In The Midnight Hour: Super Tacos
Open Until: 2:00 am, Sat-Thu; 3:00 am, Fri
In this age of food trucks and ice cream boats, a bare-bones operation like Super Tacos—which occupies a space near the southwest corner of 96th and Broadway on the Upper West Side—almost seems like an afterthought, a mobile dinosaur waiting to be done in by the asteroid known as "trends". But while we're all being bombarded with the latest fusion-filled tortilla, Super Tacos continues to quietly kill it. You want innovation? Delivery is available. Let the streets of Manhattan come to you.
The truck sees a steady stream of customers from the moment its griddles start to hiss, so it was no surprise when we encountered a wait in the wee hours. Several folks waited for their orders along the railing of a Gristedes. (That tried and true white guilt seal of approval—the presence of people bearing ethnic resemblance to the given cuisine—was in full effect; hooray, stereotypes!
Though much of the menu has been pared down from years previous, the compact kitchen puts out an array of quesadillas, burritos, and tamales in addition to the namesake snack. A small tray of quartered limes glistens under the fluorescent lights, and loitering at the opposite end of the counter, a pair of hot sauces sit in shadows. Pull them into the glow and you'll find that one is a silky blood red, earthy with tomatoes and brimming with chile seeds. The other, a green tomatillo sauce, hits hard with pungent chunks of garlic.
Simplicity often begets perfection, and the tacos ($2) at Super Tacos follow suit, dressed with cilantro and diced onions. Soft corn tortillas come doubled and warmed; a squeeze of lime and a dash of your preferred sauce elevates the straightforward and competent fillings. Chicken, which might have benefited from more aggressive seasoning, was commendable enough. Shredded and tender, it was (unsurprisingly) the meat that needed the biggest boost from the hot sauces. The tongue, though not as meltingly soft as we've experienced elsewhere, retained a nice char and pleasantly springy texture similar to that of Teppanyaki cooking. But the carnitas taco was exemplary, highlighting both the fatty, succulent nuggets of pig and the crispier parts of the roast, which sported gnarled edges like trees from a Tim Burton movie.
Among the non-taco options, a chicken tamale ($2) was dense while remaining fork-tender, the fowl imbued with corn flavor from its blanket of masa. The unraveled husk makes a perfect canvas for those colorful sauces. For the ultimate in corn consumption, pair your tamale with a cup of atole, the sugary masa beverage which tastes a lot like liquid Momofuku Milk Bar corn cookie (pulling the ol' switcheroo on Tosi). If sweetened rice sounds better than sweetened corn, opt for Horchata ($2). The cinnamon-spiked, starchy beverage quelled a late-spring heat despite leaving us with a murky swamp of rice, cinnamon and granulated orange peel at the bottom.
Super Tacos mostly lives up to the lofty promise of its name, and with a menu topping out at $6, it's hard to imagine cheaper late-night feasting of this caliber.
96th Street and Broadway ()
About the author: Zachary Feldman is a former debutante and current freelance writer. He makes hand-crafted, small batch bitters under the moniker Bitters, Old Men.