So I’ve been getting a lot of lip from you people about my neglect of Sunset Park. I guess that’s good. I guess it’s why I wanted to write about tacos in the first place. But the zeal some NYC taco hunters reserved for 5th Ave. between 39th and 56th inflated my expectations so much that I thought I was going to walk off the Subway, fall in a pile of pillowy tortillas and immediately be smothered in al pastor. Not so. The salsa verde does not flow through the streets of Sunset Park, but the tacos were there, and I was hungry.
I walked the first nine blocks looking for the old standbys. Tacos Xochimilco and Matamoras. Nevermind that these were the most elaborately titled taquerias I had ever heard of, the point was I had heard of them, and that was saying something in a city where people still buy those preformed taco shells at the grocery store.
Sunset Park is charming. The park itself goes uphill to the East, and to the West you can see down the side streets all the way to river. It had just rained, or was just about to rain, so it was clear and bright and muggy. I saw Tacos Xochimilco at the corner of 45th St. and 5th Ave. so I crossed the street and went inside.
Inside it was cool, dim and quiet. Ceiling fans whirred overhead. I ordered two tacos, al pastor and carne asada, in Spanish and cracked open a Mexican Coke. I was sweating a little from the walk and the Coke tasted amazing. All the light came in from the big windows facing the street. I watched people go by and waited.
The food came. I got so excited that I forgot to take pictures. I dug right into the al pastor. The flavor was good, but a little salty. It was certainly greasy, fatty and delicious, but there was something over-seasoned about it. The natural saltiness of the pork clashed with whatever else had gone into the meat. The tang of the salsa verde didn’t help as much as it should have. I’m overstating here. I ate the thing right up, and I wasn’t unhappy about it, but I was very aware of what was on the meat, as opposed to the meat itself. The pork just got lost, and I missed it. I wanted my pig back.
With bravery and trepidation, I picked up the Carne Asada and bit in. The flavor was surprisingly good and the meat was actually juicy(!). Was that juicy beef and char I just tasted? I think it was. I took another bite. Each little meaty morsel actually had flavor and the protein was balanced perfectly with the generous cilantro, onion, and salsa mix. They even served their tacos on the tiny 3 inch tortillas that I like. (Although you have to ask for pequeno.)
There was a hint of the saltiness I had tasted with the pork, but who are we kidding? You can’t over-salt beef. It’s beef. Dump salt on there like there’s no tomorrow. Actually, my favorite carne asadas are more buttery than salty but no matter, I was happy. The salsa verde that came with the tacos wasn’t particularly distinguished but fresh enough and lively.
Jesus, I just re-read this post and I sound just like my mother, complaining about salt at restaurants. I love my mom, and she’s an incredible cook, but she’ll honestly complain for a week if her pasta has too much salt. What the fuck, I’m a little drunk…mom, this post is for you.
45-01 5th Ave.
Sunset Park, Brooklyn, NYC