Growing up in Southern California really ruined me for Mexican food. New York has a handful of restaurants that have game, but if you crave the consistent taste and authenticity of real California Mexican cuisine, you might be better off cooking at home. Even if you want the convenience of using a few packaged ingredients, it’s important to have a fresh-tasting salsa on hand, and what I call ‘restaurant style’ chips that are sturdy enough to stand up to the thickest guacamole. The problem is, which brands of chips and salsa taste the best? Obviously, other non-native New Yorkers have considered this situation, because fellow East Village resident Matt Bennett has created Dreams Aren’t This Good (DATG); a line of unique salsas and authentic tortilla chips that blows away everything else on the supermarket shelf. Seriously, this brand is a game changer.
Sweet Dreams Are Made of This Salsa
Inspired by and infused with the sights and sounds of New York City, one-of-a-kind DATG salsa flavors include The Original (which I received for review), The Fighter (garlic cilantro), Just Dance (jalapeno pineapple), Now or Never (avocado pepper), and Girls Girls Girls (blueberry coconut). All salsas and tortilla chips are gluten free, vegan and contain no preservatives.
DATG’s origin story goes back to Matt’s upbringing in Southeast Texas and his tenure as a student at Louisiana State University (LSU). “At school, I started making salsa by mixing Mexican style with a little Cajun spice,” Matt remembers. “As I experimented with different ingredients and flavors, the salsa was always a huge hit with everyone, and I knew I was on to something.”
Growing up in Southern California, I developed a passion for authentic (“California style”) Mexican food, because — and I mean this sincerely — even the simplest Mexican cuisine, when done right, is the best comfort food in the Universe. When I moved to New York City, I was horrified by numerous aggressively bad excuses for Mexican food, such as goat cheese quesadillas and enchiladas made with flour tortillas, which, just no. Thirty plus years later, New York City boasts a handful of decent-to-very-good Mexican restaurants, but nothing can compare to anything you can find at the Old Town Mexican Cafe, located in Old Town San Diego. Behold, the Crispy Cheese Quesadilla, one of Old Town’s specialties. This restaurant is famous for making its own flour and corn tortillas, and this unique, open-faced take on the quesadilla begins with a freshly-made, large flour tortilla, which is grilled to a flaky crispness before being smothered with mixed cheeses and served hot to your table with a side of sour cream. Mmmmm, deliciosa!
Hey, do you like Burritos? I sure do. One of my favorite places to get a fresh and tasty Burrito here in Manhattan is Moe’s Southwest Grill, where they have a maverick, Rock & Roll attitude to go with their amazing Mexican food. You don’t have to sell me on how good it is; I’ve tasted it! And just last week, I was invited to dine in a mobile Moe’s restaurant-on-wheels as part of their limited-time promotion, Tour de Burrito, which was due to make a two-day stop in downtown NYC on the way to its final destination in Tampa, FL. Oh Boy!
Moe’s Tour de Burrito was an exclusive, traveling restaurant experience that visited select eastern US cities from November 2nd to 10th, giving burrito lovers a front row seat to see what happens behind the counter at Moe’s. Since they’re traveling, they needed to get some Cheap Campervan Insurance to be covered all over the country. After their tour they had to use this Motor Trade Industry: Buying & Selling Trends to help sell their old van and buy a new one. If you want to do this tour by yourself, make sure you buy a car like this used Jaguar XF. Being the Freshest Reservation in Town, all dates sold out in 45 minutes, with a few additional spots given to fans on Moe’s FaceBook page. Those who made it onto the truck got to collaborate with Moe’s culinary team to customize the freshest burrito, or burrito bowl, of their dreams, and to try never-before-tasted seasonal salsas that really brought the heat! Once I was given the super-secret address, it was easy to find the Tour de Burrito Truck parked in a lot on Broome Street, which just happened to also be the home of This Awesome Mural. It was truly an exclusive experience, and I have the photos to prove it! People even bought cars from CarSite Network just to drive over.
