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Step aside, Sunset Park, for Church Ave

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Restaurants & Bars 7

Step aside, Sunset Park, for Church Ave

JackS | Nov 27, 2005 09:14 PM

When I moved to Church Avenue in Brooklyn a year ago, I thought that it would expand my West Indian cuisine horizons. With a couple of notable exceptions though (like Nio's), the West Indian options around here are pretty mediocre. No, what has tickled my chow palate has been the surprising number of Mexican food options around Church, from East 18th Street to East 8th Street.

When you get off the Q train at Church Ave on weekend nights and start walking west, there's an unobtrusive middle-aged Mexican guy sitting on a fold-up stool with a shopping cart that looks like it's lined with a large black plastic bag. One of my neighbors told me that he sells tamales, and one night I approached him and in my poor Spanish, asked "tiene tamales?" No license, no health code inspection, but damn if it wasn't a delightful, moist, spicy tamale. We now hoard them in the freezer and microwave them for a tasty snack.

If you turn east out of the Q stop and then go a couple of doors south of Church Avenue on East 18th, there's a slightly more legitimate-looking taco stand called "El Tamal". They sell both tamales and tacos there, but the star there is the barbacoa (goat) tacos. Tortillas are just moist enough, the meat is just gamey enough but still delicious, and they give you a little plastic bag with the pico de gallo and limes that you can apply to your heart's content.

Continuing further west on Church Avenue, between Westminster and Argyle is La Huasteca, kind of the opposite end of the legitimacy spectrum from the tamale guy. The place is very nice, and it's obvious that they're making a real effort. The problem is that the food is merely servicable at best, especially compared with other local options. Tacos and tamales aren't particularly worth it, but they make a perfectly lovely torta with a variety of choices for meat. Dinner dishes I've had there have been unthrilling, though, and the place is painfully empty whenever I walk by.

OK, so it's not on Church Avenue, but within striking distance of it is Mexico Lindo y Q! Rico Deli on Coney Island Avenue just south of Albemarle (which practically runs into Church Ave). It looks like a regular deli from the outside, but they have a couple of tables in there. The tacos are the thing: the barbacoa, which they have on the weekends, is perfection in goat meat, and the al pastor ain't no slouch either. The couple of tables they've got have generous bowls of jalapenos in -- I don't know -- jalapeno juice? -- that you can liberally sprinkle on your tacos along with the limes they give you. Rico y Lindo indeed.

At Church and East 8th Street is La Taqueria Poblano, which I've posted about before. Tasty tacos al pastor, but the real treat here is the cemita -- I always get the cemita al pastor -- which is a Mexican sandwich with a toasted sesame bun laden with pork and trimmings that I can't summon to mind right now because they blend into a bite if bliss.

OK, so maybe it doesn't add up to the wealth of choices in Sunset Park (sorry about the provocative subjetc heading!) but this profusion of Mexican treats was a very pleasant surprise.

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