Part taqueria, part deli, part bodega…..Zaragoza Mexican Deli & Grocery is unexpectedly and yet almost perfectly New York. Years ago I heard whispers of a taco joint in the back of a Mexican bodega but it’s legend seemed to escape my food hungry mind until last week.
With a dinner date scheduled with my Cali-girl (and taco lover) Kara on the books, the place somehow managed to leap into the forefront of my mind. Having been years since I heard its name, a quick tweet inquiring as to anyone who knew the place brought a barrage of responses and recommendations….”ZARAGOZA,” “Get the lamb tacos,” “Go early!” And so after four years Kara and I headed east to finally get our taco on!
On Avenue A between 13th and 14th Street, Zaragoza seems just as at home in New York as it would at the Texas/Mexican border. Upon approach, I thought I may be at the wrong spot…but two steps in and it felt comfortable and inviting. A total hole-in-the-wall, Zaragoza delivers an unexpected experience. There are three tables crammed into the narrow space flanked by brightly painted walls, a jukebox that looks like it hasn’t seen power in decades and a wall of refrigerated drinks serving up Mexican Cokes, water, Jarritos, Juices, and the like.
At 6pm we were the only two people in the place and were quickly approached by our cute hipster looking server who, surrounded by Mexican men, weirdly didn’t look out-of-place. The menus hang from the wall behind the “kitchen,” which is basically a few steam tables and a small area where a cutting board lies. I was surprised to see more than just tacos here as I was told the tacos were the only thing I needed to get but tortas, enchiladas, rice & beans, chips/salsa, quesadillas and burritos can also be ordered. They serve four different meats although they change according to the day. The lamb came highly recommended but the owner, Ruben, talking to us after our meal, said I had to come back on the weekends for the specialty. So instead I was given the choice of shredded chicken, beef tongue, pork or crispy pig ear.
I went with beef tongue, pork and chicken tacos, a guava Jarrito, and a side of rice and beans. Within minutes our order arrived and we went to town. Take a look at the below photo…how colorful and delicious does that plate look? Well, imagine eating that taco plate! The tacos aren’t bigger than your palm but each one is very flavorful and filling. The meat of all three of my choices was so tender, the vegetables in the pico de gallo so fresh, and a healthy amount of spice in each bite. I didn’t need to add the accompanying red and green salsas given alongside but Kara went to town saying she could kick it up a notch (I for the record am a bit of a spice puss…but I’m getting better and more adventurous!).
I could have eaten three more they were so good but we had some drinking to do (this may be the first bodega I’ve been to in the East Village that doesn’t carry alcohol in some form) around the corner and didn’t wanna overdo it!
Zaragoza is fast, simple, tasty, authentic and CHEAP! 7 tacos, 2 drinks, and an order of rice and beans came to $25! A part of me wants to keep this place all to myself, because I don’t want them to get too popular and lose their charm but when you’re serving up food this good and for that cheap…the word is bound to get out!
215 Avenue A (between 13th and 14th Streets)