Best Spot for Homesick Californians - 2013
Taqueria Lower East Side
Movie posters, Lakers paraphernalia, and Mexican kitsch dominate every square inch of wall space at Taqueria Lower East Side, a hallway-size Los Angeles-style taqueria on Orchard Street where the noise from the crowd can escalate into a brain-thumping din. But for those eaters missing the taco shacks of the West Coast, this spot will take the edge off, especially after you've sucked down a sweet-tart margarita and a Modelo or two. We start every meal with a dish of chunky guacamole, and then ask for a nopales (cactus) taco and something made with the carnitas. A carnitas taco, for instance, comes piled liberally with hot, peppery pig that's been slow-cooked into tender strands and crisped around the edges. Each bite renders a cascade of velvety pork juice, which blends with tart lime, the snap of piquant onions, and fresh cilantro in a soft corn tortilla. For more pork, opt for the tostada, which supplements the carnitas with ripe avocado, salty queso fresco, a drizzle of crema, and a pile of lettuce on a crunchy flat corn shell. We may not have the West's weather, but at least we can eat Mexican food that's every bit as good.