Right across the street from Xochimilco there’s the wood-paneled Tacos Matamoros, which looks and sounds more like a Benihana-style eatery than a place that slings al pastor and lengua. The facade put me off a bit, but I had read some good things so I decided to sneak a few tacos before I took the longish train ride back to Greenpoint.
I opened the door and stood blinking for a second, letting my eyes adjust. The whole place was decked out like an upscale cafeteria, or at least it reminded me of the break room at a law firm I used to work at. Wood paneling, wide tile floors, low lights, soft chatter. The distance from the door to the counter was long. I grabbed a menu. I didn’t know where to stand really so I kind of paced back and forth. Carnitas and al pastor, please. I looked around the room. To go.
Something inside me always feels a little guilty when I get food to go, so I usually sit to one side of the restaurant playing with my phone, trying to look busy. I must of cracked at Matamoros because when the women behind the counter handed over my food in a brown paper bag, I sat down at the nearest table, ripped the bag open and dug right into the tacos. I looked up, half expecting the women to be shaking her head in disappointment (”Why did you lie to me?”), but no one cared.
The al pastor was really good. Tender, well seasoned. The savory, almost burnt flavor popped against the bright, clear taste of the salsa verde. The tortilla was warm and lightly coated in oil. I got crunch from the onions and that fresh, almost soapy taste from the generous heap of cilantro. I happily wolfed it down, chomping on a halved radish as a palette cleanser.
The carnitas did not fair so well. The meat wasn’t fried or even crispy. It had a bland taste, and a mushy mouth feel. It recalled lunch at the retirement community with my grandmother. I didn’t like it, but I ate it anyway, because it was a taco and I was holding it.
So I get the feeling that together, Xochimilco and Matamoros are kind of like the McDonald’s and Burger King of Sunset Park. Not in the sense that they’re bad, but just that they’re kind of obvious and don’t necessarily constitute a close study of the area’s taco prowess. But I figured it was a good place to start and I’m not disappointed. I’m certainly looking forward to going back, and maybe getting off 5th Ave.
45-08 5th Ave.
Sunset Park, Brooklyn, NYC