A tortilleria, panederia, and taqueria all rolled into one, their main feature is a giant copper cazo in which pork shoulders slowly simmer.
The Tortilla: 7/10 The tortillas are made on premises and are reheated the right way, with a few little spots of char and a moist, tender, supple texture.
The Filling: 14/15 They reheat their fillings on a flattop in pork fat. While the carnitas were the best, the lengua is no slouch, especially when it crisps up on its edges in the pork fat.
The Toppings: 5/5 Onions and cilantro are fresh as can be, and you've got your choice of four salsas—a verde with legitimate heat, an avocado puree, a bright orange chipotle-based creamy sauce, and a classic rojo. All are flavorful and fresh.
137 East 116th St # 1, New York, NY 10029 (at Lexington Avenue; map)
Las Delicias Mexicanas
It looks like a full Mexican restaurant from the exterior, but Las Delicias Mexicanas is a taqueria through and through with a flattop for heating meats and a bubbling dispener of aguafrescas (the horchata is awesome).
The Tortilla: 5/10 Soft and pliant, but I wish they had charred them a bit.
The Filling: 14/15 The goat and the carnitas are the things to get here. They come in large hand-shredded chunks that are crisped up on the flattop.
The Toppings: 4/5 Onions and cilantro are very fresh, but the salsa could use a bit more kick.
2109 3rd Avenue, New York, NY 10029 (between 115th and 116th; map)
The only shop serving legitimate al pastor on the strip, with charred layers of pork spinning on a vertical spit in front of a broiler.
The Tortilla: 6/10 Ever so slightly stale, but not horrible.
The Filling: 11/15 Great al pastor and decent carnitas. If their tongue had been fresh, it would have been great. Unfortunately, it tasted a bit... past its prime.
The Toppings: 3/5 Very fresh onions and cilantro, but sort of bland and watery salsa verde. They also add lettuce if you don't stop them in time.
234 East 116th Street # 1, New York, NY 10029 (map)
El Paso Taco Truck
Their meaty fillings seemed slightly underdone, showing a bit of chew instead of tender meltiness, but strong tortillas make up for it.
The Tortilla: 8/10 The best re-heated tortillas of the crawl with a few nice brown spots and a supple, tender texture.
The Filling: 8/15 Flavorful and nicely seasoned, but a little rubbery from undercooking.
The Toppings: 4/5 Onions were good, but the cilantro was chopped from bolted stems, making it taste soapy.
Parked on 116th street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues
It looks like a sports bar-meets-Mexican restaurant and the food is slow as hell, but the tacos that come out are surprisingly tasty.
The Tortilla: 3/10 Stale, no char, and barely moist. Not much good going on here.
The Filling: 11/15 Quite good—I particularly enjoyed the crisp carnitas and the salty/chewy cecina (salted beef).
The Toppings: 3/5 Very large chunks of onion and an oddly creamy green sauce.
227 East 116th Street New York, NY 10029; map
Mildred Deli Grocery
A taqueria stuck into the back of a piñata store, this is about as quirky as it gets. Check out the awesome selection of Mexican sodas in the display case.
The Tortilla: 4/10 Quite stale with only the slightest hint of browning.
The Filling: 7/15 Decent chunks of tender lengua and carnitas, oddly fluorescent pink and dry chorizo.
The Toppings: 0/5 Oof. Onions that tasted like they'd been chopped a week before completely ruined this, not to mention the brown cilantro.
231 E 116th St, New York, NY 10029
Taco Bell Express
Who hasn't had this one? It's not the worst fast food in the world and has a special place in my heart and my college hangovers. That said, it's nearly impossible to compare it to any real tacos. Let's judge it by its own merits.
The Tortilla: 5/10 I mean, for a crispy corn shell, theirs aren't that bad. It was slightly stale, but that helps it not to break when you bite into it.
The Filling: 3/15 Meat filling is questionable at best. You wonder why they even spoon it in when clearly this glop could be pumped out of a dispenser just as easily.
The Toppings: 2/5 Shredded iceberg, mealy tomatoes, and unmelted shreds of cheddar cheese. Yeeahuhhhh…
Grocery Store at 207 East 116th
This is the type of place you really want to love. A nice lady making food right on the street; the archetypical hidden gem. That is, if it were actually good. Unfortunately, these were the worst tacos of the day, by a long shot.
The Tortilla: 2/10 Barely warmed through and quite stale.
The Filling: 3/15 Chicharrones that looked awesome but were so tough I literally couldn't eat them. Carnitas were not much better, with chewy, grisly chunks hanging out.
The Toppings: 3/5 The onions are fine and the cilantro is fresh, but sweet Jesus, is there a ton of it!
207 E 116th St, New York, NY 10029; map