No matter how much New Yorkers try to claim their city’s superiority in various areas—culture, music, fashion, 24-hour delivery of anything you desire—there is one category in which we must concede defeat: availability of good, authentic Mexican food. California has always had us beat in this department. It’s not that we are unaware of the problem. It’s just that, like many great quandaries of the day, we don’t know how to fix it.
Fortunately, two brothers from San Francisco, Leo and Oliver Kremer, arrived in the city determined to recreate Mission-style Mexican here in New York. The new Dos Toros taqueria near Union Sqare provides a much-needed upgrade to the Mexican food situation in Manhattan, which, unlike Brooklyn and Queens, hasn’t benefited from the recent uptick in good taquerias.
A couple of the items are skippable, like the ho hum guacamole ($2.53), which paled in comparison to the great guac we just had at Viva in Red Hook. But in some kind of California miracle, the tomatoes in the zingy salsa are incredibly fresh, tangy and juicy for this time of year. Mixed with sweet white onion and cilantro and served with homemade chips ($2.07 for both), this salsa could almost convince you it’s still summer.
The main item of interest here is the burrito. Though it is more Tex-Mex than Mexican to put rice in the burrito instead of alongside, Dos Toros gets this Mission-style Mexican just right. A balanced melding of spicy and mild flavors, Dos Toros’ carnitas burrito ($7.35) combines slow-cooked, shredded, juicy pork with tender black beans, rice, cheese, salsa, sour cream and a green hot sauce expertly wrapped so that it’s easy to eat – almost too easy. It’s a meaty bundle that starts off as pleasantly tasty then gets more complex as the smokiness of the beans and slow burn of the hot sauce hit. The cheese is melted into the flour tortilla before wrapping for ideal cheese distribution.
Another thing Dos Toros gets right is the corn tortillas, which have a slightly spongy texture and fresh corn taste and come layered two to a taco. Better to get it with pork or beef though; the chicken here is comparatively lackluster ($3.67 each taco).
It must be a spice rub that gives the grilled steak in the carne asado quesadilla ($5.97) such deep flavor for take-out food. This too is shredded and juicy and served on a just barely oily flour tortilla with the cheese melted right onto it.
The laid-back atmosphere is already attracting a California kind of crowd: expect to see at least one Patagonia jacket and one skateboard when you visit. And though it’s served quickly, Dos Toros is only fast food in that sense. The utensils, cups, napkins, and bags are biodegradable, and the chicken is locally raised on a vegetarian diet. Another upside to the Californication of New York’s Mexican scene: the music at Dos Toros—with tunes by MGMT and Vampire Weekend—is much, much better than a mariachi band on repeat.
137 Fourth Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets
New York, NY