[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

I know others who disagree, but I'm not crazy about the so-called tortas at the divey-looks-fancy-prices taco/torta stand at La Esquina in Kenmare Square. It's the bread. Instead of properly soft torta rolls, they use French baguettes. Entirely too tough and substantial, causing the fillings to squeeze out all over the place. It's like making a banh mi with sliced sandwich bread. It just ain't right.

Their tacos, on the other hand, are pretty great. A good taco de lengua ($3.95) is one of the great dishes of the world. Tender, fatty beef tongue slow-cooked in a flavorful broth. At La Esquina, rather than the traditional chopped chunks of tongue, they serve you a big fat slice, slow-cooked then grilled. It's got all the richness of the traditional version with a hint of smoky, charred flavor. Served with pickled red onions, queso cotija and a smear of guacamole, it's one of the more delicious tacos in the city.

Though I do wish they'd do the right thing and double up on their tortillas. I was barely halfway through it before I experienced the dreaded TTF (Total Tortilla Failure).


Carnitas ($3.50) are also stand-out. Super porky and rich with the right ratio of crisped bits to soft, melty fat, it comes simply with a smoky, charred salsa macha. At least, they call it a salsa macha, though it doesn't have the intense heat or peanuttiness that I look for in that sauce (do they put any peanuts in it at all?).

Once again, TTF. Have you ever tried licking pork juice off your elbows in public while your dog is attempting to do the same thing? Embarrassingly delicious.

Best bang for your buck probably goes to the $3.25 papa, nopales, y chorizo tacos, stuffed with a rich mixture of vinegary crumbled chorizo, tender potatoes, crunchy bits of cactus paddle, and a tart salsa verde.

If there's one complaint to be made about La Esquina is how crazy slow they get during lunch hours. I arrived around 2pm and waited a good 15 minutes for three tacos and a torta. And yes, that last taco also collapsed.

Don't wear your fancy tie to lunch here.

La Esquina

106 Kenmare Street, New York NY 10012 (map)

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.


Comments can take up to a minute to appear - please be patient!

Previewing your comment: