>> Carmelita Deli & Grocery | Eat the World NYC

29 November 2009

Carmelita Deli & Grocery

mexico

[[UPDATE 19 SEPTEMBER 2013: Over the past two years, I have lived in a state of denial, but Carmelita is not churning out the tacos they used to. The kitchen sits in the back mostly unused. The two proprietors seemed to look at each other and decide whether I was even worth serving when I walked in and asked if the kitchen was open. The bistek tacos ($2) were dry and gristly, the carne enchilada tacos ($2) a bit better. I remember when the place needed two people to run, a cook and a guy taking and preparing orders in house and to go. They had a fairly large selection of items to put in your tacos and tortas. These times have past, as no other customers came for anything while I was there.]]


2009 Review (rated 4.5):
The only hint to what could be going on in the back room is the word "sandwiches" on the awning out front. Peering inside the window offers no clues to its secrets, only views of basic Mexican and American products that you would find in any bodega. But walk through the first room and follow the narrow unmarked hallway to the rear and emerge in a tiny two-table taco stand where all eyes gaze towards fútbol on television.

You will find sandwiches here, in the form of cemitas, but we came for tacos, and noticed that others seem to have the same thing in mind. I ordered a plate of three ($1.50 each, all varieties, below) and was greeted with some of the best I have ever ordered north of the border. Every time I have good tacos recently I begin to think harder and harder that this whole "There is no good Mexican in New York" stuff is a hoax. There is good Mexican here, it's just not on display for everyone to see. It's in places like this, that don't pull in a clientèle much more than who they are geared for: Mexicans.

Three beauties topped with the sensational green salsa.

When your order comes, you are free to bring it over to the complimentary condiment bar that sits in one corner, a buffet table of sorts offering red and green salsas, guacamole, limes, radishes, and more. I felt that the few eyes in the room were on me while I visited, so I was quick to load my plate and sit back down, seeing as how this was my first visit and I still felt a little out of place.

Grab a drink or two from the refrigerator cases up front (pay up front as well) and bring them back to wash down your meal. Cheap $1.25 Jarritos are on offer, including a grapefruit version which I had never tried and was pleased by its far less sweet taste than its colleagues.


On a second visit, along with a variety of five tacos, I ordered a sope de pollo ($4, $3 without meat) but was marginally unimpressed. It was the second straight night that people were sticking to the tacos with a cemita here and there. Also on order was a shrimp soup, which seemed to be a weekend special and enjoyed by some, although its higher price point ($8.50) kept me away. The couple next to us did not seem overly enthusiastic about theirs, so I didn't feel like I was missing anything.

The brightly painted green walls are not too offensive as the light is low. And what is important is that this little neighborhood secret is serving up delicious food, not a sense of decor.

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