59 down. 42 to go.
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. It’s just not true, especially when it comes to Mexican restaurants. It’s easy to judge the quality of food at a Mexican joint just by the looks of the place. Unlike most other types of food, Mexican abides by this golden rule: the dingier the place, the better the food. The most unassuming places will dish you the best fajitas. Some of the best tacos I’ve had are at places I wouldn’t take my mother to. And if you don’t leave the restaurant stuffed for a very reasonable fee, you were indeed ripped off.
On a rainy Wednesday evening, I headed to Hells Kitchen to meet Rusty and Dean-o-mac for a sandwich. For a part of the city that I always found rather pointless, there seem to be a lot of sandwiches on the list in this area. It’s an excuse to visit new places, and a nice reminder of why I don’t spend more time in this area. I would also like to point out that four of my last five sandwiches have included the company of Dean. Talk about dedication – over the last two weeks he’s aggressively made his way second place on the leader board. A lesson in perseverance for all.
Tulcingo del Valle looks like every other Mexican hole in the wall. On a normal day, I would’ve walked right past that generic storefront without thinking twice. However, today was not a normal. I walked straight through the front door as if I was destined to eat here my entire life. Since we were the only people in the restaurant, the wait wasn’t an issue. We ordered some Nachos Texano aka nachos, a round of cervesas, and a round of cemitas.
A cemita is Mexico’s take on a sandwich. It’s typically served on a sesame seed bun with ingredients including, but not limited to, sliced avocado, seasoned meat, melted cheese and spicy salsa. The Cemita al Pastor, the Roast Pork Cemita, was all that and more. And unlike the last Mexican sandwich I had at RICOOOOOOOOOOOOOS, this one was completely manageable, was restricted to one type of meat instead of four, and didn’t give me nightmares. The sandwich was extremely flavorful without being overbearing. The sweetness of the pineapple really stood out, while the chipotle peppers and papalo herbs added a nice spicy balance. The seasoned pork mushed together with avocado and refried beans was the heart and sole of the sandwich. And lastly, the stringy Oaxaca cheese kept you coming back for more.
Now, I’m a taco guy. Rarely do I branch out and order something different. A vegetarian taco is about as far out there as I get. Normally my eyes would scan right over the “Torta and Cemita” section of the menu. Today, was an opportunity to try something new and experience a part of Mexico I’m unfamiliar with. And you know what? Next time, I may not be so quick to place my usual order.
Tulcingo del Valle | 665 10th Avenue between 46th and 47th Streets