This place is right across the street from Maria Hernandez Park, which from what I can tell is in a hispanic-dominated part of Bushwick. In fact, it reminded me a lot of Echo Park. It’s amazing how little you have to walk to get out of hipster town. I’m literally five blocks from the subway and suddenly there is a conspicuous lack of coffee shops and tiny restaurants serving “creative” American food.
Anyway, this place kind of surprised me, considering I stumbled into it completely ignorant. I had no idea what to expect, and in LA, that pretty much meant you were either going to be blown away or get food poisoning. Or both. A friend of mine discovered the hard way that they aren’t mutually exclusive. But that’s a different story for a different time, as my friend Liz would say.
The restaurant was really dim, and completely empty, not really what you hope for when you pick a place from down the street. The woman behind the counter took my order (one taco al pastor). Just one? she asked. Yeah, I said, just one. I want to know what I’m getting into.
It’s really a lovely spot there right on the corner of the park. From where I was sitting, I could see teenagers playing basketball, and kids coming out of P.S. 123, which is so big and old looking that it doesn’t look right when little kids come pouring out.
The taco came and I stopped for a moment to snap some pictures. Piping hot tortillas, good. Shaved al pastor, good. Little bits of pineapple, bonus. Onion and cilantro mix looked very solid as well. I squeezed some lime on top and bit in. Not half bad, I have to admit. Not fucking bad at all.
First, the good stuff: The meat was moist and tender, with good flavor, and had clearly been made by someone who knew what they were doing. I didn’t actually see that vertical roasting spit that good al pastor is usually shaved off of, but it might have been back there. If not, this place found a way around it, and managed to create a solid meat product. The biggest problem, really, was that there was too much meat. Now, I know people are going to jump all over me for this, but this has been a problem all around with tacos I’ve had in NYC. The meat to tortilla to cilantro to onion ratio has to be just right. More meat is not necessarily better. If it’s just all meat, it doesn’t feel right in my mouth. The flavors don’t have enough space to come together and explode. Great tacos have a surprisingly small amount of meat. Less is more, less is more…repeat it, like a mantra.
As far as atmosphere goes, this place is pretty standard, and certainly doesn’t approach the excitement of Tortilleria Los Hermanos, but it’s plain and charming enough, and there’s a bathroom, which is kind of novelty for Mexican restaurants in and of itself.
Obviously, I’ve got to go back and try more before we really know what we have here, but I’d say Taqueria El Paisa is a good bet in Bushwick.
Taqueria El Paisa
Corner of Irving and Suydam
Bushwick, Brooklyn, NYC