Just call 168 Ludlow Street a rite of passage for fast casual concepts. The former home of Tpoutine (Canadian french fries) and La Montanara (fried pizza) recently became home to another tenant: San Diego-style rolled taco specialist Taquitoria. We suppose it was only a matter of time before taquitos–those deep-fried, cigar shaped portals of pleasure–had their moment in the sun. (The torta continues to wait patiently in the shadows, longing for the day when it will be able to exploit a tear in the burrito’s floury shell.)
Working alongside Marc Forgione in various capacities has its benefits, and we’re not just talking TV appearances on Iron Chef. Taquitoria owners Matthew Conway, Brad Holtzman, and Barry Frish are alums of his empire, and they’re transferring what they learned here, even as Conway retains his position as GM and sommelier of Restaurant Marc Forgione. Frish was a chef de cuisine at the restaurant before becoming Taquitoria’s culinary director, and Holtzman, Taquitoria’s general manager, worked the front of the house as a hospitality manger.
The trio partnered for this venture because no one else was really offering anything like it. They headed out to San Diego for research–“San Diego is the mecca of taquitos,” explains Holtzman–and they decided that the concept could take off in Manhattan, and they got to work perfecting their fillings and sauces.
Taquitos here come with a choice of one stuffing–options include beef, chicken, pork, and bean–and a “classic” topping of guac sauce, lettuce, and cotija cheese, or the “cheesy” route of nacho cheese, sour cream, and pickled jalapeño relish. Ask about a side of Pancho’s sauce or request some Cholula–both are available to further intensify the flavor. And you can’t go wrong: “I put four things on the menu; they better all be good,” quips Frish.
The food might be all West Coast, but the decor is straight out of New York City cult favorite The Warriors. A mural of an ’80s-era F train painted by graffiti artists Delancey and Sebastian adorns a wall across from the open kitchen; a couple of bar stools right by the doorway are perfect for engaging the guys behind the counter. The vibe is gritty, simple, and a great value–especially if you’ve spent most of your money on drinks earlier in the night. $5 nets you three taquitos, though you can also splurge for $8 and get a plate of five. Taquitoria is currently rolling along from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. throughout the week.