Tajin Restaurant Brings Mexican to the FiDi
My first time writing for Zach, I faced the complicated dilemma of who to write about, or, as I so gracefully put it, who to shank? Continuing my prison yard analogy, I’d like to introduce my next victim, one of the options I referred to in that fateful first post, the one I’m going to take down to let people know I’m not backing down. Yes, if you want a burrito, you can go to Chipotle or even Gloria’s Pushcart (on a quick side note, I’m pretty sure she’s Puerto Rican), but what if they just aren’t cutting it? An even better question, what if you want to get beyond the everyday standard of a burrito? The answer to these questions (and more!) can be found at Tajin Restaurant at 85 Greenwich St., just south of Rector St.
Somehow I always thought this place was my little secret, but maybe that’s because I tend to eat lunch a little late most days. This visit, however, I went at 1 o’clock, and this place was packed. I’m talking practically spilling out into the streets. The dining room isn’t huge by any means, but somehow they manage to pack quite a few tables in there. Lucky for me, I was a single customer and was able to get a table pretty quick.
The menu offers quite a bit of variety, with anything from a Guacamole Burger to Camarones al Ajillo (shrimp in a white wine and garlic sauce) with most of it under $10. They even serve breakfast! The hardest part of eating here is definitely making a decision. Wanting to keep to the limit while still getting a cup of their delicious homemade lemonade ($2 and fantastically limey more than lemony), I ordered the California Burrito ($6.45). I thought this combo was gonna cut it, but by adding a decent tip I overshot by about a buck. If you’re really sticking to the budget and you want to eat in, try and keep your meal below 8 bucks. Unfortunately, this narrows your options significantly, so you may be better off just getting your meal to go. This brings your pre-tax limit up to just over 9 bucks.
The burrito itself was really good, if a little hot. It came packed with chicken (the other option is ground beef), rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, sour cream, and guacamole. Knowing how much I love the Grilled Chicken Burrito (which may be more griddled than grilled as I’ve noticed it lacks a bit of telltale char), I was anxious to dig into this one. One big whopper of a bite, though, and I ended up scalding the roof of my mouth and a bit of my tongue. Fighting my way through the pain and dulled taste buds, I pressed on. The mishmash of flavors was very good, reminiscent of burritos I’ve had on the Left Coast, but it was difficult to find a single bite with all the ingredients together. Maybe it’s because they’re hastily constructed, but you end up eating the burrito in pockets. First, a big mouthful of delicious, tender chicken; then rice with guacamole and sour cream; then chicken and rice. This isn’t a huge problem if you shove the whole thing in your mouth like I do, but if you’re not into inhaling your food or just have a petite mouth, you might find this troublesome. The upside to smaller bites is that there are more places to put that glorious, neon green, make-you-sweat El Yucateco habanero hot sauce. This and the hot sauce over at Veronica’s Kitchen set my standards for good, spicy hot sauce.
In closing, I’d like to make a quick rant. The complaint I hear most often about the New York food scene, particularly from the California transplants, is that the Mexican food is lacking. While yes, they may admit, it’s certainly improving, as evidenced by the Country Boys masterful win with their huaraches at this year’s Vendys, it’s just not like the food in Southern California. My advice, from one West Coaster (yes, I’m originally from Washington State) to another, is get over it. The reason the food isn’t the same is because the people making the food aren’t coming from the same parts of Mexico. While many of the immigrants in California are coming from the northern regions, many of those immigrating to New York are coming from more southerly regions. To think that the two cuisines will be identical is akin to believing a barista in Seattle will make astounding Jambalaya. Embrace the diversity, learn about the regional cuisines of Mexico, and do your best to avoid Mexican restaurants owned and operated by the same folks running the Chinese restaurant next door.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- It’s nice to eat somewhere outside the office that doesn’t break the bank
- Real Mexican dishes beyond tacos and burritos
- Open 7am-9pm, accepts credit cards, delivers… Lunch is whenever I want it to be
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- The burritos are constructed a bit unevenly
- While it’s not bad, it’s not as good as back in California
- I like hot sauce, but I don’t like it that hot
Tajin Restaurant, 85 Greenwich St (btw. Edgar & Rector), 212–509-5017