Caliente Mexican Is Like A Less Corporate Chipotle (In A Good Way)

As all of you know we in the Financial District (OK, and Tribeca) are severely lacking in really awesome Mexican food. Sure, there are decent places like Tajin or The Bigger Place, but other than that it’s just sad generic deli burritos and Chipotle. That was why I was so excited to see Caliente Mexican Grill open on an obscure corner of Trinity Pl. and Thames. One early adopter didn’t have the best feedback on lunch there, but I forged ahead anyway with a co-luncher to see whether¬†they¬†were cooking anything authentic.

When you walk in the place looks like a chain, but I’m pretty sure it’s not. The people working there were super friendly and they make a lot of things from scratch like the salsas and guacamole which is a nice change of pace. There are the usual tacos (on corn tortillas), burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, fajitas, nachos and a couple of other things.

I put in my order for a carnitas burrito ($7.95). It’s the same assembly line like they have at Chipotle, and I was a little dismayed that they didn’t just have plain yellow rice instead of the Spanish and cilantro lime varieties. Seriously, is it a rule that every place like this uses cilantro lime rice? And beware if they ask you if you want guacamole. I said yes, and then realized it tacks $1 onto the cost.

They give you some chips and a little cup of salsa that was of the Pace variety, but it was a nice inclusion. My burrito was massive, and because the tortilla was grilled and more crunchy than steamed it wasn’t the best constructed. I kind of liked it that way, but it wasn’t as soft and squishy as the usual steamed variety. The meat was really tasty and you could tell the salsa was not out of a jar.

My friend ordered some tacos with barbacoa and chicken ($7.95). The main complaint was that they only give you one tortilla and that meant a lot of giving up and eating the filling with a fork after it disintegrated. The barbacoa was also really greasy, my friend reported, so you might want to steer clear if that scares you. The chicken was tasty, though.

It’s still early days for this place so it’s hard to be too harsh. I really like what they’re doing and the people who work there are really nice and helpful. Now if only they would offer plain yellow rice I would be a repeat customer here.

Caliente Mexican Grill, 97 Trinity Place (at Thames), (212) 227-6192

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