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[Photo: Sara Market-Gonzalez]

It's perfect beach weather again—and a perfect week to again combine two of my favorite summer activities: going to the beach and looking for great tacos. (Although that last is a year-round activity). I took the ferry out to Staten Island in search of this combo and found more than I imagined.

South Beach on Staten Island is an amazing place. I admit that I was surprised to find such a nice boardwalk, clear water, and fine sand in view of the Verrazano Bridge, but I've barely spent any time in Staten Island. That's definitely going to change, though, since there are lots of taco-eating opportunities to be had in this borough.

After getting my feet wet, I walked a few short blocks from the beach down Sand Lane to La Canasta Bakery Grocery, a small shop that sells Mexican products, bread, and food to order. (It was featured in Serious Eats this year in a Staten Island Eats post, but I wanted to go back for a closer look at the tacos.)

I got a good feeling as soon as I walked in the door. The place just felt right, and I could tell I was going to get some great eats.

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The three salsas were all outstanding. A simple and particularly spicy salsa verde, a creamier, milder avocado salsa, and the red sauce, just chiles, toasted and ground, full of seeds.

Tacos come three to an order here for $6.00, or $1.00 extra for tacos with carnitas—which I ended up getting, since it was highly recommended by the very friendly owner. Along with the carnitas, I chose longaniza (sausage, similar to chorizo) and lengua (tongue).

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I'm glad that I spent the extra dollar, since the carnitas were worth it. Really tender pork with just enough fat to keep the meat moist and flavorful. Served on a double layer of tortillas, heated with a bit of oil, a sprinkling of chopped onions and cilantro, and a lime wedge. Just right.

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The longaniza was delicious; spiced with cumin and cinnamon, the pork sausage had almost a Middle Eastern flavor to it. The onions gave it bite, and the salsa verde added tang and heat. I added a bit of the avocado salsa to cool it down a little, but that spice was a good pain.

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Every time I eat tacos de lengua, I am amazed at the flavor. Tongue tastes meatier than steak to me, and these tacos were no exception—chopped bits of tender meat, some with a crispy outer layer. It was a good taco, and the meat was cooked well, but compared to the first two, nothing extraordinary. I ate this one with the red sauce, for variety.

I walked out full, completely satisfied, and with a huge smile on my face. On Staten Island there's a beautiful beach and amazing tacos. I'd call that a successful summer day.

La Canasta Bakery Grocery Inc.

272 Sand Lane, Staten Island NY 10305 (map)
718-442-1633

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