I’m between meals. I’m hungry and I’m a little drunk. I need something, something I can eat with my hands. I need tacos.
There’s only one problem, where? There are obviously tacos in Bedstuy, but their authenticity and abundance isn’t even close to those of the West. They’re not hard to find, but here the taco has taken on a whole different roll. Brooklyn tacos are found at trendy bars with young people, and photogenic sconses. They are are often stuffed with things like bulgogi or roasted duck and topped with a pickled slaw, which is delicious but not what I’m looking for. Don’t even get me started on the “taco” trucks. They’re wheeled mirages that actually sell shawarma and egg sandwiches but they’ll whip up a taco if you want one. I don’t just want a taco! I want tripa, lengua, y carnitas. Yo quiero cabeza, buche, y nopales. I want a double-stacked silver dollar sized tortillas with chopped white onion, a spring of cilantro, homemade salsa with a wedge of lime and a model especial to wash it all down. And in the back of what looks like a closed bodega, I think I may have found what I’m looking for.
Everything changed when I stumbled into Chinantla. No one was behind the register, but I saw a dimly lite space in the back of the store. The closer I got the more I could make out the tiled floor, tables, and kitchen that smells of a grizzled plancha. I feel like I’ve walked through a tiny portal that I wasn’t supposed to find. The tv’s are playing Mexican news and highlights from Liga MX. A cowboy hat wearing man with a thick white mustache stares at me from a dark corner, sipping on his Budweiser. The waitress, who looks surprised to see me, tells me to take a seat at one of the tables. “¿Quieres tomar?” She asks. “Uno modelo, por favor.” I respond, parched and exalted in my discovery. She returns with my beer and asks me what I would like. “Dos tacos por favor, uno carnitas y uno lengua.” The tacos come out in about 6 minutes and they are everything I’ve been seeking. Small simple disks with a pile of meat, is that too much to ask. The carnitas is a tiny, yet heaping pile of crispy pork with dripping with fatty oils. The lengua is finely chopped and also has a nice crispy texture. These tacos are exactly what I’ve been craving, but what is even more special than the meal is where I’m eating it. I feel like I’m eating in somebody’s basement who decided to put out some tables and serve their neighborhood. It’s quite and dark but very homey at the same time. I couldn’t be happier to have fond this little gem, and I hope to find many more just it.
$3, Chinantla, 657 Myrtle Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205