>> 5 de Mayo Food Market | Eat the World NYC

13 May 2018

5 de Mayo Food Market


The weekend taco stand in the back of the 5 de Mayo Food Market is the kind of place where longtime migrants from México can still find that piece of home they miss so much. The conversations that happened with my fellow diners over multiple visits were so wonderful, people opened up their lives and situations to me. In one case, a man had even been away from his parents and siblings for a full 20 years since coming to New York City without papers. Now that he has worked his restaurant job long enough, he can take weekends off and come here, where the barbacoa gets him just briefly back in the mindset he left behind and would love to return to one day.

On weekdays, this grocery store is like any other in the neighborhood, people come for produce, or sodas, or lottery tickets. But a sign outside advertises a meat market and limited menu available only on Saturday and Sunday. Come in the afternoon on one of these two days and find one of the nicest atmospheres in the city. A couple long tables and one small one seat about 10 or 12, strangers sit with each other amongst the spice packets, votive candles, and sacks of rice. Many keep their heads down and focus on their meals, but others gossip and share stories.

After a day of hard work.

As it turned out, my first visit here came on the 5th of May, for no other reason than coincidence. The back area smells slightly like a meat market, because it is one. All the meats available for tacos can also be purchased by the pound, and this seemed to be turning out a brisk business during my visits.

What they make the most of, and what seems most popular, are both barbacoa versions: chivo and borrego. They do their best to replicate the earthen pits and maguey leaves used to cook barbacoa traditionally, the underground steaming of goat and lamb is done instead in steam tables with banana leaves. Come early in the evening and they might be out of most other items, but the barbacoa is at its peak.

Barbacoa de chivo (left) with suadero (right).

Tacos here are all $3, and sometimes are served to replicate a mountain. The amount of quality meat given for this price is incredible. They use the donut-shaped cauldrons like you see everywhere in México, with meats cooking around the exterior in oils and fats and spices. The middle is raised for placing tortillas on to briefly toast before serving.

The barbacoa de borrego ($3, above and below) is the star here if one standout has to be chosen. I had to pick off pieces of the lamb mutton to eat before even attempting to wrap the tortilla around so much meat.

The stand is alternatively run by a man and woman who seem to make a good team, dolling out tacos and portions of meat for waiting customers. Don't worry about any line if you arrive at a busy time, it all goes really quickly, and someone will make space for you at a table the second you start looking around. Grab a drink from the fridge, and bring it with you, as you can pay for everything up front at the end.

The goat (chivo) is also used to make a consomé (above and below), which cost $4 for a small portion that is anything but small, and $7 for what looks to be close to a gallon. Squeeze some limes in to cut the oiliness and heat, but be prepared to sweat a little while enjoying this soup. Portions of this are also perfect for taking home if you plan to eat a bunch of tacos.

As you get to know your new friends, they will start to divulge their other favorite back of the house kitchens in the neighborhood, so be prepared with notes or a good memory. Jackson Heights is constantly evolving, so buckle up or get left behind.


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