Okay, folks, here’s the next-to-last of EATER’s guest bloggers. (Look for a spot by BLT’s new chef next week.) Thanks to everyone who blogged for all of their work and support: I thank you, the Magazine thanks you, and who knows? Maybe even the readers thank you.
(BTW: If you’re a reader and not thankful, go ahead and write a nasty letter to the editor. God knows they always get printed.)
This week, we have a special treat from Adam Clyde Christensen, who readers might recognize from my August, ’07 piece on Latin-American dining in Port Chester. We met Adam through his exhaustive, knowledgeable and vaguely monomaniacal posts on Chowhound.com. Let’s just say that most guys keep a little black book about all the women they’ve known. Adam? He’s got notes on tacos.
So he’s deigned to lend us a hand by eating 30 tacos in one week, going to every humble, hole-in-the-wall taqueria in our County’s seat. We salute you and your iron-clad constitution, Adam Christensen â€“ and EATER is better for knowing you.
The State of the Taco: White Plains
By Adam Christensen
White Plains might be the business, political and even cultural heart of Westchester County, but when it comes to finding the best and most exciting Mexican food, common wisdom is that you should get in your car and drive to either Port Chester or New Rochelle, skipping White Plains altogether.
I confess I’ve been a big proponent of that attitude. I’ve tried many a taco here in White Plains and been left with the feeling that I’d have been better off going five minutes farther east on I-287.
But lately I’ve been rethinking my preconceptions. Why doesn’t White Plains have good taquerias? With at least eight taqueria-style restaurants â€“ more than either Port Chester or New Rochelle â€“ surely a few would have excellent tacos, right?
So, I decided to put my assumptions to the test â€“ to find the superlative taco in White Plains. I began by going through my own notes of every taco I’ve had in the area over the past seven years. Next, I culled through the last five years of postings on Chowhound.com’s Tristate board to see what I may have missed.
Then, being the good citizen I am, I decided to conduct some new research and took it on myself to try every respectable taqueria in town. Over one week, I ate 30 tacos from eight restaurants in White Plains (that’s taking one for the team).
[I should mention that I stuck to the taqueria-style establishments, where you can get tacos to go, usually around 2-3 dollars each. So this report doesn’t include notable white-table cloth restaurants such as Sunset Grill.]
So what’s the verdict? Well, I don’t know that I’m ready to crown a new king for Mexican food in the County, but one thing was sure â€“ if it is simply a good taco you are after, look no farther than White Plains.
Here are a few of the highlights from my own taco tour of White Plains:
Sunshine Super Deli, La Picara â€“ 31 Lake St., 914-328-0904 Perhaps the biggest surprise of the bunch, Sunshine Deli turned out some seriously good, seriously authentic tacos as satisfying as any I’ve had in Westchester. The bistek and al pastor tacos are my favorite. Bistek comes with a generous mound of beef, topped with onions, cilantro and guacamole â€“ the beef condiment trifecta. The al pastor tacos are marinated pork, thinly sliced, stacked and roasted on a vertical spit. Coupled with small chunks of pineapple it’s the ultimate spicy-sweet combination.
Non taco notables: the huitlacoche quesadillas (a rarity in this area).
Taqueria and Grocery, Mexico Lindo â€“ 98 E Post Road, 914-949-7972 The Mexican paraphernalia for sale around the place nearly hides the real gem at Mexico Lindo: a chalkboard behind the little counter on which is written the day’s menu. With frequent changes, they don’t even offer a printed menu.
As for the tacos, the al pastor and lengua tacos are fantastic. Like Sunshine Deli, Mexico Lindo roasts their al pastor on a vertical spit, and includes long slices of roasted pineapple in each taco. There’s nothing subtle about them, and that’s their virtue. If you are lucky enough to get them while the spit is still running, they’ll be even better.
The lengua taco â€“ beef tongue â€“ is tender, properly salted, and with a spicy salsa to accompany it. If the thought of tongue makes you squeamish, try this taco. You’ll be ordering seconds in no time.
Non-taco notables: albondigas con chipotle (meatballs in chipotle sauce) or mojarra frita (whole fried fish).
Cancun Delights â€“ 16 E Post Rd., 914-686-1603 With typical stripped-down dÃ©cor, non of the places on this list are going to be your date-night destination. But of them all, Cancun Delights really lives up to the hole-in-the-wall reputation. If you can put that aside, the carnitas (slow-cooked pork) and barbecoa (slow-cooked goat) tacos are tremendous. Piled high enough to make three tacos from one, the meat is tender and with big flavor. If you get them to go, just make sure you get some salsa, onions and cilantro with it, lest you open them up and find them completely unadorned.
Honorable mentions: Roberto’s Grill CafÃ© â€“ 102 E Post Rd. â€“ next door to Mexico Lindo, Roberto’s is probably the most dÃ©cor-friendly of the bunch. The carnitas taco is slightly above average. It is tender, though neither as rich nor flavorful as what I hope for in a carnitas taco. The other tacos I tried were average, but the menu is worthy of more exploration.
Veracruz â€“ 24 W Post Rd. â€“ for the best chicken taco of the bunch, go to Veracruz. It’s got a lot of flavor and, importantly, not dry at all. Unfortunately, I’ve found the other tacos at Veracruz lacking.
Flores CafÃ© â€“ 10 Cross St. â€“ although I found the tacos just average, Flores CafÃ© is more cozy and quaint than the other places mentioned here. The carnitas taco I had was quite good and the large menu of sopas, cemitas, tortas and tacos really deserves exploration.