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Restaurants & Bars 22

The Best Mexican I Ever Found in NYC

Jim Leff | Jun 23, 2017 07:46 PM

Big discovery! For photos, see my blog <http://jimleff.blogspot.com/2017/06/t...>, but note that this is the same text. BTW, along same lines, see "The Best Sichuan I've Ever Found in NYC" <https://www.chowhound.com/post/sichua...> from a few months ago, and "The Best North Indian I've Ever Found in NYC" <https://www.chowhound.com/post/north-...>.

Cienaga Grocery And Deli (10432 Corona Ave, Corona; 347-353-2366) is the best Mexcian I've ever found in the five boroughs.

Understand that I don't make this claim lightly. I'm deeply dialed into Mexican food, and I don't even bother with most of the known names. I only hit up a few obscure secret holes in walls (Sin Dulce in Yonkers and Port Chester, is atop my list right now). So this doesn't blow away some spot-lit West Village place. It blows away the good places!

They're a short walk from another contender, Tortilleria Nixtamal (104-05 47th Ave, Corona), which many of you know. But the food's in an entirely different league.

They're Oaxacan! A whole other state, and a whole other cuisine, from the south of Mexico (this cuisine is, of course, covered in my app, Eat Everywhere, if you're unfamiliar http://www.eateverywhere.cc).

Like nearly every nabe-facing (as opposed to gringo-foodie-facing) Oaxacan restaurant in this country, they offer a lot of standard items (tacos, sopes, barbacoa, al pastor - none of which are really Oaxacan....also, grimace, burritos, mentioned as inconspicuously on the menu as possible), but all made, it seems, with a Oaxacan touch (understand I'm extrapolating here....I have not explored the menu yet). And they make ultra-hard-to-find tlayudas and tlacoyos! Plus, a holy grail of mine, panbazos. But I didn't order any of those things.

I spotted a pan full of thick sauce and nuggets of meat, and ordered it on impulse. The sauce was a magical concoction of very smokey chiles (not chipotles, I don't believe) and cumin, and it nearly made me faint. The chicken was just brilliant - not dried out, not generic protein, but some of the best on-bone chicken chunks you'll have this year. That never happens!

It was served with meticulously moist, soulful rice, and correct black beans. Don't expect Cuban style just because they're black - no oregano, no onion, these are more homely and grounded, prepared like northern states make (non-refried) pintos. Earthy, not jazzy.

Along with this, the best horchata I've ever had north of the border (check out the residue in the bottom of my cup).

The tortillas are super high quality but, strangely, not from Nixtamal 1/4 mile away. They make them themselves, and they're super.

Service is kind, but tersely diffident. Not much opportunity to ask questions. And don't expect to see an array of show-offish mole dishes. One homey special is offered per day (like the one I had), and it will have sauce which may or may not be a formal Oaxacan mole. Remember, for these guys, molé's just food, not a whole romantic to-do. I will, however, do whatever's necessary to find, cajole, or special order tamales with black mole (might have to wait for a holiday).

Tortillería Nixtamal,
Sin Dulce,
Cienega Las Tlayudas de Oaxaca Mexican Cuisine
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