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[Photographs: Scarlett Lindeman]

Downtown Bakery has been serving Mexican food in the East Village for almost twenty years. If you haven't eaten their burritos, swollen with refried black beans and crumbly orange rice, or indulged in the hangover obliterating powers of their huevos rancheros, then you've at least walked under the blue and white awning that shoots over the sidewalk. Downtown Bakery began as an Italian establishment, but over the years it's become a staple taqueria in the East Village.

There are no red, white, and green streamers here, no thumping norteño rapping from the speakers; just a quiet and fervent following of loyal East Village eaters (especially those looking for breakfast). Downtown Bakery serves Southwestern breakfast staples like scrambled egg and potato burritos ($5-$7) and tacos ($6-$6.50) for food more reminiscent of central Texas than Southern Mexico. These tortilla-wrapped packages, bulging with chorizo, cheese, and beans, are ideal breakfasts, uncommon treasures for New York City.

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People still come in for their croissants ($1.50) which the bakery makes in in house, and tuna salad sandwiches on rolls ($5), which they do not. Threads of cinnamon run through the horchata, which is silky smooth and not too sweet. They make it daily, soaking the rice overnight and blending it into a slightly sweet cream, then serving it over ice. The non-breakfast burritos ($6-9.50) are worth noting, too: weighty packages full of meat, beans, and rice (they don't bother with lettuce or tomato). The meat-forward options, like the pork burrito with green chili are best, though there's certainly enough meat-free varieties to make vegetarians camp happy.

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Another entrée to consider is the enchiladas in guajillo sauce ($7), three tortillas wrapped around braised chicken meat, swimming in a scarlet pool of puréed guajillo chiles. The dried chiles are re-hydrated in water, then pulverized with salt to produce an earthy, slightly tannic sauce with enough spice to plow through the patchwork of cheese on top. The sauce is vibrant enough to remind you that chili peppers contain more vitamin C than oranges. Skip the Jamba Juice and the Emergen-C packets; just slurp up the sauce.

Downtown Bakery

69 1st Avenue New York, NY 10003 (map)
212-254-1757

About the author: Scarlett Lindeman is a cook, food-writer, and recipe editor of Diner Journal, a food/arts quarterly. E-mail her at scarlett.lindeman@gmail.com.

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