I’d heard about Tortilleria Los Hermanos from several people (including a few native Californians) so in spite of the fact that the NYTimes likes it, I figured it was as good a place as any to start my search.
The first thing I saw when I walked up was a woman inside the window grilling meats, always a good sign. The factory itself isn’t big, and the dining area is really just two folding tables pushed together to form a kind of bar where everyone sits. I squished down in between two people really involved with what appeared to be tortas. After waiting for a couple to be served, I ordered one carne asada taco and a chorizo.
She went off to work and I grabbed a Mexican Coca-Cola from the refrigerator behind the counter. The Mexican Coke is an absolutely essential part of the taco eating process. Establishments that produce even excellent tacos should and will be docked if they don’t have it. I don’t know what it is (the reused glass bottle? cane sugar?) but it just tastes better than the Coke we have here in the states. It also reminds me of Southern California, which I guess is really what this taco thing is all about.
After what seemed like an unusually long amount of time to make a taco, she brought me my plate. I should point out that no one around me was eating tacos. While I was sitting there I watched several groups of people order tostadas and tortas. Maybe they knew something I didn’t, or still don’t. The amount of crap piled onto a Mexican torta always freaks me out. There’s the lettuce, the tomato, the sour cream, beans, rice (!)…basically if they have it at Taco Bell, it’s going on a torta. I’m not challenging the authenticity of tortas or tostadas prepared this way, I’m just saying it was disappointing when my tacos (inevitably) arrived all Taco Supreme’d out with lettuce, tomato, and sour cream. Oh well.
The flavor of the enchilada (bistec) was average. Not only was there a conspicuous dearth of cilanto and onion (see pic: there was some, but I couldn’t taste it well) , but the sour cream really dominated even the outstanding flavor and consistently of the corn tortilla. (I mean, there are woman in blue hairnets making the things right behind you so of course they’re good, right?) People on the East Coast have tried to convince me that the sour cream and whatnot is “Central Mexican,” but I’ve been to Mexico City, and the tacos I had there weren’t like that. They were tiny three inch tortillas sprinkled with the juiciest, most delicious taco meat I’ve ever tasted. I didn’t see so much as a shred of lettuce within three feet of a taco the whole time I was there.
The meat itself was grilled, which should have produced more char than it did. The color was gray. The search for marinated, reddish-brown skirt steak continues.
Taco #2, the chorizo, was actually pretty good. Chorizo is a really powerful flavor, and a mild cheese (or…I guess…even sour cream…) can be used to cut it a little bit. The lettuce didn’t both me so much in this taco, and I inhaled every last bit of the chorizo, which was deep red and spiced liberally. Next time, I definitely want to try the salsa verde with the chorizo, which might balance the flavors better. I also want to try one of those tostadas everyone was getting.
For overall experience, Tortilleria Los Hermanos is great. The din of the factory and the loud music creates an exciting taco atmosphere. They’ve got Mexican Coke and Pepsi. But the carne asada wasn’t there, and it kind seemed like they were serving tacos as an afterthought, almost as a way to round out their menu.
Tortilleria Los Hermanos
271 Starr St.
Bushwick, Brooklyn, NYC