>> La Estancia de la Espiga | Eat the World NYC

30 September 2019

La Estancia de la Espiga


Besides two storefront addresses and one phone number, the nondescript green awnings over La Estancia de la Espiga match the rest on the block yet give little hint of what takes place inside. On one it says simply: Bakery. On the other: Restaurant. On a sunny weekend with eyes squinting to avoid glare, you can barely catch a glimpse of what takes place through the open doors and on the other side of two big windows.

Because of these factors, the first notice of this restaurant actually came through Instagram as the owners are using it quite proficiently to announce the daily guisados available on weekdays. Dig in a bit further though and you might catch what is not announced much any longer: Weekends here bring some outstanding barbacoa and carnitas starting very early, and the neighborhood does not need social media to remind them.

Once your eyes do adjust inside, the combined space and tables are often buzzing, especially on Saturdays and Sundays when families sit down together and place big orders. Cars are double parked and men carry multiple bags out of the store to take home. When you see this occurring, you should always investigate more to see what is so popular.

A bright orange sign outside uses a popular meme of carnitas preparation (see end of article below) and wordplay of the Spanish for Frosted Flakes cereal (Zucaritas) to announce different types available. Just inside of this window, a woman keeps the giant cauldron moving, the simmering meats giving the air a deliciously appetizing layer.

In the other window a bucket full of masa is leaned on its side and regularly scraped from, as giant light tortillas are made to order for each taco and as accompaniment to soups. This station is also in charge of shaping masa discs for tlacoyos, sopes, and all the rest of the antojitos available.

Noon on a Sunday ended up being too late to procure any of the weekend special barbacoa (the server said it was gone "muy temprano" on this day), but there was still consomé de chivo ($8, below), a beautiful bowl of tender meat and bone broth served with three of the aforementioned tortillas. A side of cilantro and onions came as well for those wanting to turn the goat into tacos.

Going back and forth between enjoying the tacos and the consomé on its own seemed to be the best way to go about things, the rich broth on its own needing to be cut by citrus and fresh greens every now and then. Two homemade salsas in ketchup and mustard bottles provided nice additions to anything they came into contact with. The tomato-based red salsa here is a smack in the face, use with caution.

On another visit, tacos de barbacoa ($4.50, below) were procured, served on a large homemade tortilla as is customary.

Invited in by the sign, three tacos de carnitas ($4.50 each, below) were ordered in three different varieties. Maciza is the beginners carnitas, simply lean meat, while buche is made from the stomach and surtida is a combination of everything. You can order these on packaged tortillas for a dollar less, but this seems like a bad decision and no one was taking that route.


As expected from the visual clues so far and the delightful aromas, each carnitas taco was excellent. After the initial disappointment of being to late for barbacoa, these quickly erased all bad mojo from the meal.

The restaurant seems to be a fan of memes, between bites be sure to look on the walls to enjoy a couple more. The meal was also joined by the random karaoke performer that wandered in with his own equipment and sang mellow ballads to the dining room from right next to the carnitas cauldron.

At the last minute a picadita ($6 with cecina, above) was thrown into the order as a way to "make up" for no barbacoa, but this turned out to be unnecessary. The salted beef was good enough, but the deep fried masa base and simple adornment of Oaxacan cheese was a far cry from the other items it shared the table with on this day.

When the normal cutoff times for getting barbacoa were inquired about, the server was hesitant to give a specific answer. On this day she spoke of large orders that had come in early in the morning and taken most of the available stock. It sounds like it will always be a crap shoot for this, but coming as close to their opening time as possible would always be the best bet.

[UPDATE 05 OCTOBER 2019: A quick return trip for the weekday menu]: As alluded to earlier, a rotating schedule of guisados is ready to go each weekday, keeping La Espiga busy during most lunches. On a recent Thursday, the temperature dropped dramatically and promised rain, so the chef decided to offer the pozole that is usually available on the weekends.

Pozole blanco estilo Guerrero ($12, above) is a rich, fatty pork wondersoup and cured all the ails of bad weather a few spoonfuls in. While green and red versions are everywhere, you do not often see this white version, made in the style of the chef's home back in Acapulco.

La Estancia de la Spiga Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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