As I write this, it seems as though winter has finally come. It has been legitimately cold now for a couple of weeks and low and behold, it looks as though there will actually be snow on the ground for the holiday season. At this point, I’m still okay with the winter, the novelty of it hasn’t yet worn off, but in the back of my head I know we’re in for the long haul, and my mind is wandering. And like any reasonable human being it wonders south with the snowbirds. It also tells me to stuff myself incase hibernation is needed, so combine the two and it looks like we’re taking a culinary trip south of the border. with stops along the way at two of upper Manhattan Avenue’s best Mexican restaurants.
First stop, Papacitos, a well loved spot at 999 Manhattan Ave, that as of yet has only been mentioned in passing in the column. Papacitos is the brainchild of Cody Utzman who has also brought the neighborhood the hip, bodega-esque, Brooklyn Standard, and was the former chef at Brooklyn Label. Here Utzman seeks to bring Mexican street food to Greenpoint. This by the way is the only place in the neighborhood that my friends from California, whom I’ve mentioned before as notorious sticklers for Mexican food, will go for tacos and burritos.
So let’s start with the tacos. They are small, hand held packages ($3), that you can fill with your choice of fresh meats and vegetables. If I were to recommend one in particular, I would go with the fish taco, which cost a buck extra, but is filled with grilled tilapia, pickled red cabbage, cilantro and onion.
The ingredients in the dishes are all to be expected. They really stick to the basics, but what makes the dishes is the freshness and quality. There is no Tex-mex greasiness here, you may even trick yourself into thinking the food is healthy. This makes the burritos, the quesadillas ($7), and Tostada ($7), and even the nachos ($5) all worth a shout out.
Papacitos has also recently gotten its liquor license so the restaurant is now open into the late. What’s more it will continue to serve its full menu as long as it is open, which should excite Greenpoint natives used to seeing local restaurants close at primetime. So stop by for “papacita”, a grapefruit and jalapeno margarita and nibble tacos until the wee hours of the morning.
The second stop on this mini restaurant tour is Acapulco. I may think of it particularly in winter because I first went there a couple years ago during a huge snow storm. After some inordinate amount of time riding the bus from Williamsburg I arrived at 1116 Manhattan Avenue. What I found, and what it continues to be is a cozy, family style restaurant that serves authentic Mexican fare. Burritos ($6.50) are huge and delicious, and stuffed with meat, beans and cheese. I like to go for the tortas ($5.50), sandwiches served with refried beans, avocado, jalapenos and your choice of meat filling. I usually go for the pernil or the milanesa. The food not quite the same homemade-artisinal-locavore feeling you get at Papacitos, but rather a place for comfort food and big portions and great prices. It’s satisfying, particularly for those looking for full-bellied hibernation.