While its doors opened just this past March, the word is already on the street about Teqa; a Mexican restaurant that does things just a bit differently. Filling a void in a neighborhood previously longing for an infusion of youthful vibrancy, this Taqueria & Tequileria (say that five times fast) is the creation of entrepreneurial owner Derek Axelrod, who’s enlisted the right All-Star team to make Teqa a success. In the kitchen, chef Lisa Schoen (also personal chef to Derek Jeter) creates a presentation of modern and traditional Mexican cuisine that draws from global influences, while in the dining room, Interior Design by Lesly Zamor combines the warmth of dark wood and leather with the rustic/modern touch of custom lighting (courtesy of Johnny Swing) to create a very comfortable and welcoming interior.
Now, consider that the Bartenders at Teqa mix refreshing signature cocktails from a tequila menu featuring over 100 different bottles, and you’ve scored with an establishment that appeals to both those who desire to satiate the appetite and those who also hunger for a nightlife vibe.
But us? We came to eat!
A generous portion of fresh, ripe Teqa Guacamole ($14) arrives on your table spiced to your desired level of heat at Mellow, Orange-Habanero or Mega Watt (or choose trio of all three for the same price).
If you’re not a Guacamole fan, do try the House made, tri-color Tortilla Chips and Salsa in a selection of flavors like roasted tomato, green tomatillo and shrimp-mango ($9 each flavor), or try a sampling of all three (see above photo) for $10.
Oaxaca Queso Fundido (warm melted cheese dip with chips, $11) is accompanied by tomatillo salsa and available in plain cheese (for purists) or with a choice of chorizo or ground beef (add $6) or veggies (add $4).
Other appetizers include the popular Teqa Nachos platter ($14) topped with a cheese blend, seasoned ground sirloin, black beans, guacamole, pico de gallo and cilantro crema. Quesadillas stuffed with wild mushrooms or BBQ pulled chicken ($11 each) round out the starters menu. A couple of shared appetizers could easily serve as a satisfying meal when accompanied by one or two of Teqa’s delicious cocktails such as the Voodoo Child with Tequila and fresh pineapple, or the Hibiscus & Rose Margarita.
Read More Of This Review After The Jump!
Teqa is not your standard Rice & Beans Combo Platter Mexican, but rather a place to sample an array of authentic tacos prepared the way they serve them south of the border. The trio of pan seared Mahi Mahi Tacos ($16) served with crunchy jicama-mint slaw and rich avocado crema took us back to the flavors of a recent, summer trip to Cozumel!
We also tried the trio of tender and flavorful Guinness Braised Short Rib Tacos ($16) topped with grilled corn, queso fresco and spicy sauce. For those who prefer a hard shell taco, the Old School ($14), with ground beef, shredded lettuce, cheese and pico de gallo should satisfy your craving. A great way to sample a wider variety of Teqa’s taco offerings – especially if you come with a group – is to spring for the Tacos By The Dozen, offering a choice of up to four varieties (including Grilled Shrimp, BBQ Chicken or ‘Surf & Turf) with all of their accompanying toppings, for $54. Sides (all $8) include the de rigueur Rice & Black Beans (share a plate) and another favorite, the Grilled Corn on the cob covered with melty Cotija Cheese and spicy Chipole Ailoi. As they say in Espanol, “Es para chuparse los dedos” (loose translation: “Finger lickin’ good!”)
For those to whom a plate of tacos does not a meal make, Teqa also offers a nice selection of both fish and meat entrees that includes oven roasted Mahi Mahi ($26), Pan Seared Yellow Fin Tuna ($27), Chili Rubbed Chicken Breast with Grilled Pineapple Salsa ($21) and Marinated Charred Skirt Steak (served with crispy shoestrings fries, $26) which, being the red meat lovers that we are, we could not resist. This skirt steak gets high marks: ours was so tender it could be cut with regular table knife and flavorfully seasoned in its own rich marinade/sauce. The accompanying fresh pico de gallo was a nice touch, and we also dipped each bite in a little bit of leftover guacamole – delish!
Always making room for dessert even when there really is no room, we sampled the “lightest” sweet treat on the menu: hot from the fryer Mexican Churros (pictured above), crispy on the outside but tender on the inside, generously dusted with cinnamon and sugar and served with dark chocolate and dulce de leche dipping sauces. Ole!
The very beautiful bar area (at the restaurant’s rear, separated from the dining room by a partition) was hopping by the time we were ready to reluctantly wrap up our evening at Teqa. It’s easy to see why this place has already become favorite neighborhood hang. It sure would be a great place to meet for First Date drink if you want to show your date that you know what’s hip in the East 30s. It’s worth noting that Happy Hour at Teqa runs from 4:00 – 7:00 PM nightly with two for one drink specials and Margarita pitchers accompanied by a complimentary plate of tacos! Fiesta!
Note: Teqa has now Closed for Business
Teqa is located at 443 Third Avenue (near East 30th). Hours are Monday-Friday for Lunch from 12 Noon – 4:00 PM and Dinner starting at 5:00 PM; Saturday and Sunday for Brunch and Dinner starting at 12 Noon. Phone 212)213-3223 for reservations or visit their website at Teqa Dot Com for menus and information on special events.