Mexicue Packs a Ton of Flavor Into a (Very) Small Package
We have long dreamed of the day that New York would get their very own KOGI Truck, the infamous Los Angeles based Korean taco vendors that teased us back in June of last year, before pulling the rug out from under us just a month later. Kogi has spawned a host of fusion taco imitators on the West Coast… to the point where it seems like every new truck that hits the street in L.A. has at least some kind of taco option- regardless of what kind of food it is. Here in NYC, we’re not so lucky… until now that is! Enter the Mexicue truck, a scrappy new entrant in the street food scene which, through savvy marketing, has amassed significant buzz. We’ve watched with growing curiosity for the past week as the Mexicue crew zealously tweeted their location and wares to over 650 followers.
Expectations in check, I decided to check it out for myself.
Mexicue’s menu of gourmet Mexican and US Southern tacos and sliders is certainly ambitious, at least for a truck. Raising the culinary stakes of the humble street taco or a BBQ pit is hardly a new concept; Rick Bayless, Aaron Sanchez, et al have elevated street tacos to nouvelle cuisine for years, and a legion of acclaimed chefs have churned out haute BBQ – Bobby Flay, Will Goldfarb, even Danny Meyer with Blue Smoke. However, cooking at this level in a cramped truck presents a different set of operational challenges.
These challenges were evident in the growing line of hungry patrons – by 12:15 on Thursday, the truck was in the weeds with a queue 40 deep. Closer inspection of the service revealed minor rookie mistakes-a disorganized kitchen, inexperienced staff, and a lack of ready mise en place– all amendable flaws after a few months of practice. (Especially since they have acknowledged the problems exist.)
Service issues aside, the food should hold your interest by conveying bold, balanced, yet unconventional flavors. A ‘Mexicana rubbed’ pulled pork slider ($3) would offend the delicate sensibilities of Carolina pulled pork purists. In lieu of the tartness of vinegar (sorry NC) or the tang of mustard (SC shudders), Mexicue’s version was slathered in a spicy BBQ sauce, accented by crisp pickled onions and tempered by creamy avocado. I find that casting aside food idealism makes for the best sauce when enjoying this type of food.
Tacos constructed with a single layer of white wheat tortilla may alienate those accustomed to the traditional double wrapped corn tortilla taco, and the obligatory chopped cilantro and onions was noticeably absent. However, an unorthodox short rib taco ($4), dressed in a light salsa and avocado crema, hit familiar and pleasing notes.
A take on the classic beet and goat cheese salad, long a mainstay of restaurant menus, makes an appearance inside a humble taco ($3). This classic balance of flavors, sweet and tangy from the pickled beets and earthy flavor from the goat cheese, is a satisfying vegetarian option.
I questioned the chorizo taco ($4), where the heavy and robust goat cheese also makes an appearance- instead of the obvious choice of a delicate queso fresco to allay the peppery chorizo. The combination of fiery and fatty chorizo and cloying cheese is simply an overly ambitious bite of food.
On the other hand, the BBQ brisket slider ($4) was nothing short of outstanding; melt-in-your-mouth tender beef glossed with a perfectly piquant sauce.
Mexicue, like the other upscale mobile vendors, is not without their share of controversy. Long lines, unpredictable availability of product, and somewhat exorbitant prices given the portion size , are par for the course within Mexicue’s peer group.
In their defense, the food does pack flavor and intrigue in an admittedly petite package. Service and operations is likely to improve – it almost always does with vendors of this caliber. And while they may put off the purists, they simultaneously please the rest of the crowd. A fair trade-off in my opinion.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- It’s like getting the Daisy May BBQ and El Rey de Sabor carts in one convenient package. Win win!
- I only eat Mexican food that looks like a Rick Bayless wet dream/I only eat BBQ that looks like a Bobby Flay wet dream.
- The tacos and sliders are meaty and hearty, and my vegetarian co-workers won’t be disappointed either (beet taco FTW!)
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- $10 worth of tacos and sliders from this place won’t fill me up.
- Look at that line? Yikes!
- Wheat tortillas on my taco? ¡Ay carumba!
Photos and Post by Chris H.