It was not quite a year ago when Tres Carnes (688 Avenue of the Americas, 212-989-8737) rolled out its first restaurant, putting out what executive chef Sasha Shor calls “Texas smoked Mexican food” on the border of Flatiron and Chelsea. But with the opening of a second outlet in the Financial District last week (101 Maiden Lane, 212-989-8737) — and another on the way at 57th and Third Avenue — the unique concept begins an expansion that, if all goes according to plan, will take it to other cities on the east coast and then the rest of the country.
The idea for the concept, says Shor, came originally from Michael Sinensky, who also owns Funbars.com and spots like SideBAR and Village Pourhouse, and he put together the team to bring it to life.
And this would-be fast casual chain’s focus is not to be confused with TexMex: “We’re the best of both,” she says. “We’re doing true and authentic versions of each.” Meats like brisket, pork shoulder, and chicken, she explains, are dry-rubbed and smoked over wood in house, adhering to a method that’s authentic to Texas (and one pitmaster Mike Rodriguez learned at Driftwood’s Salt Lick, a lauded Lonestar State ‘cue joint). Those meats are then incorporated into traditional Mexican formats like burritos and tacos, built on tortillas from Maizteca and saddled with salsas that are also made in house. “We call it Texican,” says Shor.
The first location built a following, says the chef, because it offers a unique flavor profile to the city: “With barbecue, the momentum is climbing endlessly,” she says. “There’s a desire for it in NYC — for fire-smoked food and outdoor food. Restaurants here aren’t normally filled with smoke and wood-covered walls. Our success is due to soul in the food.” You can pair that food to a beer cocktail, like a michelada.
Now that Tres Carnes has perfected the formula, it’s gearing up for expansion. After these two new spots are up and running, says Shor, “We’re hoping to do a couple more in the city, and then we’re hoping to go outside of the city lines. She cites towns like Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., where barbecue is growing quickly and fasts casual has potential.
Look for those moves in the coming months.