A, C, E at Canal St.; 1 at Canal St.
Worth St. to W. 4th St., West St. to Bowery
A cluster of bottled hot sauces, including a piquant jalapeño, smoky chipotle, fiery red habanero, and potent green habanero, sits on each Formica tabletop of this Mexicali diner. But they tend to go unused because the homemade salsas served up with the casual cantina fare are sharp and tasty enough on their own. And who'd want to mask the lingering kick of the pico de gallo topping delicious, thick pucks of cazuelitas, corn flour cakes filled with shredded beef, beans and cheese? And why distract from the textural pleasure of the potato tacos, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and covered with a tangy tomatillo-laced green sauce? Do, however, use it liberally on the bland super burrito, where the red chili gets lost in the jumble of chicken, sour cream, guacamole and refried beans stuffed inside the flour envelope. Yes, it's all that sloppy, Americanized South of the Border fare, but it's the kind that you grew to love, no matter which coast you're from. And while the kitchen and the kitsch factor—including a Mexican disco soundtrack, a wall of retro Spanish-language album covers, and margaritas served in tall, fountain glasses—conjure East L.A., the diverse crowd is purely NYC.
Cazulitas, $5.25; tacos de papa, $9.95; coconut flan, $3.50