Summer Sojourns: The Battle of the Tostadas

Cafe Mexicano from Taqueria Tlaxcalli.
Last summer my kids and I searched for ices in the five boroughs of NYC. From Di Cosmos in Rockaway Beach to L&B Spumoni Gardens in Brooklyn, we ate our way through lemon, cherry, fruit cocktail, birthday cake, and avocado ices that were piled high in paper cups. It was a labor of love that lasted ten short weeks, and we often talk about the experience with family and friends while licking our lips.

This summer I thought it might be fun to do the ABC's of New York City food. The idea is to find foods and restaurants that begin with every letter of the alphabet, then blog about it. When I first told my kids about it, they looked at me like I was nuts. When I asked them why they were regarding me like the crazy rabbi in town that was arrested for impersonating a cop (toy badge and all), they told me that it was too much. They didn't want to spend their entire summer riding the rails or playing backseat driver while we hunted down 26 different foods from 26 different places. Hmm, I had to agree with them. So I changed it to 26 different foods OR restaurants, and they seemed willing to play along.

Our first outing was to a Mexican restaurant called Taqueria Tlaxcalli on Starling Avenue in the Bronx. The reviews on this place from the New York Times, New York Magazine, and TimeOut NY were all fairly decent, so we had high expectations. We tried the tostadas, tacos dorados, and quesadillas. The first thing I noticed that it was drenched in sour cream and cheese. And when I took a bite of my taco, the meat was dry and the taco shell was burnt. The tostadas did have an equal amount of shredded lettuce and steak, but it lacked flavor. the quesadillas were also a bit on the bland side. I ordered a Cafe Mexicano and it tasted of artificial flavoring. We left very disappointed. I hope that we visited on an "off" day for the taqueria, and but I don't think we will be coming back.

To remind my kids that there are some pretty awesome tostadas to be eaten locally, we took a trip to Mister Taco in New Rochelle, NY. Yes, it is NOT within the boundaries of NYC, but it is one of the best Mexican restaurants I've been to in the Tri-State Area. It's a run-down joint with faded pictures on the wall, the plates are plastic, and the jukebox in the front isn't even plugged in. Ah, ambiance. During the week you will only find a random stray from a neighboring town hunkered down in one of the scant booths and happily eating. But during the weekends, you can't even get in the front door because the place is packed.

We ordered beef tostadas, a beef burrito, a taco de lengua (beef tongue), and a taco tripa (tripe). It was the perfect temperature, the right balance of meat to shredded lettuce, and everything was flavored to perfection. The beef was moist, the lengua was tender, and the tripa was firm but not chewy. Nothing needed sour cream or hot sauce. But we did throw on copious amounts of hot sauce because it's made right behind the counter--and it's delicious. I often contemplate the consequences of stealing their hot sauce bottle.


So there you have it: Mister Taco wins the battle of the tostadas. And we've completed the letters M (for Mexican) and T (tostadas, tacos) of our ABCs of NYC food.