- Restaurant Taqueria Lower East Side
- Cuisine Mexican
- Location 198 Orchard St. (btwn Stanton & E. Houston Streets), Manhattan
- Phone 212-677-3910
- Directions Hopstop
- Atmosphere authentic tribute to Los Angeles, casual
- Attire casual
- Ideal for small groups, 1x1, foodies
- Price *very* affordable
For our monthly NY Mexican Food Lovers Meetup brunch/lunch, I chose Taqueria Lower East Side. The reviews were great - the prices appeared reasonable - and, most importantly, they had a full bar.
Two of us arrived at TLES (Taqueria Lower East Side) around noon on a Saturday and, despite the fact that the restaurant was empty, were told that we'd "have to wait for your entire party to arrive before being seated." Um, ok.
Well, it's a good thing that TLES was equipped with a bar. A full bar, at that. I ponied up to the counter, plopped on a bar stool, and ordered a house margarita. With lots of salt. Hell, as long as I was waiting for our entire party to arrive, I may as well sample a beverage (...or 2)!
For someone who considers herself to be a "margarita aficionado," TLES's version was one of the best I've had in NYC, to date. Freshly-squeezed lime juice, house tequila, and triple sec were combined - shaken vigorously - and poured over ice cubes in a salt-rimmed glass. A fun, paper umbrella floated atop the cocktail, making me yearn to be on a tropical beach somewhere.
Luckily, it didn't take the rest of the crew too much longer to arrive. By 12:20pm, "our entire party" was seated.
Water glasses were topped and brunch menus were distributed as we introduced ourselves to one another and began discussing all-things-Mexican-food. And TLES' quirky decor, which is a literal shrine to El Lay (Los Angeles).
Moments after placing our entree and beverage orders, we received a basket of homemade tortilla chips and smooth, thin/runny red salsa that tasted more akin to enchilada sauce. I've had better...
For the sheer fact that TLES's tacos cost about $2.50/each, I knew that I would have to sample their pork carnitas version in addition to my chilaquiles!
Pork Carnitas Taco
Slow roasted, juicy pulled pork was sprinkled with crunchy, chopped white onions and fragrant cilantro. The savory ingredients were enveloped by two handmade corn tortillas - each about 3" in diameter. A lime quarter and a radish slice accompanied.
The pork was so juicy that the taco did not even require the addition of salsa (...thank goodness, because I would have hated to destroy it with TLES' gnarly red concoction, anyways)! Plus, I loved how the tortillas were warmed and lightly browned on the griddle prior to ingredient topping.
Salsa verde-soaked tortilla chips were drizzled with crema and sprinkled with crumbly cotija cheese. Refried beans and Spanish rice accompanied.
Though lukewarm, I found the chilaquiles to be quite authentic and every bit delicious. My only complaints, however, were that they weren't warm enough upon service, and that the chips, themselves, needed a gooey "binding" cheese. Chihuahua, perhaps? The beans were spot-on, but I found the rice to be slightly dry.
*Note* upon your exit, make sure to grab a handful of the free Mexican candies, especially my favorite: De La Rosa.
Conclusion: TLES proved to be an ideal venue for our NY Mexican Food Lovers Meetup brunch. The prices were dirt cheap (by NYC standards), the drinks were outstanding, and the food was solid. While I had a couple of qualms - the uber lame 'we won't seat you before your entire party is here (...even though the restaurant is empty)' rule, subpar salsa, dried-out rice, and lukewarm chilaquiles - the majority of my experience was fantastic and, most definitely, worthy of a return visit. I cannot stop dreaming about those outstanding margaritas and hope to be back - for those, alone - in the very near future.
Until we eat again, mis amigos!
The Lunch Belle