Early in June, we told you that the famed Texan breakfast taco was finally coming to New York City—previously, glaringly absent—and landing inside the Clark Street subway station in Brooklyn Heights. Jalapa Jar co-founder Tommy Byrnes told us that these little breakfast pockets, filled with soft scrambled eggs, and bases like refried pinto beans, mashed plantains, or sweet or spicy potato mashes, and then topped with veggies or meat (or even Texan queso) would make their long-awaited New York City debut later in the summer.
And, this week, they finally have. So we stopped by to eat them, make sure the Jalapa Jar breakfast tacos still tasted just as good—either as a perfect hangover cure, or a satisfying protein-filled breakfast that will boost you into the rest of the day, but, also, not weigh you down—as we remembered.
“A lot of Texas people are coming by, and just saying they are thankful that we’re here,” Byrnes told us yesterday morning, standing behind his new taco outpost, as riders of the 2/3 train peered over, intrigued by this new food option on their daily commute. “There are a lot of good restaurants around here, but, like, grab-and-go food, and something that feels like it should be in Williamsburg?” said Byrnes, “We’ve gotten that response: ‘Finally, we got something cool and different here.’”
What is it about the Austin-style breakfast taco that has made it an obsession of wistful Texan transplants who might miss plenty about their home state, but among those things, the flour or corn tortilla filled with egg and, as Byrnes describes it, various forms of “mush” or “good slop” are top on that list? The very simple answer is: they taste delicious. They are soft, they are hearty, they are just a tad and perfectly greasy if you get some chorizo, and they are spicy, if order Jalapa Jar hot sauce (as you should) poured all over the top; and they make you remember that mere yogurt, or cold cereal, is not the direction your morning meal should go. A trip to Brooklyn heights and just $7 for two of these delicious tacos will be worth your efforts.
At the taco bar yesterday, we ordered a chorizo version (called the Dirty 6), a veggie version, (the Greenpoint Veggie), and a hardcore Austin-style combination, which, Byrnes told us, is often just a simple flour tortilla (you heard right, not a corn tortilla; that’s just the way they swing down there), with eggs, potato, and cheese, topped with salsa.
“Some people are eating them here, on the counter, on the bar,” Byrnes told us, as we stood in front of him, doing just that, transformed into taco eating zombies because it was hard to concentrate on much beyond the bite in our mouths. After I finished I heard myself say, mindlessly, out loud: “I wanna eat eight of those.” And it would be frightening easy to do so.
Byrnes also gave us some nixtamlized tortilla chips with traditional Texan queso—melted Velveeta with a little half and half topped with chorizo or bacon and cilantro. Two tacos and these chips would be more than enough for one meal, but if you still want more, there is, mercifully, more to have: Sweet stix are mashed plantains that are glazed in maple syrup, dusted in brown, and have a hint of Jalapeno to give them a little sweet and spicy taste—then they’re flash-fried. “It is kind of like a stuffed churro, if you will,” Byrnes explained; there’s also the Jalapa Jar version of the Frito Pie—Borough Pie—which is Texas chili and queso poured on top of the same nixtamalized chips. Finish that off with some wood-fire-roasted coffee beans from Austin, Summer Moon Coffee, Byrnes’ favorite—slightly smokey, and mildly bitter—and you’ve got yourself a dream breakfast in a subway station.
Soon, Jalapa Jar’s hours will extend late night (there is a college dorm above the station) and into the weekends, “we’re basically going to be 24/7,” Byrnes said. And, if you cannot make it down to Brooklyn Heights immediately for the pleasure of it, consider this: Jalapa Jar will cater, too. “Say, hey, I need 20 tacos at the office,” Byrnes says as a hypothetical. As a person who works in Jalapa Jar’s general viceinity, it is one I like very much.
As we left, Byrne’s co-worker hung a sign on the front of the bar: “Now Hiring.” “We’re going to a need a lot more staff,” he told us, and this seemed both encouraging and wise. If our experience was any indication, Jalapa Jar will be breeding hordes of hungry—and demanding—New York City breakfast taco eaters at last.
All images by Jane Bruce