As with most states of Mexico, travel in Michoacán is full of subtle and unsubtle differences between the cuisine and what we often think of as "Mexican" cuisine. You can drink atole with blackberry or cascabel chilis, or eat tamales that are served with beef stew flavored with cactus. The state is also full of rivers and lakes and has a coastline on the Pacific Ocean, which provides plenty of fish.
About a month ago, a bright new awning went up on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights advertising the cuisine of Michoacán. One of many things missing from a city full of vibrant Mexican street food and antojitos is the regional varieties from all Mexican states that make the cuisine so diverse and so sophisticated. For this reason, I was immediately excited and ran inside to ask about the options they would be bringing to town. The immediate answers were not completely encouraging, but time may bring more to their menu, especially if we all go and ask for morisqueta, a very typically Michoacán dish consisting of combined rice and beans with sausage or meat and tomato sauce.
A month later, we had the chance to sit down and enjoy their food, finding it well above average for a sit down restaurant in the city. Start with one of their aguas frescas ($2.50, above), which are divine. The jamaica is my usual order and this may be the best I have had in New York City, much less sweet and left to focus on the hibiscus. The sandia (watermelon) is just like putting a straw into fruit.
On their sandwich board specials outside, but also available daily, is the birria de borrego ($15, below), an order that comes with a plate including the mutton meat, rice, and cactus salad, as well as a consome de borrego (soup, right), and a basket of tortillas that are made in house. Along with a bowl of onions, cilantro, limes, and the two house salsas, there are quite a wide variety of flavors possible from just one order.
Birria is known as a dish from Jalisco, the state just to the west of Michoacán, and is widely eaten in both. I have noted a few times in the past that it is a dish that New York City sorely lacks. Seeing it on a sandwich board is exciting, and while it is not yet to the level of the birrias in Los Angeles, hopefully it inspires the beginning of a good trend.
The consome served here is rich and complex, full of chickpeas. The meat itself is tender and served with all the fatty bits. Their homemade tortillas are delicious, and perfect for wrapping up bites of different flavors. We had to ask if they would be selling them retail, but this does not seem to be part of the plans.
Pozole rojo ($10, not pictured), another dish that has immigrated to the state rather than being born there, is also featured on the menu and worth a try. My dining companion was in the mood for pozole blanco ($10, below), the pulled pork and hominy stew that cures all ailments. If you grew up in the USA and wanted Campbell's chicken soup when you were sick like me, your first bowl of pozole will make you wonder how dumb we all were.
Already well-seasoned with tomillo mexicano (Mexican thyme), the dish is not served with the celery salt that you usually find ready to pour in. The pork has been cooking for some time, and is excellent.
Since this is a taquería, I am looking forward to returning to try some of their oversized tacos, possibly with carnitas, the famous braised pork that did grow up in Michoacán. I peeked in the kitchen and did not see a pot simmering, so I do not think this meat is being prepared here, but I am sure they buy from a reputable vendor.