174 Elizabeth Street between Spring and Kenmare
$32 for two, without drinks, with tip
â™¥ â™¥ â™¥
Good Mexican food is hard to come by in New York City, so when I find a place I like, I try to go back whenever I crave Mexican food that’s more filling than one taco off the street. I’ve been going to CafÃ© El Portal for several years now. I’ve known it as the “blue underground place” because of the lively paint color outside and the way you have to take small steps from street level to get in. They have since repainted the faÃ§ade a more somber washed-out red, but the food remains as satisfying as ever.
My favorite is their huitlacoche quesadilla, essentially a corn mushroom that grows within the individual kernels of a corn, disfiguring the ear and turning off any one who wants to eat a perfectly good cob. Oh, but it’s delicious when it’s cooked, sweetened with onions and flavored with epazote, a Mexican herb with the distinct taste of anise. CafÃ© El Portal adds soft goat cheese with it to cut through the overwhelming taste of the mushroom. I can never pass on this dish whenever I’m eating there.
If I am, however, in a taco mood, I go for their salty chorizo tacos, served with both beans and rice on the side. They’re not cheap on the crumbled chorizo either–two are perfect with the accompanying green salsa. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. While you’re there, make sure you order the mango or the strawberry margarita to push all that heavy lunch down.