Brunch options on the Upper West Side abound, though most tend to skew towards the French/American side. Big cups of coffee, pancakes, Eggs Benedict, croques Madames, and the like. I'm particularly partial to Latin brunch staples. Eggs, melted cheese, braised meats and sausages, corn, tortillas or arepas—perfect hangover food, you know? Thus far, decent Upper West Side/Morningside Heights options were mostly limited to Havana Central (see our review here) and a couple other spots here and there (which we'll get to in due time).
But with a second branch of the Upper East Side's Cascabel Taqueria moving into the old Lime Leaf space on 108th and Broadway (a very welcome change!), the options have expanded.
Chilaquiles Con Pollo Y Huevos Fritos ($9) hit the mark on some marks, but miss it on others. The shredded Amish chicken is tender, moist, and generous, but the chile de arbol salsa could have used more heat and flavor. The sprinkle of papalo (the same Mexican herb you'll find floating in their ice water) and cilantro are nice touches, as is the great queso cotija, but the chips are a little overly soggy. I prefer my chilaquiles to sill have some semblance of structure, rather than just being a pile of mush—even if it's very tasty mush. Still, there are few things more satisfying on the morning after a night out, especially when topped with perfectly fried eggs.
Adding a few squirts of house salsa helps out on the heat front, though even the bottle labeled Diablo Fire Sauce will barely get your sweat on. Of the three, the tart tomatillo version was the best.
Made with ground almonds and rice, Horchata ($4) is one of my favorite drinks (check out my recipe here) and I order it almost every chance I get. Cascabel's version is serviceable, but a little too thin and too sweet for my taste. I like mine intense and almost creamy. Better was their Lime Agua Fresca ($3), a limeade made with sparkling water (they've also got grapefruit, orange, and hibiscus, among other flavors).
Huevos Revueltos En Salsa Verde ($7) is a big bowl of scrambled eggs (scrambled a little too hard for my taste), doused in tomatillo salsa with chopped tomatoes, onions, queso fresco, and a bag full of steamed corn tortillas. The eggs are great, but unfortunately the tortillas were stale, a problem that was even more apparent in the Tacos de Lengua ($8.50 for 2).
In fact, the tacos were the only dish we ordered off the regular lunch menu and were by far the weakest. Rubbery chunks of tongue that were relatively bland and overwhelmed by the massive amount of crisp fried garlic served on top. I'm guessing the Cascabel doesn't get a delivery of fresh tortillas on Sunday mornings, but either way, there's no excuse for bad tortillas at a taqueria.
It's odd, because it's such a striking contrast between the great tacos we've had from the original branch on the Upper East Side (see our review here), where the tongue was tender and fatty and the tortillas soft and pliant. What's up, Cascabel?
The saving grace came in the form of the Elote Asado ($4.50), one of the better versions I've had, with corny and tender grilled corn, a ton of garlicky mayonnaise, queso cotija, lime juice, and a sprinkle of ground cascabel chilis.
I'm glad Cascabel moved into my half of the city. It makes for a decent, inexpensive brunch option—one that could be great if they'd get their tortilla problems sorted out.