Mexican Eats: Tehuitzingo
Tehuitzingo is an unassuming little taqueria in the back a Hells Kitchen bodega, satisfying taco fixes for those in the clutch of Midtown West. Strings of chile pepper lights and Mexican flag-themed party favors drape from the ceiling. Office workers in crisp slacks start their day with a taco alongside flour-dusted Sullivan Street bakers ending their night shifts. Slip sideways down the dark, narrow hallway to join them, past the Mexican flags, the blaring music, and guys sipping on bottled beer. Have you ever wanted to watch green strobe lights dance over your tacos? If so, then Tehuitzingo is the place for you, even if the food can sometimes be lackluster.
Tortas ($6) here will not win any heavyweight championships. The polite sandwiches on white rolls hold shredded chicken meat and lots of mayonnaise, like mom's benign chicken salad. You should invigorate them with spears of pickled jalapenos from the well-stocked condiment bar that also offers salsas, limes, escabeche, radishes, and a full line-up of bottled hot sauces.
On my last visit the huitlacoche quesadilla ($3.50) took the easy way out, using a folded over tortilla instead of larger, freshly-made disk of masa. The mound of violet corn smut tasted mostly like the sour cream and shredded lettuce on top.
There is a lengthy list of taco fillings ($2.50-$3.00), many of which are vegetarian-friendly, including huitlacoche, squash blossoms, quesillo cheese, a soft mash of potatoes and jalapenos, and fried rice with bits of scrambled egg. On the meatier end of the spectrum, chicharron en salsa verde is a soft, spicy mess while oreja (pig's ear) is crunchy and cartilaginous. I like to slip the second tortilla off these tacos—one thick layer of corn is more than enough to match the shreds of the supple goat barbacoa or the al pastor, which has more pineapple than pork.
The front of the narrow bodega is particularly well stocked, all vertical real estate with jars of squash blossom flowers, packaged tostadas, and chiles, dried and fresh. If the disco ball revs your home cooking ambitions, Thuitzingo offers bunches of guaje pods. The flat, greenish-brown pods should be peeled open to get at the little green seeds inside. Ground into a nutty salsa or toasted with oil and salt, guaye is like a more savory pumpkin seed.
695 10th Avenue New York, NY 10036 (map)