50th St. Taco Cart (w/ Sombrero)

The lack of good Mexican food in New York City is a well known fact.  You saw what happened when Midtown got a Chipotle.  It shows how pathetic our choices for Mexican really are.  In L.A. (where I used to live) taco stands are a way of life… and it boggles my mind that so few places in NYC are able to recreate something that seems so simple.  2 Soft corn tortillas, some good roast pork or chicken, and some salsa (preferably salsa verde).  If anybody wants a place to try after work, trek over to 10th avenue btw. 47th and 48th- Tehuitzinga is outstanding.

Anyway, I’ve heard rumors that Pampano Taqueria on 3rd Ave. is the only worthwile Taco in Midtown- but on this day I was on my back from a failed trip to the Burger Joint (line was too long) and decided to stop at this taco cart that some people from my work had eaten at.  And quite frankly, how could you blame me?  Could you resist a cart that looks like this one.  I mean, nothing says authentic quite like a giant sombrero with a picture of Speedy Gonzalez on it (aren’t there any Trademark lawyers in Midtown?).  But that’s typical Midtown for you.  Dumbing it down for the business lunch crowd… “Can you tell we’re not a halal cart by our big stupid looking Mexican hat?”  I wonder if you can see it from the top of Rockefeller Center?

Despite the sombrero, I decided to try the place out.  I love trying dirty, annonymous carts- and this one certainly fits the bill.  For $4 you get a Taco with Chicken or Beef, Spanish Rice and Beans w/ melted cheese.  $7 will get you the same combo with two tacos.  For the sake of comparison (and because I’m a fat bastard), I went with the two taco combo (one beef, one chicken).  The minute he started making my meal, I had a sneaking suspicion I was in big big trouble.

Pictures of the food, and the +/- after the jump…

First off, I’m not a big fan of the hard shell taco.  I don’t hate them, but I prefer the more traditional soft corn tortillas, or even the soft flour tortillas, before the hard shell ones.  When he pulled out the hard taco shells, I wasn’t thrilled.  Then came the “beef”… which just looked like ground up hamburger meat.  And the chicken didn’t look any better.  The rice looked fine, and the refried pinto beans looked pretty standard- but the “melted cheese” was just a giant ladle full of nacho cheese.  I got hot sauce (the red kind) on one taco, just to try it out.  I was pretty sure this was going to be the worst lunch I ever had in Midtown.

Back at work, I unwrapped the lunch and went to town, figuring the quicker I ate- the less I would be able to taste the food… but surprisingly it wasn’t that bad.  The hard shells steamed slightly on the walk back, and were sort of half crunchy, half soggy in that delicious giant plate of nachos kind of way.  The “beef” and the chicken were both pretty tasty in a more mild Mexican flavors kind of way, and the rice was pretty good- in that if Chipotle used this rice instead of that cilantro and lime horseshit, their burritos might actually be something to get excited about.

I could live without the nacho cheese… but judging by some of the dudes on line at the cart- I’m guessing it might be the reason a lot of people eat there.  Anyway, I don’t know if it was lowered expectations or what, but this place was not too bad- and for $4 (the one taco combo) you could have a pretty tasty lunch at a really great price.  It’s an ok lunch for $4 (especially if you love nacho cheese), but not worth a big trip out of your way- especially if you are hoping for big bold Mexican flavors (or even just a little cilantro).

And on a side note, without getting too graphic- the biggest surprise of the lunch was what happened later on in the day, once I had a chance to digest…. absolutely nothing!  It was really unbelievable.  No negative side effects… from a Mexican cart… that alone makes this place worthwhile.  Not even Chipotle can boast that.

THE + (What people who like this place will say)

  • I like Hard Shell Tacos
  • I love Nacho Cheese
  • I love disgusting nachos with nacho cheese all over them
  • I like my beef tacos to be made with ground hamburger meat

THE – (What someone who wouldn’t like this place would say)

  • I don’t like Hard Shell Tacos
  • I don’t love Nacho Cheese
  • I don’t love disgusting nachos with nacho cheese all over them
  • I prefer my beef tacos to be made with shredded beef (I hate ground beef)
  • I like my Mexican food a little more authentic
  • I don’t like eating a sketchy carts
  • The shells are small, and they pack ‘em with a ton of stuff so it can get kind of messy

Taco Cart, 50th St. between 6 & 7th (just look for the sombrero)


  • I usually get the soft shell tacos (maybe they forget to ask shell preference when it gets busy)
    and I think that the beans are the high point, very flavorful with a good texture.

    Also – I HATE cilantro, so not adding it is a plus.

  • Wait, Milo are you talking about the same cart? Are there two sombrero stands?! When I’ve asked for softshell, they give me a headshake: softshells are only for burritos. Do they not like me? Or maybe it was a recent change in policy.

    Anyway, I would say that this is a pretty solid, accurate review. The tacos are not the best you can buy, but certainly do the trick when you need a fix and are surprisingly tasty at times.

    Also the couple working it are pretty swell and gracious.

  • You should try out La Poloma on 45th bet. 8th and 9th. Most every dish there is spot on.

  • >Wait, Milo are you talking about the same cart?

    Yup, same cart, same nice couple.

    Maybe you have to be a “regular” to get the softshell, or maybe they were just out of tortillas,
    or perhaps I’m getting a two burrito special. Hmmm, I’ll have to check tomorrow.

  • There’s a taco stand on 55th and 6th that sometimes has tamales. Not great, but not too shabby @ $1 a piece. They sell out early though.

  • What you’ve heard about pampano taqueria is true: it’s quite good. also, you can put as much cilantro on your tacos as you see fit. i was born in arizona and lived in san francisco for many years, so i feel i can speak with some authority about mexican food. the pickings are indeed slim here in new york. it’s a goddamned shame.

  • I’m going to have to second the La Paloma recommendation (45th St near 9th Ave) for good mexican food. I practically live off the stuff.

  • that was the worst burrito i’ve ever had. the rice is TERRIBLE.

    i’d much rather eat cold chexican in the ladies’ bathroom than ever go near this taco cart again.

  • There was a half way decent taco cart on the corner of 54th and Madison for a month or two earlier this year (say June and July). Does anyone know what happened to it? Is it the same as the one that is mentioned above at 55th and 6th?

  • gotta love that taco cart — or as i refer to it, “Mr. Hat”. i go there often enough that i don’t even have to order anymore. yes, the taco is usually a bit damp by the time i get back to work, but that just means it’s taco salad time. just cut it up and mix it w/ all the cheesy-rice’n'beans goodness.

    and yep, the couple that run the cart are the sweetest venders out there. when it’s freezing out, they make me stand inside (they have a plastic cover in winter months) near the box heater. nice!

  • i am trying the sombrero truck on 50th / 6th for the first time, i ordered the beef burrito platter
    ground beef, not shredded, that is a minus — but the seasoning is good
    rice is flavorless, may as well be white rice.
    refried beans are ok…
    i should have went with the review…this is a miss.

  • This cart has a sign up that it was a 2005 Vendy Award “nominee”. It certainly wasn’t a finalist that year (or any other year). Does this simply mean someone (a relative with a different last name, perhaps) nominated the cart? It’s tolerable, but not Vendy-worthy.

  • I would agree, Pampanos has one of the best tacos around midtown or anywhere in the city, quality is really good, fresh ingredients and really flavorful… it never dissapoints

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    In the spirit of Mexican food…


    New York finally has some decent and authentic Mexican food to feed the stomach and soothe the soul :)

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    This cart is not there anymore, did it move?
    HELP!!!! :)

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