For my first search for a good taco, I decided to stay on Amsterdam Avenue and the upper west side, specifically from 100th to 145th Streets. I started on 100th mainly because I wanted to hit a favorite spot on 108th but also because I wanted to end up at Jesus’ Tacos near my apartment, a small store that shares space with Twin Donut. Every time I pass by, I chuckle at the name and I knew that someday, I’m going to have to buy something from there. (Of course, it’s more likely pronounced as Heh-sus than Gee-sus but that’s not as funny.)
I was alone and I immediately found out that two tacos were my limit, maybe three if I pick on the filling and skip the tortilla, so I kept it down to ordering chorizo or ground pork tacos. At the stores where they didn’t carry the pork kind, I either bought beef, goat or chicken. I also didn’t spend more than $2.50 on each taco, the cheapest being two dollars. As for selecting which ones to go to, I looked around as I made my way up Amsterdam Avenue and went in to every store, restaurant and bodega that had an awning painted with the Mexican flag colors and had, well, “tacos” or “Mexican food” plastered on the windows. Banderitas, loud Spanish music or television and a picture of the Lady of Guadalupe were all big pluses.
Noche, 852 Amsterdam Avenue between 101st and 102nd Streets, 212/662.6900
Italian Mexican, 886 Amsterdam Avenue between 102nd and 103rd Streets, 212/316.1427
Los Paisas, 890 Amsterdam Avenue between 103rd and 104th Streets, 212/961.1263
Taqueria y Fonda, 968 Amsterdam Avenue between 107th and 108th Streets, 212/531.0383
Yuca Mexican Products, 1345-49 Amsterdam Avenue corner of 125th Street
Cielito Lindo, 1354 Amsterdam Avenue between 125th and 126th Streets, 212/222.0938
Mex Juquila, 1486 Amsterdam Avenue between 133rd and 134th Streets, 212/694.7142
Jesus’ Taco, 501 West 145th Street on Amsterdam Avenue, 212/234.3330
The verdict: chorizo tacos are indistinguishable; ground pork is ground pork. What makes a difference is how the chorizo is cooked and how the taco is prepared. My favorite was the chorizo taco from Taqueria y Fonda between 107th and 108th Streets because the bits and pieces of pork were grilled, crunchy and toasted. Even the onions were grilled so they added some sweetness to the flavor. Their salsa also came with small pieces of avocado and finding each one was a nice surprise. The chorizo from Cielito Lindo between 125th and 126th Streets came in a close second. They actually cut a sausage into smaller pieces; crunchy chorizo skin is always a plus.
As for the non-chorizo tacos, the goat from Yuca was great and the huge peppers were a nice touch. The chicken from Mex Juquila was pretty much like how white meat tastes: boring and unexciting. Between the two beef tacos I got, I liked the one from Noche better than the ungodly experience at Jesus’.
The story behind Searching for a Good Taco in New York City