Santa Ana Deli & Grocery on the corner of Irving and Stockholm is an excellent Bushwick taqueria. It’s a place to while away an afternoon on an extended lunch break, sampling tacos and Mexican sodas. The decor is nothing more than a scuffed linoleum floor, folding chairs, and bags of dried beans, but there are quesadillas hand-pressed into sturdy packages with melted cheese and perfect green sauce.
This is why the New Santa Ana Restaurant (187 Irving Avenue, Brooklyn; 929-210-0860), a larger, full-service space opened by the same owners two blocks east, seems to be an unfortunate folly.
The restaurant has a much deeper menu than its sister bodega, and it’s grasping for a piece of the neighborhood’s new, young demographic; here are whole-wheat tortillas for oversized burritos, loaded nachos, free Wi-Fi, and even a section of the menu for burgers. The owners are from Puebla, the kitchen cooks a Tex-Mex mash-up, and the menu would not be out of place on a discount cruise to Acapulco. Whose food is this?
A black bean soup, giant for $2.50, was fine, made with canned black beans and pico de gallo stirred in at the last moment. Guacamole ($5.95) came with stale chips. “Los Gallitos” ($9.95) are roasted jalapeños, the peppers’ seeds and ribbing left intact, so spicy you can’t taste the cheese nor the minced shrimp stuffed inside. Beef fajitas ($12.95) are a bland, indelicate heap of green peppers and onions. And it’s hard to know what to make of the scallops and shrimp sauteed with garlic, onions, green peppers, pico de gallo, a touch of white wine, baby corn, and garbanzo beans, a combination that sounds like what is left over on the Sizzler salad bar after the dinner rush.
There is no section of the menu dedicated to tacos, but you can find both soft- and hard-shell varieties among the combo platters ($13.95) served with rice and beans. If you find yourself here instead of the deli, ordering one of those combos might better your odds.
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.