not exactly. And sure, you'll grab cheaper tacos from a truck in Sunset Park. But we didn't try a single bite that didn't explode with flavor.