Taco Chulo (318 Grand Street, 718-302-2856), a middle-class taqueria tucked away on Grand Street in Williamsburg, has an expansive open room as big as a dancehall with high ceilings, red walls, and a tiny bar in the back. It fills up early with families sharing taco salads ($11) and seared fish burritos with cabbage and crema ($12).
The place has made concessions to the vegetarians with burritos stuffed with spinach and black beans ($11.50) and whole wheat tortillas wrapped around avocado, more beans, and tofu sour cream ($11). There are lots of chopped salads bulked up with pumpkin seeds, jicama, and cotija cheese. Most of the offerings are tidy, somewhat healthy; a lot of crunchy, raw cabbage is dispersed throughout the menu.
The chile con queso ($7.5), however, can help gild an otherwise salutary meal. Chile con queso, a Northern Mexican creation that was quickly pulled into the Tex-Mex canon, is a melted cheese sauce blended with tomatoes and roasted green chiles that was either bastardized or perfected, depending on your point of view, by commercial cheese and the spicy canned tomato sauce Rotel.
At Taco Chulo the chile con queso is fashioned from Velveeta and comes in a small, warm bowl. The queso is tinted rose with the tomato sauce, bits of softening chile mired within. Served with tortilla chips to dip, the queso is warmed to a silky consistency, just hot enough so you can start eating as soon as it hits the table without scalding your tongue. It coats the chips like sheer stockings. After a couple of dips, the heat starts to collects on the lips, a perfect balm for below freezing weather.
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.