Serious Eats: New York
Mexican Eats: Don't Scoff the Hard Shell at Castro's in Clinton Hill
As one of the oldest Mexican restaurants in Brooklyn, Castro's is a weathered Clinton Hill stalwart, a late-night spot for Pratt students with a bustling delivery service. Inside, the cooks are magic to watch. Assembling orders at a rapid pace, spreading beans onto Mexican pizzas, depositing pickled jalapenos onto heroic platters of nachos ($8), and plops of sour cream on sizzling fajita plates ($11-13.50). They charge through orders at lightening speed, like a fast-forwarded sports clip, but in real time.
The menu is expansive, featuring the scope of Mexican American cuisine: hulking smothered burritos that you eat with a knife and a fork ($8-$13), chicken pipian in a ground green pumpkin seed mole ($11), and a decent tortilla soup ($6.50), with square-inch chunks of soft panela cheese that chew like bubblegum.
Here the tacos dorados ($2.50) are not rolled flautas but true American -style tacos that have evolved far from their origins. Most are familiar with the tilted head to the left, the warm crunch, and the orange grease that dribbles down the wrist. On the line, there's a row of golden fried tortillas, clamped-into their U shape by a metal cage and dunked into the fryer. A cook sets the tacos into vertical plastic holders, three a row, filling them with mild, minerally ground beef, cold iceberg lettuce, shreds of industrial cheese, and a pico de gallo divorced of heat. It's a taco that's only the faintest bit "Mexican," one that tastes resoundingly of childhood, expertly assembled by Mexican cooks for whom the nostalgia doesn't register, yet everyone can enjoy.
511 Myrtle Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11205 (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.