Picnic in the Park With Vegetarian Tortas and Tacos From La Esquina

Aguacate con queso torta at La Esquina
Aguacate con queso torta at La Esquina
Tara Mahadevan for the Village Voice

La Esquina (114 Kenmare Street; 646-613-7100) sits on the axis of Kenmare Street, a block past the point where Lafayette forks into Centre. The restaurant has the façade of a vintage bodega, with its neon "Corner Deli" sign and walk-up windows. By the looks of it, you would never know it's actually the home of three different Mexican eateries, each with a unique menu.

The Brasserie, Café, and Taqueria have separate dining areas within the space; the Brasserie, which requires reservations, is located at the end of a narrow stairway in the restaurant's basement; the Café offers first-come, first-served outdoor seating; the Taqueria has seating inside at shared tables (or you can order outside at the to-go windows).

Executive chef Adrian Ramirez is reworking all the menus to include more vegetarian options, starting with the Taqueria. "I think it’s very important these days for people to eat a bit more healthy and have many different vegetarian options," Ramirez says. "Vegetarianism is not a cultural thing in Mexico, but I found it to be a necessary addition."

Ramirez, a native of Mexico City, has enjoyed a prolific career as a chef in New York. He came to the United States fourteen years ago, jumpstarting his career as a line cook. He worked as a chef at Tacombi and Dos Caminos Meatpacking, and opened his own taqueria near Union Square before settling in to his role at La Esquina.

We visited on a pleasant spring day and ordered at the Taqueria window, with the thought in mind to eat across the street at Petrosino Square. We tried the aguacate con queso torta ($7.50) — avocado, queso fresco, black-bean spread, lettuce, tomato, onion, and chipotle mayo served on a baguette.

In Mexico, tortas are traditionally served on a white sandwich roll. Taqueria's baguette was crusty and chewy, and the black beans and avocado added a creamy quality. The lettuce gave the sandwich a welcome crunch, the chipotle mayo a spicy kick. And queso fresco, the most texturally interesting ingredient in the sandwich, was similar to cottage cheese, but firmer and saltier.

Plátanos machos fritos
Plátanos machos fritos
Tara Mahadevan for the Village Voice

Plátanos machos fritos ($4.00) — sweet plantains, salsa verde, and queso fresco — formed a great side. The plantains, firm and soft, were only slightly sweet, and the queso fresco, as with the torta, provided a salty punch, which contrasted well with the fruit and the salsa verde. 

A couple of new dishes that Ramirez and his team are rolling out for the Taqueria include plantain tacos and a coches quesadilla, which will feature Mexican truffles and have a vegan option.

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La Esquina

114 Kenmare St.
New York, NY 10012



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