At nine-year-old Tlaquepaque Restaurant, one of the area’s best-kept secrets in Mexican food, I asked owner Victor Cisneros how he came to name the place. “Tlaquepaque is a city near my hometown of Guadalajara, where my grandmother lives,” he said—and many of her recipes are served at the restaurant, prepared with a delicate touch by his wife, Sandra Cisneros. “Thank God for Grandma,” he said, bringing over the Grandma’s shrimp enchiladas special I’d ordered.
The interior of Tlaquepaque (above, left); Grandma's shrimp enchiladas, a family recipe from owner Victor Cisneros's own granny.
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This is authentic Mexican food, not Tex Mex. No gobs of melted cheese in sight in this dish, which is light and delicious, the tortillas full of simply cooked, fresh-tasting shrimp, covered with a white wine and garlic tomato cream sauce and topped with salad (with a sprinkling of shredded cheese). I’m already liking Victor’s grandma. Families surround us at this colorful, candlelit place as we listen to a Spanish cover of Annie’s Song. I’ve passed on wine and beer to order a piña colada on this hot September evening.
I can’t resist trying a type of torta (Mexican sandwich) I’ve never seen: torta ahogada. This Guadalajara specialty consists of a mountainous sourdough roll smeared with refried beans and stuffed with the choicest pieces of homemade pulled pork, the entire thing smothered in tomato sauce and topped with lime and marinated onions, served with homemade spicy sauce and picked jalapeños and carrots (also homemade). It’s traditionally eaten with bare hands, but this is one sandwich you’ll want to eat with the knife and fork provided—in public, at least.
Torta Ahogada—literally "drowned sandwich"—is aptly named; You can't go wrong with a heaping serving of huevos rancheros.
I come back one day shortly before lunch, thinking I’ll try one of the Good Morning Tlaquepaque breakfast dishes. But the door is closed; they kindly let me in a few minutes shy of 11:30 am. The good news: you can, and will want to, have breakfast anytime here. Huevos rancheros will do nicely for dinner—eggs, on a corn tortilla, submerged under a thick mixture of cooked tomatoes, peppers, onions, and meaty mushrooms, with refried beans. Extra tortillas arrive in a round container, wrapped in a napkin embroidered with the restaurant’s name. And those wonderful pickled jalapeños. From the regular list of entrées (which top out at $16.95), chiles rellenos (pictured top)—the best I’ve had?—are covered in that same creamy tomato sauce, with a different homemade spicy tomato sauce on the side.
Tres leches (three-milk cake) is the perfect way to finish off your meal—tequila on the side is optional; Tlaquepaque's traditional hot sauce.
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For dessert, a warm tres leches cake tastes like it was made moments ago. And what the heck: a shot of tequila. “With Centenario or Don Julio, you can’t go wrong,” Victor says.
347 North Ave
(914) 654-2975; yelp.com/biz/tlaquepaque-restaurant-new-rochelle