In our frenetic metropolis, the taco evolves at the far ends of a dialectic, either highbrow with pinkies raised or street-level sloppy. But between the white tablecloths and the back-door bodegas is Felipe Mendez’s Brooklyn-based empire–the perennially popular La Superior; the chandelier-studded but somewhat undiscovered Cantina Royal; and the newish Cerveceria Havermeyer (149 Havemeyer Street, Brooklyn, 718-599-5799), al modish and gritty, where proletariat cuisine combines with aloof elegance.
The cerveceria, a beer-hall with long communal tables and dim Edison bulb lighting, has half a dozen beers on offer in the bottle ($5) and none on tap. Like his other establishments, Mendez fills his restaurants with ex-pats, Chilango staff, and bi-lingual patrons, so you can expect a lot of beautiful tattoos inked in Spanish. And like most kitchens of New York City, the cooking is done by Mexicans; here, that’s respectfully considered an asset.
The taco offerings (most $3) overlap with the La Superior menu, but there’s an additional crumbly chorizo con papas taco and a fish taco marinated in orange and achiote, served with xnipek sauce (or “dog’s nose” salsa), a mince of habaneros that will ignite the sinuses. The taco villamelon sports chorizo and carne asada, as well as fried pork skin ground to a powder and sprinkled on top, with a crowning slice of ripe avocado. It’s a complex and satisfying bite that usually prompts a re-order. And though the menu ambles towards beer-friendly snacks, there’s still a seared duck breast with pomegranate sauce and enchiladas for those who demand a knife and fork.
A good freebie on the next page.
Volcanes are toasted dried tortillas ($7) un-fried tostadas layered with cheese, grilled meats, and salsas. The best versions sit on the griddle until the cheese has melted directly onto the hot iron, toasting into a tuile-like crisp. Here the cheese is mixed with a plop of shredded chicken tinga, sticky as BBQ sauce, then annealed to the tortilla base. No need for the sauce on the side. The chicharrones de harina, the nostalgic Mexican equivalent of Cheez-Doodles that are given out before every meal are a kind freebie. Splashed with Valentina hot sauce, piled into a paper-lined basket, with a halved lime to squeeze over the top it’s a spicy, gimcrack snack that very well may be a cerveza’s soulmate.
149 Havemeyer St.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn 11211
Scarlett Lindeman is a Brooklyn-based writer, covering the city’s best taquerias, fondas, and cantinas. She writes the ¡Oye! Comida column for Fork in the Road.