It’s not often (if ever?) that you hear of spots moving to Brooklyn because they were priced out of the Bronx. And yet, that’s precisely what happened to Denisse Lina Chavez, when her landlord skyrocketed the rent on her tiny, beloved Pueblan spot, Carnitas El Atoradero, owing to a constant stream of great press. Thankfully, two of her most ardent outer borough supporters (Arrogant Swine partner Noah Arenstein, and Josh Kaplan of Dassara), ended up being her greatest benefactors as well, joining forces to ferry Chavez—along with her chipotle-sauced meatballs and oil-braised pork tacos—straight across the city, to a recently opened, 32-seat location on Washington Avenue.
So here’s hoping the new landlord doesn’t get any funny ideas as we add our praise onto the pile, but those tacos—not to mention quesadillas, chalupas, and flautas—are a revelation, even when considered alongside the justly lauded offerings of Sunset Park. The fillings are first rate, and include the signature, Michoacán-style carnitas, melting cubes of caramelized, tequila-soused pig flesh, collected from the belly, shoulder and butt; ribbons of chili-rubbed al pastor, carved from an actual, pineapple-capped trompo; and cochinita pibil, ropy strands of pork infused with orange juice and vinegar and baked in banana leaves. But really, it all comes down to the tortillas. Instead of defaulting to inconspicuous store-bought vessels for transporting meat to mouth, El Atoradero’s hand-formed masa patties are made from a custom machine imported from Jalisco, used to nixtamalize singularly sweet and deeply nutty blue corn.
Then there’s the mole poblano (incidentally, if a native of Puebla offers you mole, it’s utterly foolish to refuse). Light years away from the banal chocolate syrup found at indifferent Mexicali joints, Chavez’s agreeably bitter, carbon-colored sauce is a multi-day affair, and is produced through the laborious grinding, roasting, toasting and simmering of some 20-odd ingredients like cacao beans, along with assorted spices and seeds. Ideally showcased on bone-in joints of chicken, along with fluffed rice and inky beans, the resulting potage is at once earthy, treacly, and smoky, and faintly humming with heat, like a profoundly nuanced curry.
We don’t know if we’ll ever have another opportunity to say this, but our condolences to the Bronx—its loss has most assuredly become Brooklyn’s gain.
708 Washington Avenue, Prospect Heights