Searching for a Good Taco: Roosevelt Avenue, Queens

The constant rumbling coming from the #7 train above us was a sure sign that we were on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens. From 69th Street, we saw people who looked and sounded like us, but only a few blocks away was a completely different enclave of Queens. The Tagalog signs changed to Spanish and the music coming from cars and storefronts was turned up a notch. Colombian and Ecuadorian flags were waving with Mexico’s. There were arepas and ceviches to eat, but today, Miss Geolouxy and I were there to search for a good taco.

Queens is the most ethnically diverse county in the nation, where an estimated 44 percent of the more than two million residents are foreign born. The neighborhoods of Jackson Heights and Corona had served as a magnet for a lot of newcomers from Colombia, but the 2000 census revealed a demographic shift in the number of Mexicans.

As our basis of comparison, we first stopped by Taqueria Coatzingo on 76th Street because it’s the one restaurant that kept coming up whenever I did a Google search for Mexican restaurants in the area. We noted the taqueria stands we passed by, plus the other Mexican stores across the street. Our plan was to start on 76th Street, walk up to 80th, and then walk back down to 69th.

1. Taqueria Coatzingo, 76-05 Roosevelt Avenue, 718/424.1977

You can see from the photo above what I mean by avocado mush–I’m just not a big fan. We ordered one chorizo and one tripe taco, but they sent over two chorizos to our table. We didn’t mind because it was our first meal of the day and we were hungry. The chorizo was cut into cubes and was salty enough to whet our appetites, but I prefer my chorizo crumbly. A big plus was the blistered green pepper on our plates. (Note to self: return for the tripe taco.)

2. Tacolandia, between 77th and 78th Streets on Roosevelt Avenue

We walked up to the Tacolandia counter and ordered the al pastor and the lengua, or tongue, taco. The tongue looked and tasted like tongue, but now I’m officially confused with what al pastor really is. In Staten Island, al pastor was the meat carved from a vertical rotisserie. What we got was a slab of fat and gelatinous pork skin.

3. El Poblano, 75-13 Roosevelt Avenue, 718/205.2996

We only ordered one cecina taco to go from El Poblanos. The guy at the counter must have thought it weird that we were only ordering one, so he took extra care and put it in a Styrofoam container made for hotdogs. One of the ladies looked at us skeptically when I asked for it to be spicy, but complied. We shared our one taco on a stoop across the street and it tasted like a cecina all right: chewy and dry.

4. Taco stand on the corner of 75th Street and Roosevelt Avenue

The two ladies serving up the tacos were tickled when we asked for their permission to take their photographs. They even had an official translator who sat in the van parked right next to the stand. The beef taco, as Miss Geolouxy said, looked better than it tasted. We couldn’t negotiate the hot sauce to come out of the squeezy bottle, so we doused our taco with the green pepper sauce instead to give it some sort of taste. They had the pickles, too, but they looked pretty gnarly, even for me.

5. Sabor Mexicana stand, directly outside the subway exit on 75th Street and Roosevelt Avenue

For our last taste, we ordered two tacos: a suadero, or stewed beef, and for the safe bet of having something tasty before going home, a chorizo kind. The chorizo was crumbly, which I’ve already mentioned I like, and the tips were toasty and crunchy. The beef was just tasteless and dry, almost inedible even with hot sauce.

After only a couple of tacos, I wondered if we should have gone to Corona for Mexican food. There were a couple of Mexican restaurants and a few stands selling tacos, but it wasn’t like my experience in Staten Island where there was a Mexican-something every other door. There wasn’t an outstanding taco, and the frequency of adding avocado mush surprised me. The avocado wasn’t chunky, but thin; it reminded me of Calexico’s “avocado sauce” in SoHo. After our first taste, I had to remind myself to say, Todo, pero no aguacate.

Related post/s:
Background on finding the best taco in New York City project
Searching for a good taco on Roosevelt Avenue photos on Flickr
Calexico’s owner explained what avocado sauce was

3 thoughts on “Searching for a Good Taco: Roosevelt Avenue, Queens”

  • 1
    avisualperson on October 31, 2007

    wish the people at coatzingo had gotten your order right! their tripe taco is outstanding; extremely rich, very offal-y, and delicious with a twist o’ lime. I kinda like their avocado sauce; eaten at pretty much all the places you mentioned, but I keep going back to coatzingo. if you eat in, try their milanesa cemita with either beef or chicken; a delicious, almost overwhelming sandwich best eaten immediately or in the restaurant; painstaking stacked layer upon layer of pure deliciousness and the whole marinated and smoked pepper (poblano?) is key.

  • 2
    G. on November 4, 2007

    we’re going back for the tripe, alright. and, we can hit corona also. my borough deserves another chance!

  • 3
    mmmbacon on October 14, 2009

    FYI – that guac mush is an avocado sauce and is meant to be thin like that. It’s fine to not like it, but that’s not unusual or an indicator of inferiority. Sorry you didn’t love coatzingo, it’s my absolute fav. Really sucks they didn’t get your order right, the lengua, birria de res, pastor and enchilada are fantastic.

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