Let’s step inside the truck!
Man Vs. Burrito
The Tour de Burrito truck seats groups of 10 at a time for a one-on-one experience with the Moe’s culinary team! The first thing to do once I was seated was to customize my meal by composing the Burrito of my heart’s desire from list of fresh ingredients. Fun!
Few outside the Moe’s inner circle get to see what they do in every restaurant, every day, but Tour de Burrito guests even got to watch their burrito being rolled — talk about mad skills!
The First Bite Gets the Lipstick!
Mmm…Carnitas Burrito. So Yummy.
Guests in the truck also got to be among the first to taste two new seasonal Moe’s salsas: Ghostujang (made with bright red Ghost Peppers seen above) and Ahhhhhvocado, a tangy salsa verde made with fresh ripe avocado.
Ghost Peppers are a little hot for my taste (read: like eat fire) but the Avocado/Salsa Verde blend of Ahhhhhvocado was so my thing. I had to slather it on my burrito after every bite!
This little boy, dining with his parents and little sister, made the most hilarious faces while attempting to tackle a huge Burrito.
I believe he eventually surrendered and switched to a bowl. Burrito: 1. Child: 0.
Everyone got a bag of freshly made Moe’s tortilla chips and jar of fresh Ahhhhhvocado salsa to take home! Thank you Moe’s Tour de Burrito for a fun time!
Find out more about Moe’s Southwest Grill, locate a Moe’s in your hood and sign up for the Rockin Rewards program (to earn free food!) at Moes Dot Com!
Bus Detail from Foodstock, Original Art for Moe’s Southwest Grill (All Photos By Gail )
Do you like Mexican food? I sure do. As a transplanted native of southern California, I was already spoiled for life when it comes to excellent Mexican food by the time I got to NYC 27 years ago. But the bar for (what passes for) Mexican food in NYC has definitely been raised, a lot, in recent years, and now it’s pretty easy to find reliable sources for the fresh taste of California-style Mexican food all over the city. One of my favorite spots to pick up a burrito that gets me all nostalgic for L.A. is the fast casual chain called Moe’s Southwest Grill. Maybe you have Moe’s in your town, so you already know what I am talking about.
Last week, Moe’s threw a rad party, called An Honestly Awesome Night, over at the Hudson Mercantile Building, and a bunch of us press peeps were invited out to eat and drink until we were all fat and logey with delicious Moe’s food and assorted intoxicating beverages. Also, there was music, and some fun art. It was a good time. Let me tell you about it, and show you some pictures of what you missed on what really was an honestly awesome night!.
Moe’s was founded in Atlanta back in 2000, and I’m not sure if it is widely known that the name Moe’s is actually an acronym for “Musicians, Outlaws and Entertainers” — so clever! Sixteen years later, there are over 650 Moe’s restaurant scattered across the country, with the restaurant recently named Fast Casual Mexican Restaurant Brand of the Year by the 2016 Harris Poll! One of the main qualities Moe’s is known for is their literally millions of possible food combinations that can be created with all of their fresh and delicious ingredients. You can have it ‘your way’ and not be shy about asking for what you want when you go to Moe’s!
Say hello to Moe’s mascot, Joey Bag of Donuts, the Human Burrito, and check out his awesome dance moves! Did you know that all the music you will hear while dining at a Moe’s restaurant is by bands with musicians who have passed on to the Great Gig in the Sky? This is a great idea for creating an excellent playlist, since all of the best music happened in the 80s and earlier (my opinion). You can hear music by living musicians anytime, but at Moe’s you get a real pop-culture history lesson! How much fun would it be to play “Guess the Dead Rock Star” with your teenager (who thinks he knows everything) every time a song comes on? Answer: so fun! You would win every time, because kids today don’t know anything about good music.
One of the most popular items at Moe’s is the Legendary Homewrecker Burrito, and the party had a burrito station exclusively dedicated to making this delicious food item!
