SSPNY's Downtown Taco Tour! 

SSPNY's Downtown Taco Tour!

SSPNY gets ready to eat with our hands on our downtown taco tour!

SSPNY'S DOWNTOWN TACO TOUR!

No question, we're living through some sort of Golden Age of Tacos these days in the East Village/Lower East Side/Nolita part of town. Yes, it's been pretty great around here for tacos lovers (eg, me) for some time now, with the likes of Tacombi at Fonda Nolita, the two Pinche Taquerias, Hecho en Dumbo, and Alex Stupak's marvelous Empellon Cocina, among other spots. But in the last few months a whole slew of new taco joints have opened in SSPNY territory down here, five of which I've been able to try so far. Here's the report from the field, in order of excellence.  

SSPNY enjoyed the chicken liver tacos at Chef Danny Bowiens hotspot Mission Cantina!
Mission Cantina 
Chef Danny Bowien's joint has been slammed every night since it opened in November, and rightly so: not only is this place a total blast (the crowd, the music, the decor), but the tacos are terrific, generously portioned, and come in a wide variety of classic and creative combos. The Chicken Liver is awesome, for example, but so is the pork-and-pineapple Al Pastor. And the rest of the Mission Cantina menu--the non-taco sections--may be even better. Located on Orchard and Stanton. More info here. 

According to SSPNY, the tortillas at Otto's Tacos were not something to miss!

Otto's Tacos 
Two things make the newish Otto's Tacos exciting: excellent, well-but-not-overly marinated toppings (the shrimp and carne asada are personal favorites); and even more excellent tortillas. The tortillas are unique in that they're made from masa flour (and they're made right there up front, which is fun to watch), which makes them thicker, and more chewy, than your usual corn jobbers. Filling, too! Also good: the masa fries, with spicy dipping sauce. Located on Second Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets. More info here.       

  
Tacos Morelos new shop served up excellent fare, according to SSPNY!
Tacos Morelos 
Even though this modest spot has only been open since the fall, Tacos Morelos is no stranger to the neighborhood; the Taco Morelos cart has been a fixture on 2nd Street and Avenue A for years. But now the crew has gone brick-and-mortar, albeit on a small scale (there are maybe 10 seats here), and the results are more than a little satisfying. I tried two of their tacos just the other night, a spicy Mexican Sausage and a lively Shrimp, and both were first-rate. I was less delighted by the Cemita sandwich, which I thought too bready, but others have said only good things about these, and the rest of the extensive Tacos Morelos menu. Located on 9th Street near Avenue A. More info here. 
      
Tacquitoria's creations were smothered in delicious cheese and sauce. SSPNY loved 'em!
 
Tacquitoria 
This narrow, ramshackle spot on Ludlow has late-night drunk food written all over it--and it definitely does the job, if that's what you're looking for--but Tacquitoria is also surprisingly successful at delivering high-quality ingredients in smartly-balanced bursts of favor. Think snack-sized tortilla tubes, filled with your choice of meat, smothered in cheese and sauce. Maybe it's not so surprising, actually: Tacquitoria is run by a trio of Marc Forgione vets, and they clearly know their way around the kitchen. Anyway, these are good, and fun to eat. Located on Ludlow Street, just north of Stanton. More info here. 
         
Sadly, SSPNY thought Sembrado did not live up to the hype!
Sembrado 
Finally, I had high hopes for Sembrado, opened last summer by Danny Mena of Hecho en Dumbo renown, but unless things have changed since my day one dinner, I'd say skip it. Not that Sembrado is an unpleasant place to be--in fact, this is by far the prettiest of the bunch--but the tacos are so meagerly fortified, that even if you spend $25 to get the necessary five to fill you up, each bite leaves you wanting. One interesting thing here: the spectacularly chewy Chicharron de Queso, which is like a fruit roll-up made from grilled edam. Located on 13th Street between 1st and A. More info here.

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