Bringing al pastor to Sunset Park is like to bringing coals to Newcastle, although if anyone stands to challenge the neighborhoods’ taquerias and bodegas on the pineapple-spit pork front, it’s the pride of East Harlem, Taco Mix. So the fact that an offshoot recently moved into the winding, gastronomically-blessed halls of Industry City (which, side note, boasts the most impressive food court in all of Brooklyn) should cement even the farthest borders of Sunset—once and for all—as the Mexican food nexus of NYC.
The tagline at Taco Mix is echame 5 pa’ empezar, or “give me five to start,” a directive that’s easy enough to heed once you survey the array of options. Granted, it’s a somewhat pricey proposition (classic small tacos are $3.50 each, up 50 cents from their Harlem counterparts), and sadly, Taco Mix BK has yet to install their signature trompo—the spinning rotisserie from which chile-rubbed coils of fat-rimmed pork are shaved—but it’s worth working your way through the current alternatives—authentic off-cuts of the sort generally found in Sunset Park proper. Also referred to as “rose meat,” smooth streamers of suadero, singed at the edges and tips, are culled from between the belly and leg of the cow, while buche refers to assertively musky but surprisingly tender pig stomach. Then there’s oreja—the ears—cartilaginous, milk-white nubbins with a mild porky flavor and an uncompromising chew.
If ear chomping isn’t your speed, 50 cents more will buy you large tacos, filled with gringo-approved fillings like ropy chicken tinga or bouncy, deeply caramelized carnitas, or you can “mix it up” for $9.50, with a burrito, nachos or taco plate. Whatever you order, it all goes down Chipotle-style, as you work your way through a swift assembly line of cooks. The tortillas themselves are a low point—faintly stale and flaccid white corn, lacking the flavorful sunburst of char, the benefit of reheating on a proper comal. And you should breeze though the bulk of the veritable salad bar, containing canisters of chopped iceberg, anemic tomatoes and canned corn (get the Oaxaca cheese, skip the mozzarella), so you can make the most of the accoutrements lining the far wall. Squeeze bottles of sauces are divided into hot and not, but being that the “not” includes three sticky sweet, Thousand Island-based dressings (one was actually pure Thousand Island), best to suck it up and go spicy with squiggles of tomatillo puree, and astringent ribbons of pickled habanero—you can always counterbalance the heat with cooling spheres of peeled cucumber and wheels of crisp radish.
Until they deliver on their celebrated al pastor, Taco Mix is simply another above-average addition to the thriving Mexican food mecca of Sunset Park. But when it comes to the far fringes of taco-lite Industry City, noteworthy buche and suadero has undoubtedly put them in the mix.
220 36th Street, Sunset Park