All freshly-made Homewrecker Burritos were wrapped and stuffed into these little round holes, so party-goers could just grab and go! What a great idea! Moe’s should change its name to Moo’s because we were all grazing like cows.
Homewrecker Burrito: Interior Detail
This is the Salsa-tails Wall of Great Refreshment. The Lime Green and Orange Colored Cocktails were a tasty homage to the Salsas served at Moe’s but they did not taste like a spicy tomato, they tasted sweet and potent.
The green one was especially intoxicating, and had a subtle flavor of cucumber.
Everyone loves a Burrito Bowl, am I right? They had Burrito Bowl station where you could customize your dish to suit your taste.
The food began to take a more artistic bent with the Quesadilla Spinart Station, which is exactly what it sounds like. Take a look below.
Artsy! The finished product was not only beautiful, but also delicious.
Another chef invited us to watch him do a Smashin’ Nachos Demo. This demo drew a large crowd of people armed with their smart phones.
We were then invited to eat the Nachos right off of the board on which they had been smashed. It tasted much better than it looks!
There was also an Art Exhibit for the unveiling of Moe’s Rockscapes: six musically-themed masterpieces, each one of which salutes a different memorable music moments. The Rockscapes were created with help of artist and photographer Carl Warner, who is famous for his realistic food scapes. and everything within each tableau is made from real food items! Click on any of the images in this post to enlarge them, so that you can see all the detail that went in to creating each photo.
While My Cheese Gently Weeps
The above scene is a tribute to The Beatles‘ final live performance, which took place in January of 1969 on the rooftop of the Apple Records offices in London.
This one celebrates the Jamaican Reggae scene.
Straight Outta Limeton
The most ambitious Rockscape tribute is called Foodstock, which is, of course, meant to honor the first Woodstock concert in 1969, and the profound impact it had on both music and social culture. Foodstock is also the first of the foodscapes to receive the Augmented Realty treatment as part of Moe’s new Rockin’ Rewards loyalty app. Augmented Realty will give fans an opportunity to interact with the art and bring Moe’s fresh ingredients to life through their smart phones. With AR you can leverage the feature to play the onion drums, see bees buzz and, literally, create sweet melodies with Moe’s endless, high-quality food combinations! Fun! The six new pieces of artwork that will be in all Moe’s locations by the end of the year!
I hope you enjoyed living through me as I took you on a food-coma/journey through Moe’s Honestly Awesome Night!
Above Image Courtesy of La Loteria, All Food Photos By Anne Raso
If, like me, you happen to have lived in California, where they have excellent Mexican food on every corner, you already know that being a Mexican food enthusiast in NYC can be, shall we say, disappointing. It’s no secret that NYC restaurants can get a bit lost when it comes to delivering consistently excellent Mexican food. While many places do an acceptable job, or get two or three things (say, Guacamole) right, I’ve lost track of how many Mexican Restaurants not only miss basic details like baking the enchiladas in sauce (duh), but also do weird things like putting Goat Cheese in the Quesadillas. Seriously, no me gustan.
But I never give up on my quest for great Mexican food, and that journey recently led me to La Loteria, a “Cocina Mexicana Moderna” on Seventh Avenue South that lives up to the hype of its 4.5 Star Yelp Reviews! Taking its name from a Mexican card game similar to American Bingo, La Loteria continues that sense of playfulness with its decor that features vibrant framed prints of La Loteria Cards and handmade Day of The Dead-style Mexican sculptures and figurines. The restaurant’s interior has a bright and modern feel with many endearing, traditional touches that lend it a distinctive look among its culinary competition. Props to whoever designed this space.
