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Restaurants & Bars 23

Like Your Mexican Grandma Cooking for You

Jim Leff | Sep 25, 2017 12:55 PM

This Oaxacan kitchen in Corona, Queens: https://www.chowhound.com/post/mexica...
....is absolutely fantastic, though no one seems to have picked up the tip. It's great home-style cooking, sort of a hybrid of Oaxacan and more northern Mexican cuisines. I honestly think you can't do much better, even in Mexico, if you opt for the sort of dishes I recommended in that posting.

But I found a place in White Plains that's a new level.

La Frontera Taqueria Deli  
257 Battle Ave, White Plains, NY
914-607-7684

It's not at all Oaxacan (which is sort of a culinary world unto its own), so it offers a window into more mainstream and widespread Mexican cookery. And it's pure grandmotherliness. This is how kids eat in Mexico when they come home from school and grandma cooks for them. It's all permeated with love, and utterly transportive. This is the serious stuff. We shouldn't be able to just walk in here and eat this. Usually you need to marry into a family.

In my new smartphone app, "Eat Everywhere", I stress that the tacos, tortas, and tamales everyone associates with Mexican food are very segregated items. They're street food. Fast food. You eat everything with bits of tortilla, anyway (as Arabs pinch mezze with bits of pita bread), so tacos are sort of like hors d'oeuvres, fussily pre-pinched for easy consumption. Grandma is probably not going to make you tacos, any more than an American grandma is likely to make corn dogs.

Most Mexican restaurants in the Northeast specialize in meaty manly griddled items, but that's not really the cuisine. We have a false impression. And this place (paradoxically calling itself a taqueria to pander to confused gringos) is the antidote.

Stick to steam table items. You can't go wrong.

I just had a chicken in creamy smokey chipotle sauce, with fluffy, brothy, slightly al-dente rice, and it was devastating. I asked for some chile (the "Eat Everywhere" app explains that Mexicans don't think of this as "hot sauce" so much as a liquid form of the (near-worshipped) chile, so just ask for "chile" (CHEE-leh), not salsa), and it was miraculous. I'd have gladly paid my twelve bucks just for that squirt bottle and a stack of tortillas.

I drank an agua de jamaica (hah-MEH-kah) i.e. hibiscus drink, ala Red Zinger - and it came on tart, but the tartness is immediately mitigated by the sugar, which is immediately mitigated by the tartness. A really great jamaica has that trippy yin-yang effect. Never experienced that north of the border before.

Super nice people, too. And chronically empty, so go a lot and tell your friends.

I should note that I raved about this same location a number of years ago. That place closed, a couple of lousy upstarts opened and closed, and now we have this.

Also note that Ruth's Jamaican, next door, is good-not-great, but makes a few VERY hard-to-find treats, such as Jamaican tamales (called "blue drawers" or "tie-leaf").

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