It seems like decent tacos and sopes are becoming easier and easier to find in Manhattan—no more need to head out to Sunset Park to get your fill of tender braised meats and spicy salsas. Now that Tacos Morelos, the popular Williamsburg 24-hour taco stand has cloned itself across the river in Alphabet City, you can now get hot tacos at any hour of the day for a few bucks.
The menu at Tacos Morelos is not long— Tacos ($2.50) on soft corn tortillas, big Burritos ($7.50) with rice and beans, freshly grilled Sopes ($3), crunchy Tostadas ($3), Cemitas ($6) and Tortas ($5, sandwiches that differ in their buns and the use of chipotle in the cemita), griddled Quesadillas ($3), and fried Tlacoyos ($2.50) or Huaraches ($4)—but the filling options are numerous, and most menu items can be ordered with whatever filling you'd like (even if it's not listed as an option). We tried all of the braised, steamed, and griddled meats to figure out which ones are worth eating.
Barbacoa is their specialty. Seasoned goat meat steamed until it falls apart into tender, moist shreds, it's relatively mild as far as goat goes, but you might find yourself with a couple of gamey bites here and there. This is the one to get.
Chorizo has an off-putting bright pinkish red color, but the flavor is there. A little spicy and salty, with nicely crisped bits of pork fat.
Suadero is thinly sliced beef brisket cooked on the griddle, and is their best beef offering. Flavorful, fatty, and tender.
Cecina is thinly shaved cured beef. It's extremely salty stuff, so you'd better have a drink handy. That said, it's tender and delicious, like a nice beef-flavored country ham.
Al Pastor is not the insanely juicy, well-seasoned pork you'd expect, but it's tasty nonetheless. Mildly spicy, with a few crisp bits here and there. It's vastly improved by the creamy, fatty refried beans when you order it as a sope or tostada.
Carnitas should be tender, flavorful, bursting with pork fat, and crisp around the edges. The carnitas here get the first two correct, and they do have good flavor, but inadequate reheating leads to carnitas that are moist but not dripping, and hot, but not crisp.
Tinga is a bit of a misnomer here. Unlike the stew of shredded meat and spices the name suggests, theirs seems more like chopped, sauteed chicken leg with a few onions and peppers thrown in. It's surprisingly tasty stuff, just not what's expected going in.
Lengua can be my absolute favorite taco filling. Rich, succulent, and juicy with a pronounced beef flavor is what it should be. Unfortunately, the lengua at Morelos is woefully underseasoned and undercooked, with a slight rubbery bite to it.
Pollo seems like a safe choice on the menu, and it turns out it's a little too safe. Chopped, sauteed leg meat, it's got all the bad qualities of their tinga, with none of the good.
Bistec is probably the easiest thing for beginners to order, but they'd be doing themselves a huge disservice. The bistec here is tough, leathery, and overcooked with a steamed rather than seared quality. Pass on this one.
As to whether the food here can compare favorably with its sister truck in Williamsburg is up for debate. It's a question worth answering—most likely at 4am after a long night out.
2nd Street and Ave. A, New York, NY 10009 (map) 347-772-5216