Nopales with chicharron (left) and al pastor (All photos by Scott Lynch)
Sep 13, 2021
Are Brooklyn’s best new tacos at Greenpoint’s Taqueria Ramirez?
After a month of experimenting, the Mexico City-style taqueria officially opened last week
The secret to Taqueria Ramirez is right there behind the counter: a huge, convex choricera, custom-made in Mexico City. This is where the magic happens, in the round pot—shallow in the middle and deep on the sides—where the scored-up slabs of beef, the long links of pork sausage, and the tangles of tripe all burble together in lard and fat for three or four hours before hitting your plate.
Giovanni Cervantes, who co-founded this new Oak Street taco spot with his partner Tania Apolinar, calls it a “meat orgy.” And it makes for some intensely-flavored tacos.
That Taqueria Ramirez even exists is something of a miracle, considering that Cervantes and Apolinar have never run a restaurant before (Apolinar worked as a hostess and server years ago, but that’s about it in terms of prior experience), and, until pretty recently, they would have identified themselves as “photographers,” rather than “taco geniuses.”
Apolinar, who is from Torreón in northern Mexico, and Cervantes, from Mexico City, met five years ago while working at Greenpoint’s Colony Studios. They began their journey towards restaurateur-ship sideways, by making impromptu staff taco lunches on an electric griddle. Weekly pop-ups at local dive Brooklyn Safehouse followed, and some Transmitter Park setups, but it wasn’t until deep into the pandemic that the couple decided to throw their lot into the taco game.
“Back on New Year’s Eve we went to Mexico on vacation,” Apolinar tells Brooklyn Magazine. “And obviously we’re worried about the pandemic, so we were starting to get creative on what we should do next—like what if the studio doesn’t work out anymore?—and talking seriously about finding a full-time spot” for their tacos.
“We love Greenpoint,” Apolinar says. “We’re always here, we work here, we live here, we are connected with the neighborhood. So when we were looking around and came across this location, where we used to come for coffee and sandwiches. Right in that moment, we just decided to do it.”
There are six tacos on the Taqueria Ramirez menu. Four emerge from Cervantes’s choricera: the longaniza, which is like an extra-lively chorizo; the chunky suadero, a cut of beef similar to flank steak; the campechano, which combines the two; and the glorious tripa, a mound of offal that is not only impossibly tender, but also funky as hell.
The spinning trompo farther back in the open kitchen takes care of the pork-and-pineapple al pastor. Finally, there’s the nopales taco, a salad of sorts made from soft bits of cactus tossed with tomato, onion, and salty queso añejo, to which you can (and should) add crackling bits of chicharron.
The choricera is what really makes Ramirez uniquely CDMX-style, but visitors from Mexico City will also recognize the round, three-bite corn tortillas, and the lack of taco adornment when you’re handed your plate. The latter is up to you, via a fixings bar that includes two kinds of sauce (both are house-made; the orange is spicier than the green), cilantro, red onion, and limes. Tear a leaf or two off the papalo plant near the register, to nibble on between bites as a kind of palate cleanser/flavor enhancer.
Seating is minimal, with a few stools by the big open front window, or before the “chef’s counter” near the choricera. There’s a tree box out on the sidewalk that makes for a comfortable quick perch as well—standing around and wolfing down is also a fine way to enjoy these beauties—and everything is served on flimsy, brightly-colored plastic plates that the couple had their friends bring up from Mexico City. To reduce packaging and waste, takeout is not an option.
As far as the instant crowds that have greeted them, Apolinar says, “it’s getting easier. We did a soft opening a couple of days a week in August with just Giovanni and me and there were times when it got chaotic, with so many people on line and we were taking so long … It was super stressful, but thankfully we were able to find our flow. This space has really good vibes, and we are having fun.”
Taqueria Ramirez is located at 94 Franklin Street, which is really on Oak Street, and is current open Wednesday through Sunday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00, or until stuff sells out
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