Operated by Chef Julieta Ballesteros (who also owns Crema and Los Feliz) and business partner Jaime Herrera, La Loteria’s well-focused menu doesn’t get distracted from what makes an excellent taco, while also bringing in fresh seafood, and taking just the right creative liberties with Mexican favorites like Flautas and Empanadas. The result is one of the best new Mexican Restaurants in NYC, maybe ever. Worleygig.com was recently invited to enjoy a tasting menu of some of La Loteria’s signature appetizers. Here’s a look at what we ate:
Of course, we had to start with the Guacamole Tradicional ($13), served with still-warm, housemade chips. It tasted as good as it looks, with a hint of jalapeno added for a kick, and the tortilla chips were light, crispy and delicious! You can add chicharrones (crispy fried meats), including ancho chile-dusted pork belly, to your Guacamole for an additional $5 to $7. This appetizer easily serves three adults.
Complement your meal with the Salsas Del Valiente ($10) a trio of Specialty Salsas (also served with chips) that includes (left to right in the above photo): Roasted Chile de Arbol, Salsa Verde Cruda, and de Cacahuate Enchilado — a chunky/creamy, peanut-based salsa. Really nice!
The Ceviche de Pescado ($14) is made with a fresh fish of the day, and ours featured fresh-caught Red Snapper, mixed with the customary lime and citrus juices along with chunks of ripe avocado, tomatillo and pickled cucumbers. La Loteria’s Ceviche is among the freshest and most flavorful I’ve ever eaten, and I highly recommend it if you are a lover of fresh seafood.
Tostaditos de Atun ($14) are an array of mini-tostadas topped with a slice of fresh, chile-rubbed and pan-seared tuna, resting on a dollop of guacamole and dressed with sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, chipotle aioli and sweet mango salsa. It’s a ton of flavors in a couple of perfect bites.
Empanadas (Mexican filled turnovers) are a favorite of mine and La Loteria’s Empanadas are made with the flakiest, most tender pastry imaginable. We tasted two varieties including De Flor De Calabaza y Huitlacoche ($18 for three) which are stuffed with squash blossom, devil corn, chihuahua cheese, yellow bell pepper coulis and cotija cheese. Also on the menu are very savory empanadas De Papa con Chorizo ($14), filled with spicy potatoes, Mexican chorizo, cream, pasilla sauce (made with Pasilla Chiles) and cotija cheese. You can’t necessarily tell by the photo, but these Empanadas are huge and very filling!
I am also highly recommending the Flautitas De Pato en Trilogia de Salsas (Small Duck Flautas with Three Sauces, $16). Here, rolled corn tortillas are stuffed with juicy, shredded duck confit, corn and caramelized onions and then fried crispy, before being topped with a colorful medley of avocado tomatillo, mole poblano (very chocolaty!) and chipotle aioli. This is a great plate to share.
For dessert, we were served two specialties of the house: warm Mexican Churros with Chocolate and Caramel Dipping Sauces (who doesn’t love churros?), and the Guava Pie, which are small tarts with layers of flan custard and sweet guava compote, then topped with whipped cream and sliced toasted almonds. Very original, light and delicious!
Service was friendly and accommodating all around. We didn’t do any drinking on this visit but we heard that La Loteria makes a mean Jalapeno Margarita! We’ll look forward to a return visit to try their take on Queso Fundido (Quesos Flameados) with homemade corn tortillas and many other Modern Mexican classics!
La Loteria is located at 29 7th Ave South (Varick Street, between Bedford & Morton). Hours are Sunday – Thursday, 12 Noon – 11:00 PM and Friday – Saturday 12:00 Noon – 2:00 AM, with a Happy Hour Daily from 4:00 – 7:00 PM. Call (212)858-9096 or visit them on the Web at This Link to make a Reservation.
“Pop Art”: Illuminated Wall of Jarritos Soda. All Interior Photos By Gail, Most Food Photos By Anne Raso
[Note: As of July 2014, Orale has changed its name to Chico Julio’s Oceans of Flavor and is now focusing on a Seafood-themed / Mexican Menu]
Hey do you like Mexican Food? I sure do. While there’s always been a dearth of authentic Mexican – or even the revered California Style Mexican – cuisine in Manhattan (and, let’s be honest, in the entire tri-state area) the Upper West Side has a new contender for at least a Top Ten List fixture with the arrival of Orale Mexican Kitchen, which has been open for just under a month.
