In addition to my search for the best pizza, sushi, ramen, etc… I also love Mexican food (guacamole, salsa, tacos, burritos – yum!) and needed to find my favorite one in the upper east side, which is what brought me to El Paso Taqueria. I had already tried out Cascabel Taqueria and wasn’t super impressed so I was hoping this would become my go-to place. One of my co-workers recommended it, and his mom is from Mexico and he grew up in Texas so I figured he knew what he was talking about. Although I will admit I was a little skeptical when he told me it was on E. 97th between Park and Madison Ave. – it sounded like a hoity-toity neighborhood to me…
We got to El Paso Taqueria at an odd hour, it was almost 3pm on a Saturday and it had been raining all day so it was pretty empty. The place was cute and looked pretty authentic, it reminded me of a little Mexican hacienda with the brightly tiled tables and the picturesque mural on the wall. We were handed three menus, and I was slightly overwhelmed! Apparently we were in between lunch ending and dinner beginning so they gave us a lunch (brunch) menu, dinner menu with miscellaneous inserts, and a drink menu. The drinks were the easy part – I got a Jalapeño Margarita, and my friend got the Tequila Sunrise.
The margarita was actually quite refreshing, and not too spicy which I was worried about when I saw the slices of fresh jalapeño floating inside my drink! While we were still trying to decide on the entrées, we ordered the guacamole and chips which were excellent. I am a huge guacamole fan, and have eaten it in many restaurants, and this was one of the best ones I’ve had. All of the ingredients were fresh, it had a good balance of tomatoes and avocado, and had the perfect level of spiciness. The chips were very thin and crispy and paired very well with the chunky guac.
Now back to the menu, they have a very large dinner menu with all the expected options like tacos, burritos, fajitas, quesadillas etc. but also more traditional items like chilaquiles, tortas, and platos fuertes (literally “strong dishes”), and I just couldn’t decide what to have. I ended up going with the Burrito de Carnitas and my friend got the Carnitas Estilo Michoacan. I know I should have been more creative, but I decided to go with a known favorite.
Did I mention today was my cheat day on my slow carb diet? 🙂 My dish was huge and loaded with rice, beans, an enormous burrito, more guacamole and pico de gallo. It was sooo good! The burrito was filled with carnitas, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes and topped with melted cheese, green enchilada salsa, and crema fresca. I was very happy with my choice, and ate it all – I think I impressed our server!
I had a bite of my friend’s Carnitas which was oven roasted pork with tequila, orange juice, garlic and herbs. It was very flavorful, and I could really taste the tequila and citrus, but she did say it was a little too fatty.
We were both so full after our hearty portions of meat, rice and beans, but then our server brought over the dessert menu, and we couldn’t resist. I love Tres Leches, it is one of my favorite latin desserts, and I had never had the Mexican version so we went for it!
Tres leches is one of those desserts whose origin is highly disputed, I think the first time I had it was in a Cuban restaurant in South Florida, but a lot of Latin American countries have their varying versions. I really liked this one, it was less sweet than the Cuban ones, and it actually looked like a cake whereas I had always seen it served in a cup or small bowl. Also it was drizzled with chocolate and topped with nuts which was a nice salty and crunchy contrast to the sweet moist dessert.
Overall, I had a very good dining experience at El Paso Taqueria, it seemed like a very authentic (and homestyle) take on Mexican. I also noticed they have a $5 happy hour during the week which I may have to return to take advantage of!
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
El Paso Taqueria | 64 East 97th Street