I've been on the search for tacos de canasta in the city, and got very excited to finally find some at Tacos Xochimilco in Sunset Park. These tacos didn't come out of a canasta, or basket, as they are sold in Mexico—they came out of the kitchen. I don't think that the department of health would be too excited about meat or potato filled tortillas, made fresh in the morning, and then piled high in a basket and covered, where they sit, steaming and softening all day, waiting to be sold and eaten. So the tacos de canasta at Xochimilco are not exactly authentic. But I promise, they're still tasty.
The tacos come four to an order, for a grand total of $3.00, but each taco is quite small. Tiny tortillas are dipped in a red adobo sauce and filled with either pinto beans, chopped potatoes, or soft chicharrón. I ordered a mixed selection: one bean, one potato, and two chicharrón. They are not filled to bursting; spoonful of filling is about it. But they are so soft and full of flavor (and really really cheap) that it doesn't much matter. A sprinkle of cheese and some cilantro top them off, and a heaping serving of either the very spicy and chunky salsa verde, or the equally fiery ground chile salsa roja, and that's all you really need. What makes them so unique is the soft tortilla. Dipping it in sauce mimics the texture that a steamed or "sweated" taco, soaking up the flavors and oils from the fillings, would get. These are not something you find everyday.
Of course, you may still be hungry after the tiny tacos de canasta, so go ahead and order a regular taco, since, at $2.50, it's not going to break the bank. I tried the taco al pastor, because I love its sweet spiciness. It was a solid version, with large, tender chunks of pork, a little caramelization on the outside and a flavorful marinade, and lots of freshly chopped onion and cilantro. These are really good with the green sauce.
I also decided to sample a sope, just to get a little freshly made masa into my Taco Thursday. One sope without meat costs $2.00. A flat disk of masa is griddled, the edges pinched around to form a wall, which is then smeared with beans, and then topped with lettuce, cream, cheese, and in this case, a slice of tomato and a ring of white onion. The masa was crisp, then soft, and the two salsas livened up the simple snack.
Sunset Park is full of taco shops; it's the perfect place to explore and eat. You never know what you might find! I found my tacos de canasta. For a little guidance, check out this Sunset Park Taco Crawl from a fellow Serious Eater. The next few Brooklyn Taco Thursdays will be focused on and around 5th Avenue, so tell me your favorite places in the neighborhood!
4501 5th Ave, Brooklyn (map) (718) 435-7600