Taco Tour: Los Mexicanos 14th Street Taco Cart

Is it possible to find redemption in a taco? It is when you find food this good. Los Mexicanos "La Poblanita" taco cart promises home cooking, and if this is what Mexican home cooking tastes like, I live in the wrong country. Unfortunately, only on Sundays will you find these ladies grilling meat, stuffing tacos, and even patting out fresh flour tortillas for deep-fried quesadillas. Their predominant customer base is the Mexican congregants of Our Lady of Guadalupe church on 14th between 8th and 9th Avenues, and along with the taco cart, there are other venders selling other Mexican treasures such as horchata, elote, and fruit on a stick. It's all very authentic, and everyone is super friendly.

Everything looked and smelled delicious, so I was having a difficult time choosing what to order. I asked the woman what was the best and she recommended the barbacoa. That makes sense, as barbacoa de cabeza is a traditional Sunday Mexican dish. I also ordered the pernil. While the flour tortillas were homemade, the corn tortillas were from a bag. But they threw them on the well-oiled grill so they were perfectly cooked with terrific texture, taste and support. They are generous with the meat and you also have the option to load up the tacos with three salsas, cilantro, onions and lettuce. But this meat is so sublime, you could get away with just eating the meat and tortillas by themselves, these tacos don't need any enhancements.

First, the barbacoa: I've been looking for proper bar-b-que in this town, and I finally found it. The meat tasted of smoke and spices, yet was so tender it melted in my mouth. The pernil, while not as delectable as the barbacoa, was still amazing. Crispy yet not too chewy, also perfectly spiced and with just enough fat to make me happy. The three salasa all had the perfect balance of flavor and heat, and were all so different I used all three. There were two green salsas, an avocado and tomatillo salsa (that was so popular they were almost out of it) and a brightly flavored jalapeno, cilantro, tomatillo and lime salsa. The red salsa was rich and deep, and tasted like a blend of pureed anchos with tomatoes and garlic. Los Mexicanos also has big buckets of cilantro, onions and lettuce--enough to make taco salad if you like. When you dress your taco, everything is in harmony. And the double tortillas are a perfect wrap to keep this meal intact. There's no place to sit, but I had no problem standing and eating--these ladies have mastered taco architecture. And they're also parked under a row of trees, so it's shady and cool, a perfect respite on a hot summer day.

I can't say enough good things about these tacos. All I know is that if I hadn't been full, I would have ordered everything else on the menu. Too bad I have to wait another week to return, but you know where I'll be next Sunday.

Recommendation: Barbacoa is sublime, but it's all good
Score: 9 (I wish they had fresh corn tortillas)
Location: 14th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue, south side of street, Manhattan