Orale UWS joins its popular sister location in Jersey City , which has been winning fans since April of 2013. The Manhattan space mimics the NJ location’s décor with fun barrio style graffiti and street art murals, which gives the restaurant a vibrant and festive feel as soon as you enter. There’s also the incredible illuminated wall of colorful Jarritos soda bottles, which is as cool a work of ‘Pop’ Art as anything I’ve seen in the Chelsea Gallery District.
Orale’s engaging menu is a good mix of standard Mexican favorites and Latin-inspired fare, which might encourage you to extend your culinary comfort zone and experiment a bit. But it’s always a good idea to start your meal with some fresh Guacamole.
Orale dresses up its Guacamole de la Casa (Avocado, Tomato, Cilantro, Onion, Jalapeno & Lime) with five different topping ($7 – 9), or you can select a tasting of three for $12, which is what we did. To the de la Casa we added a scoop of the El Naco (topped with so-close-to-bacon Crispy Braised Pork Belly) and the Blue Demon, topped with Cabrales Blue Cheese and Toasted Pepitas (pumpkin seeds). The Guacamole is served with a literal bucket of freshly made tortilla chips and a selection of three spicy sauces, which deliver varying degrees of heat, to your taste.
Tacos De la Calle (5 soft corn tortillas stuffed with varied fillings) are a popular dish at Orale and a tray of 5 will set you back $16, which, believe it or not, is competitively priced for these parts. We shared an order of the Tacos Al Pastor, which are made with tender marinated & Roasted Pork topped with Caramelized Pineapple, Chile de Arbol and Cilantro. Very satisfying and delicious! Other taco fillings include, Roasted Bone Marrow topped with Crispy Pork Belly, Beer Battered Fish, Vegetarian with sautéed Seitan, Chili Rubbed & Seared Tuna, and Spicy Beef Tinga. A great idea for a party of two or three diners would be to get two orders of different tacos and share them!
The menu leads one to believe that a side Rice & Beans come with the tacos, though that is not the case. However, a size appropriate for sharing is just $6.
One of the house specialties, the intriguingly named Dinosaurio, is an entree of one huge Short Rib served on the bone, marinated in ancho and chipotle-chile and cooked until a tiny nudge of your fork frees the meat from that very serious bone (Dinosaurio, indeed). The meat is sublimely tender and flavorful, though it has a bit more “marbling” than I generally care for. My dining companion, on the other hand, absolutely raved about it. The plate arrives dressed with Tamal de Olla (a creamy polenta lightened with fresh corn) and a delicious Tomatillo Chipotle Compote.
Under the Bocadillos section of the menu, a large dish of fresh Brussels Sprouts ($5), quickly deep fried and then seasoned simply with salt & pepper, is an unorthodox but complementary side to both the traditional and Nuevo-Mex dishes.
We finished off our meal with a favorite traditional Mexican dessert, Vanilla Flan with a luscious Caramel Sauce ($7), which was recommended by our very friendly and helpful server. Again, after a hearty meal this portion was certainly big enough to share between two people (in fact, we could barely even finish it).
Orale also has an extensive drink menu featuring classic margaritas, specialty cocktails and a wide selection of Tequilas, Sangria and Beer. This place is a great addition to an already fun neighborhood. I’m looking forward to future visits to further explore the adventurous menu! Get your Cinco de Mayo reservation in now before they fill up!
Orale Mexican Kitchen is Located at 768 Amsterdam Avenue (near 98th Street), New York, New York 10025. Phone (212)749-2929 or visit Orale MK Dot Com for reservations.
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.
Tequila Bottle Chandelier by Johnny Swing
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!
All Food Photos By Anne Raso
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).
Hibiscus & Rose Maragarita and the Voodoo Child Cocktail
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.