This past weekend, Shef and I took in a little bit of culture at P.S.1 where we caught the Olafur Eliasson exhibit. Not only did his art make me want to take up a life dedicated to creating cool ass sculptures and installations that challenge people’s perception and even ideas of perception, it also made me hungry. So we caught the train to Jackson Heights. Now I’ve always associated this neighborhood with discomfort – the discomfort of feeling my distended belly stretching the seams of my elastic pants from gorging on Indian food at places like Jackson Diner or any of the numerous chaat houses lining the street. But now, I will also associate Jackson Heights with anxiety – the anxiety of not being able to decide what kind of meat to have with my next taco or if my stomach can even accommodate the next taco.
Most folks are familiar with Jackson Heights being home to some great Indian or maybe more generally speaking South Asian cuisine. But it’s also a kick ass spot for Latin American food, more important, Mexican food and even more important, taco stands. In fact right when we got out of the subway station on Roosevelt Ave we quickly changed our plans to eat at a sit down spot and went straight to the taco stands about 20 feet away. It was the right choice.
Shef checked out the taco stand numero uno while I made a bee line for numero dos which listed sopes on the side menu. It was as if the cart had been reading my mind, because I was totally craving a sope. For real. So I got al pastor taco ($2) because that’s my favorite and it’s kind of my gauge or measuring stick for how to rate a taco place. That measuring stick was good. The al pastor was nice and moist with good spice and the tang that I like. After the taco, I polished off the sope con chorizo ($3) and that was good too. Not as good as the taco because I feel like the refried beans and lettuce kind of got in the way of the chorizo, but I have nobody to blame for myself. That’s how sopes usually come. I guess I like the idea of sopes more than the actual thing. Next time, straight tacos, all the way. Which is what Shef did at taco stand numero uno. She got one carne asada taco and one chorizo taco ($2 each). The carne asada was kick ass: juicy, tender and super flavorful. The chorizo on hers? Well, it was a little too orange and not as flavorful as the chorizo on my sope. Still, it was chorizo which means it was scarfed down in no time.
Alright so after tacos we decided to walk down Roosevelt and check out what else would be good to put in our mouths. We made it about three feet when we stopped at a tamale cart and got un tamal with a roasted jalapeño which provide a good amount of heat, but that didn’t stop me from adding a good bit of salsa picante. It wasn’t the best tamale in the world, but for a buck (!) it was pretty damn good.
And it was a good thing that we had the tamale to fuel our three block walk to our next eating session. This time it was a truck that specialized in Ecuadorian seafood items. Perusing the menu we settled on encebollado de pescado, which is basically a fish soup made with tuna lots of onions. It was good and somehow having a nice soup of fish and onions was a nice topper to the tacos. I’m sure the people on the subway trip back home really appreciated that we had eaten it (read what you will into that). Though this was definitely the priciest item of the day at $7 for a pint sized container it was well worth it and the fact that across the street there was crime tape where the police where investigating a shooting made it even more worth. I mean where else but in NYC can you eat Ecuadoran fish soup and watch police process a crime scene?
So what does one eat as a dessert to top off tacos, a sope, a tamale and ecuadorian fish soup? Well, if one is like me, one eats one more taco. This time instead of a taco stand we tried a taqueria appropriately named Tacolandia. I just couldn’t pass on a name like that. Confronted with a plethora of meat choices at the counter I made the last minute decision to go with carne enchilada -strips of pork marinated in spices and either grilled or basically stir fried. At least that’s what I was expecting. What I got was more like chunks of pork in a thick red sauce, like chile colorado but with pork. It was good but not great and owing to the fact that it was not at all what I envisioned when I ordered it and it was difficult to taste the meat through all the sauce. Sadly, I was a little disappointed by this last taco of the day. Next time when I want to shove one more taco into my already bloated stomach, I’m sticking to the stands.