Tacos Matamoros, a big wood-paneled restaurant with extended families tearing through platters of bistec encebollado, is a Sunset Park classic. It's built for long Saturday lunches of sopa de camarones and rowdy quinceñera celebrations. But when the five-piece Mariachi band and the squealing babes are likely to spark a migraine, Tacos Matamoros II is a suitable alternative.
The Matamoros owners have reproduced their menu at a smaller space down 5th Avenue. It's a narrow cafeteria with antique movie posters on the walls and backlit picture menus overhead. There are social workers on their lunch breaks munching tostadas ($3) and equally crunchy flautas de papa ($7), rolled tacos deep-fried with centers of roughly mashed potato. Chalupas ($5), little tortillas coated in salsa, are also fried, but quickly, not to crisp but to soften, then dunked in red and green salsas and piled with rich crema, cheese, and diced onion.
If you root for the crunchy camp of chilaquiles, shunning the spoonable mush that most taquerias serve, Matamoros is your gal. The chilaquiles estilo Matamoros ($8) are chips doused in their house mole, the sweet and smoky sauce countered by cheese, crema, and onion, like a plate of nachos left to soften, then mined with a fork.
There are larger plates of mole, grilled pork chops, and costillas en adobo; fat, meaty ribs ($11), smothered in a tomato-based adobo with flickerings of garlic, ancho chili, and clove, a milder take that you could spoon feed to an infant. Tacos ($1.50) are tiny things, with over a dozen meats to choose from. Carne asada, carnitas, and suadero taste of good meat, but need added pep from a squeeze of lime and salsa. The watery house tomato version, will do nothing for you. Reach instead for the small bowl of thinly-sliced sweet white onion that is lightly-pickled and sprinkled with oregano, an oddly refreshing and kind gesture.
Tacos Matamoros II
5717 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11220 (map)
About the author: Scarlett Lindeman wears many hats a food-writer, recipe editor of Diner Journal, a food/arts quarterly, and a doctoral student of sociology. E-mail her at email@example.com.