La Esquina, almost.

On my list of NY Taco/Mexican Restaurants to Try is La Esquina.  It has been on the list since 2011.

It is difficult to get a reservation at La Esquina and although I've managed to make 3 (!!!!) on OpenTable, I have had to cancel all of them.  There is an element of secrecy that surrounds La Esquina.  The door to the downstairs restaurant is disguised by two things -- 1.  A walk-in taqueria and 2. An "Employees Only" sign.  To make your way downstairs you must get past the one or two "door keepers"...these are not bouncers...that guard the entrance.

Side note: As I read more about La Esquina in preparation for this post, I realized I did not understand the experience in full.  According to web sources the entrance to the restaurant is actually around the corner.  So are there 3 locations that are part of this taco tequila conglomerate?  Yes.  Taqueria and Brasserie and Cafe.  Oh my!

Logistics aside, on Saturday night at 12:35 (so technically Sunday morning), I was hungry and wanted a taco.  I went to La Esquina's taqueria and ordered the Papa, Nopales y Chorizo taco (chorizo sausage, potatoes, cactus, shredded cabbage, salsa verde), but they were out of chorizo.  Sigh.  I opted for the Chocinita Pibil (pulled pork, shredded cabbage, habanero, pickled onions, jalapeño) instead.  The taco was on point for what I was looking for and I was impressed with the size of the tortilla and subsequently the amount of pork and cabbage that filled the thing!  

Cochinita Pibil

As I sat at the counter enjoying my late night eats, I was privy to what actually happens at the door of La Esquina.  Observing the various walks of life that came in and out the door (and even those that didn't make it past the door) was fascinating.  When there was a lull in activity, I asked the "door keeper" what factors were considered in determining who was allowed in and who was turned away.  I received a fairly standard answer -- it depends on their capacity, on the male to female ration, on their looks/appearance etc.  This began what turned into a very long conversation and led to two really really great things.

1. I wanted another taco and couldn't decide which one to go for.  Door Keeper #2 recommended the fish taco.  I said I had a problem with fish tacos because most are made with tilapia and I do not like tilapia.  He asked if I liked spicy tacos.  I said yes.  He told me to wait.  Approximately 3 minutes later I got a spicy fish taco that was all sorts of good (and free!).  This is a fish taco I will definitely go back for.

A delicious fish taco

2. Door Keeper #2 offered to take me and my friend downstairs for a drink on the house.  We descended the stairs into the subterranean lair and I was trying to keep my cool because my internal 7-year old self was giddy upon entering the muy cool atmosphere of La Esquina.  Dark. Candles. Music. Beautiful people. Tequila. 

Free taco.  Free margarita.  A glimpse into the secret world of La Esquina and a contact for my future taco endeavors, not to mention incredible customer service/customer experience thanks to the Door Keepers.  Great success.

Now that I know there are 3 iterations of La Esquina and I have only visited 1, I must return and eat the food at the cafe and brasserie.  So it remains on my list.


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