Still reeling from my enlightening experience at The Grand Sichuan, I had no intentions of “ubereating” when Meghan and I decided to wander the weather-beaten streets of lower Manhattan on a recent Sunday afternoon.
“The Ubereater is off today”, I so proudly proclaimed to Meghan as we sauntered along the sidewalk.
Or so I thought.
While sitting in front of Gimme! Coffee (which brews great Joe by the way) on a sleepy part of Mott Street in Nolita, sipping my umpteenth coffee of the day and wondering why so many European tourists go for the “black-sock-white-shoe” look, I noticed a hotspot of activity across the street at Pinche Taqueria.
Remembering our afternoon excursion was not to be of the ubereating kind, I figured there was no harm in at least scoping out the place, grabbing a menu to go, and enjoying some cordial chit chat with the owners. There’s always next time right? It isn’t often that I’ll “court” an eatery like this, but something about Pinche told me I wouldn't be the one doing the seducing.
Five minutes later, like a predictably boring after-school special, I found myself having gone too far and without protection, as I waited patiently for my first order of tacos to come to the counter. If ubereating was my addiction, then I was dangerously close to relapsing.
Of course, like Barack Obama without the pin, a taqueria sans a respectable fish taco is controversial, and this thriving shop is well aware. Pinche’s version of this West Coast favorite (the Pescado on the menu) is true to form, adorning lightly-battered morsels of flash-fried mahi-mahi with thinly-shredded cabbage, a healthy dose of sweet cream, and a dash of pico de gallo, before being topped off with tongue-tickling spicy house-made guacamole. Crunchy, smooth, sweet, tangy, and spicy all at once, Pinche’s fish taco is everything in every bite, and the by the far the best I’ve come across in the city so far.
As I revel in my rampant restaurant-related recidivism, I realize the euphoric punch of the curiously hot table salsa I’ve been so liberally using to dress my eats, has completely annihilated any chance of abstaining from uber-consumption for the day. As I forgo all self-discipline at this point, I acquire further clarity in thought, leading me to another eye-opening conclusion: I must try the burrito.
In short, the burrito at Pinche Taqueria is the best I’ve ever had. Period…and I’ve eaten enough burrito’s to make Bill Richardson jealous. But such an emphatic, concise description does not do this work of art any justice. More thoughtfully, this proud pill-shaped pouch of cheese, refried beans, Carnitas (those moist chunks of succulent braised pork I’ve come to love so dearly), and that spicy guac, together unite in a sturdy, buttery soft, oven-warm tortilla that is as crucial to flavor as function; making this a necessary experience for all burrito-ficionados.
Of course, thanks to the myriad slop joints throughout the country, impish vegetables, soggy tortillas, watery Alpo-grade meat, and gag-reflex-testing gobs of commercial-sized canned sour cream, remain the bane of the burgeoning burrito’s arduous struggle to rise from the hangover-fueled fast food crap you get at Taco Bell, to a celebration in authentic, honest Mexican street food.
Fortunately, Pinche Taqueria is a refreshing reminder that it doesn’t have to be this way, and after eating this baby, I’m downright ashamed of myself.
Where have my standards been all these years? (And not just in terms of burritos by the way.)
As my stomach’s desperate cries for mercy finally reach my oxygen-deprived brain, the fleeting dopamine high us food addicts so readily seek, quickly gives way to another all-too-familiar psychological sensation…pain. And while the most effective remedy for this kind of impromptu ingurgitation is immediate mobility (and perhaps some well-deserved self-loathing), a glass of Pinche’s home made spice-infused rice-milk, a classic Mexican potable known as Horchata (below), certainly doesn’t hurt.
GOOD NEWS: Pinche Taqueria is slated to open its second location at Bleecker and Lafayette sometime in early August '08. WILL KEEP YOU UPDATED.
While in other Spanish-speaking countries, “pinche” (PEEN-chay) refers to a "kitchen boy or girl", in Mexico, the word carries a more interesting connotation. Instead, this colorful adverb is Mexican Spanish’s version of our notorious, and incredibly overused F-bomb.
That now said, though you may find its name strange, perhaps unamusing, or even offensive, I can assure you that when you taste what’s coming out of the kitchen at this feisty taco shop in quiet Nolita, Pinche! may very well be the first word out of your mouth.
It's ok, I won't tell anybody.
Pinche Taqueria (map it)
Ambiance: A (comfortable, relevant, and not the least bit overbearing)
Service: A (friendly people, Jeff the owner invited me to come back and taste the whole menu with him)
In a thought: Goodbye La Esquina, Hello Pinche Taqueria!