Cheap Eats

Maximum Mexican, minimal cost.

On-paper worth: Tacos and tortas at Matamoros.
With a few exceptions, New York Mexican food is inherently cheap, but that still doesn't mean that you should settle on just any old burrito barn. Not with East Harlem increasingly populated by good, cheap taquerías like El PasoTaquería and La Taquicardia (an offshoot of the pioneering La Hacienda down the block). And not when you can grab a stool at Matamoros Puebla Taquería in Williamsburg and stuff yourself silly with $1.50 sopes, $2 soft tacos, and $4.50 tortas, fastidiously made by two kindly hair-netted women struggling to feed the onslaught of hungry hipsters.

Matamoros isn't a restaurant, just a makeshift kitchen in the back of a Mexican grocery store, and the pickings -- including tamales on the weekends and a $5 off-the-menu burrito-- are relatively slim. But the snacks, or antojitos, here possess much more flavor and pizzazz than you'd have any right to expect, considering the price and the slapdash, paper-plate setting. Red and green salsas are fresh and vibrant; stewed meats are moist and flavorful, from pork head (cabeza) to beef feet (pata). Vegetarians, relax: They do a mean rajas con papas taco (peppers and potatoes) for just $1.50. And the tortas --wonderful pressed sandwiches with mild white cheese, avocado, salsa, and the meat of your choice -- are without peer.

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· EL PASO TAQUERIA, 1642 Lexington Ave., at 104th St., 212-831-9831
· LA TAQUICARDIA, 237 E. 116th St., 212-369-9782
· MATAMOROS PUEBLA TAQUERIA, 193 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, 718-782-5044