Not far from East Harlem and its hole-in-the-wall taquerias is a slightly upscale newcomer, Cascabel. thew has room in his rotation for both high and low.
At $7.50 a pair these tacos are pricier than the competition downmarket and uptown, but they’re also “a cut above in concept.” thew loves the carne asada (achiote hanger steak with oyster mushroom) and roasted shrimp (with chile oil, black beans, garlic, and oregano), among other fillings. Yellowtail (with olive, onion, and heart of palm) is tasty if a touch underseasoned, but you can crank it up with an array of fresh table salsas—tomatillo, roasted tomato, and a couple of hotter choices.
Beyond tacos, check out pork belly gorditas (with chipotle-honey glaze), quinoa and black beans with queso fresco, or a jalapeño-spiked salad of Bibb lettuce and fingerling potatoes called the Luchador (yes, they’ve got a Mexican wrestling thing going on here). Little Cupcake would pass on the smallish, round churros, which brought to mind Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins, but would go back for the upbeat vibe and the amazing hot chocolate.
1542 Second Avenue (between E. 80th and 81st streets), Manhattan
Board Link: Cascabel Taqueria–UES