One of the canards I'm tired of hearing is how New York has no Mexican population or food. It's evident in lots of places around the city (East Harlem, Hunts Point, Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, Corona, Jackson Heights) that there's a large, growing Mexican population here. 5th Avenue in Sunset Park, from about 36th to 60th streets, to my mind, is the most concentrated Mexican neighborhood in the city.
In my quest for tasty Mexican food, I've sampled a lot of the restaurants there searching for the Platonic taco or torta. It's exploded for me the myth that there's no good Mexican food in New York, although, to be fair, that Platonic taco, that Mina-Sripraphai-DiFara's-level Mexican meal has still eluded me. I would grade the best that I've had as a solid B+, let's say, but not A yet.
I tried Marazul yesterday, on 5th Avenue and about 58th Street for lunch. Good taco al pastor and the dish of chilaquiles was strange - a bit soggy, but I guess that's how they're supposed to be - and very spicy (salsa verde!) which I appreciated. B+
La Flor De Piaxtla, at 42nd and 5th Avenue, was a godsend for a while, but the last time I went there, it had declined to about B level - again, just tried the tacos (no al pastor; I think I had suadero and something else with pork).
Tacos Matamoros, at 45th Street and 5th Avenue, is servicable. I went there a long time ago and can't remember what I had, except that it was unremarkable enough that I felt more compelled to try other places than return. B-.
Speedy's, which was recommended on this board (off the main drag, at 59th and 4th Avenue) had a delightful tamale and competent tacos al pastor (you can see the dish I'm trying for the most). Again, very good, but not mind-blowing (the standard I'm thinking is Chicago-level Mexican, which I'm familiar with and which is terrific). B+.
I went to Rico's (51st & 5th) a long time ago and didn't get the tacos, but the torta, which was alright. I guess I should have gotten the tacos. Is this place rated by Zagat's? I'm under the impression for some reason that it is, so I'll have to get over my Zagat's allergy. B.
There were two other places I've been to whose names I don't remember, one at about 48th right on 5th, and one in the 50s somewhere. I guess I don't remember them because they were nothing special.
It's hard not to feel like the Holy Grail of good Mexican lurks somewhere on 5th Avenue, however. I'll keep going there, and if worst comes to worst, I'll be left with Marazul and Speedy's, which is not a bad place to be left at. I'm also curious to know if anyone else has found that great Mexican dish out there or not.
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