Tacos on the UWS
Tacombi: The Yucatan Delivers
Tacombi’s fresh corn esquites salad is mixed with spicy morita mayo and cotija cheese.
Location matters more than ever these days with traffic often creeping. If I want tacos — and yes, I often do — there is Playa Betty’s, a five minute walk from my hacienda. No way can I resist “Tot” Chos — tater tots decked out in nacho excess. Preceded by guacamole and followed by a trio of tacos, California-beach style.
At Playa Betty’s the guacamole comes with a collection of add-ons.
At Playa Betty’s the tacos come with a blast of noise and music you can barely hear.
We would try to score a table against the far wall and numb the painful clamor with margaritas while gorging on way too many chips and guacamole, possibly with Playa’s dozen different toss-ons. So maybe we don’t desperately need a nearby branch of Tacombi — “born on the balmy beaches of the Yucatan, serving authentic Mexican tacos out of a converted VW bus.”
Tables are widely spaced in the vast canteen that used to be Sugar and Plumm, now Tacombi UWS.
There is already a Tacombi in Nolita, on Bleecker Street, in Flatiron, across from the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and on the ground floor of the Empire State Building. But I didn’t really notice Tacombi until it moved into the sprawling space that used to be Sugar & Plumm, “Purveyors of Yum,” forty-three hundred square feet of sugar and fat.
For a while the vast canteen was echoing from the din of careering toddlers racing in pursuit of each other. But now as Tacombi, the tables are spaced far apart and family groups seem to have their young’uns mostly in check.
Aiming the camera at Valentina, our server, sends her into Hollywood poses.
It’s a challenge to get a server’s attention. And the margaritas aren’t remarkably thrilling, but they’re good enough to chase away the insults of a bruising workday. On the corner of each table in a steel napkin dispenser, a cache of stainless tableware and paper straws.
Tacombi’s house-made chips are excellent for scooping up guacamole.
My niece Dana’s friend Carol travels as a jewelry saleswoman. Tonight we discuss trends and bosses, husbands, and the tricks of travel. The chatter goes well with guacamole con totopos (the excellent chips are house-made).
I ordered a second portion of corn esquites when Carol discovered how good the first one was.
I seem to be the only one eating the zippy corn esquites. Sweet summer corn makes me happy. I finish one large $3.95 of the street salad and order another in case Dana and Carol decide to taste it.
Dana cuts each taco into three portions for sharing. This is barbacoa beef.
Tacos — pollo yucateco (marinated chicken), barbacoa (slow roasted angus beef) and al pastor (Mexico City-style pork with pineapple) — take a while to appear and sort out. The beer-battered Atlantic haddock in poblano mayo is especially good. I take a tiny corner of someone’s seared Atlantic pollock with chile salsa.
Marinated chicken taco and beer-battered Atlantic haddock.
I pass on the tacos and order the gobernador quesadilla with tight little nubbins of seared shrimp and dried chile salsa. Maybe next time I’ll try super egg tacos con pastor or a gringa quesadilla with pork.
“What do you have for dessert?” Carol asks Valentina, our server.
“Nothing,” she replies. “We don’t do dessert.”
The gobernador quesadilla is scattered with tight little nubbins of shrimp and dried chile salsa.
We pretend to be deeply offended…And maybe we actually are a little put off.
“There’s an ice cream store next door,” Valentina informs us.
Outside, it’s starting to rain again and Dana grabs a taxi. We drive past the ice cream shop. “Hey, what about ice cream?” I ask as we head down Broadway. “Probably best to forget it,” we agree. At 73rd Street, Carol grabs her rolling suitcase from the trunk of the taxi and runs into the subway. I imagine her jewelry samples flashing rubies and emeralds. Brave broad.
377 Amsterdam Avenue between 78th and 79th Street. 646 822 3383. Sunday through Thursday 11 am to 11 pm. Friday and Saturday 11 am to Midnight.