On Roosevelt Avenue, a Mexican Metamorphosis

There’s something in the air on the streets of Jackson Heights. One of the best of the latest wave of food vendors hawks superb gorditas and quesadillas in the afternoons on Roosevelt Avenue. “This woman is excellent,” declares Jim Leff. “The success of this vendor and Tacos Guicho a few blocks west has changed the tenor of local street food.” For one thing, more of the new vendors are female; for another, they’re moving beyond tacos and offering a more diverse menu of Mexican street bites.

Guicho’s tacos, made with store-bought tortillas, are not the don’t-miss order–though justinjh reports scoring some fine ones, filled with carnitas and served with arrestingly fresh garnishes and salsas. Instead, check out sopes and gorditas, handmade to order by the two women who run the cart and feed ever-growing queues of hungry neighbors. The other surprise here is that chicken–often forgettable at local Mexican street stands–is actually one of the best fillings. “That’s increasingly true,” Jim observes, “at least among cart people. Chicken’s the new pork.”

Farther west, another cart works a spot at Roosevelt and 75th from early morning through evening. scarey reports a good gordita (with bits of crunchy pork, cotija cheese, and medium-spicy green salsa) and a decent chicken and green chile tamale.

The renaissance in street eats is the best news in years for local chowhounds. “The state of food on Roos Ave has never been worse,” Jim laments. “The old bastions are coasting, and new places are fast-buck imitative crap. But the street food people have been keeping deliciousness alive for some time in this nabe (that’s why the restaurant owners are pushing so strongly to get rid of them). And they’re now in a quantum leap.”

Mexican street vendor [Jackson Heights]
Roosevelt Ave. (north side), between 85th and 86th Sts., Jackson Heights, Queens

Tacos Guicho cart [Jackson Heights]
Roosevelt Ave. (south side), at Baxter Ave., Jackson Heights, Queens

Mexican street vendor [Jackson Heights]
Roosevelt Ave. near 75th St., Jackson Heights, Queens

Board Links

gorditas on roosevelt
NYT Real Estate Section Article: Author Moves to Jackson Heights for the Food

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