Fresh off the 7 train, I spotted a sign that read “Tacolandia” and I just couldn’t help myself. Maybe it’s my Southern Californian upbringing, but when a place as any kind of “land” appendage (in English or otherwise) I’m mysteriously drawn to it, sure that it can’t be all bad.
Tacolandia was no exception. Located on the corner of a strip mall, it’s a small kitchen space with an adjoining dining room. At 2:30 the place was about half full. There were teenagers picking out songs on the jukebox, the music going so loud I could barely hear the waitress over the din. I ordered the steak, and she went to work, throwing a fresh batch of beef on the grill and chopping it and turning it with the metal spatula.
Well, this won’t be so bad, I thought. At least the meat will be hot. The condiments appeared to be in order. She turned to ask me if I would like grilled onions mixed in with the grilled steak. No, I would not.
I sat down and waited for my taco to arrive. The street outside was crowded with people coming and going from the big 74th St. station. The area itself is interesting…reminiscent of Westlake near MacArthur Park in LA, except no one asked me if I wanted to buy a fake I.D. I guess kids in New York go somewhere else, or maybe they don’t need fake I.D.s I came here once when I was seventeen and didn’t get carded the whole trip. I wasn’t fooling anyone though. I’m twenty-four now and I look like I’m twenty. Back then, I must have looked twelve.
The taco came, already doused in a kind of quacamole salsa verde. I think this is an Ecuadorian thing but I’m not entirely sure. The ratio of meat to cilantro/onion mix was good, and the tortilla was still steaming when she plopped it down in front of me. The taste was O.K. I’m not gonna knock the condiments because those were fine, but the meat was really more of a cecina (as opposed to bistec or carne asada) and was salted liberally. Too much in my opinion. The saltiness of the meat kind of overpowered even the good, creamy flavor of the salsa verde. Don’t get me wrong, this was a tasty snack, but probably not worth a schlep all the way out from Manhattan or Brooklyn.
Still, other meats need to be investigated. The quality of the tortilla was excellent, and paired with the right protein, could pop in a serious way.
704 D Roosevelt Blvd. (at 77th St.)
Jackson Heights, Queens