If you’ve ever ordered a taco placero on a whim in one of New York City’s taqueria-bodegas without knowing what it was, you may have been surprised at the result. Did I order this crumble of rice and half a jalapeño on a dry tortilla? Is the taquero out to lunch? The peculiar taco placero is a Poblano specialty, often called “market tacos” because they are frequently served in the markets and plazas of Southern Mexican cities. It needs a little explaining.
This is pure peasant food — economical, quick, and relatively healthy, assembled piecemeal from ingredients found around the market: a plug of cheese, a nub of avocado, a slim strip of grilled beef, scraps cobbled together and held in a large tortilla to make a satisfying meal. Served all over the streets of Puebla, it’s made its way 2,000 miles north to Sunset Park, homes in Corona, and the streets of Bushwick.
The taco placero is normally formed by a large, handmade tortilla, which is best for holding the various ingredients; it’s an evolving platform for dried cecina with avocado or links of chorizo with petals of grilled onions. The most common iteration found in our outer boroughs built with rice, grilled jalapeños, and a fat, white orb of a hardboiled egg plunked down in the center. When it is done well, with well-seasoned rice, eggs not cooked to oblivion, and supple roasted chiles, it has a soul affirming simplicity. Sometimes you just want a toasted buttered bagel or a roll with egg and cheese. Sometimes you want a taco placero.
Tacos Cachanilla in Sunset Park (5807 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn) and El Atoradera in the Bronx (800 East 149th Street) each serve a nice version.
Scarlett Lindeman is a Brooklyn-based writer, covering the city’s best taquerias, fondas, and cantinas.