Dear Food Diary:
Doyer Street (Chinatown) is one of those interesting alleys that’s short but full of surprises. Nothing is what it seems.
It can be a bit shady and creepy at times, but unlike the old days, it is quite safe.
Without any signs, the hidden underground Mexican joint Pulqueria is tucked between Apotheke (speakeasy bar) and Nom Wah Tea Parlor (the oldest dim sum spot in NY). They claim to be the first restaurant outside of Mexico to batch and serve pulque (fermented beverage made from the agave plant). Part cantina/bar, part restaurant serving plenty of drinks, tortas and tacos, Mexican street market style.
While waiting outside of Pulqueria, tons of tourist (guidebooks in hand) asked about Apotheke , it got to the point where I just pointed without any eye contact. Obviously, it’s no longer “hidden” as it once was. *sigh* Tourists ruin everything (when I say tourist, I do included myself).
The waitress warned about its “uniqueness” and brought over sample in it’s original form before I committed to a whole glass (never a good sign). Definitely an acquired taste, I can see why no other restaurant has attempted this on their menu. A little herbal and tart with an aftertaste. I made a face, the waitress gave a “I told you so” look and suggested a margarita instead, but I said no way Jose! I came to Pulqueria and I’m having pulque darn it! Pulque classico is about $6, at more than double the price $14, the mixed concoction with Coconut infused black tea, lime and tequila was much easier on the palate.
There’s a ton of interesting flavors for pulques and margaritas, like tomatillo and tamarindo. Spicy and sweet mixes. Plus, you can get whole pitcher to share. There’s also cocktails, beers and flights tequila.
Guacamole del dia wasn’t very unique. Waitress asked if we liked spicy, we said “YES!!!” unanimously, but it came mild at best. It was just ok, maybe a little another squeeze of lime would of been better. The tortilla chips were really crisp and crunchy. If I’m going to pay for guacamole, I would at least want it done table side.
Esquites was an off-the-cob version of Elotes. Grilled corn with chile piquin, mayo, queso fresco and lime. The flavor was right, but it was a bit wet towards the bottom, and you know wet and creamy isn’t a good thing.
Pork Belly Torta was like a south american version of a banh mi. Their house made bolillo bread is soft but held the ingredients beautifully. With a nice crispy exterior. Likewise, the crispy and fatty pork belly was a mouthful of goodness between creamy avocado, pickled vegetables and chile mayo. A nice balance where it didn’t feel too heavy. At $16, this baby was pretty filling.
Lengua taco was really fantastic. Nice chard and crispy edges, just enough bite. Loved it. A lot of times, lengua is too tender and soft. This is one I would crave and go back for. One of the best lengua tacos I’ve had.
Carnitas taco was filled with Berskshire pork confit, cilantro and onions. Simple flavors. Crispy and crunchy. I wish there were some chicharrones or something. The fresh and tart tomatillo salsa gave it a nice kick. Overall, a solid one.
One of the pleasures of eating out is ambiance, Pulqueria has that. Though the menu isn’t that amazing per se, finding the spot and walking underground definitely bumped it up 1/2 yummy. Plus, that unique Pulque, which I have love/hate feelings about. The service was friendly, though our waitress sounded like she was a bit high or had a bad hang over.
Lots of drinks and small bites with amigos sounds like a good night to me. Spacious enough for a large group. And you can always go drink some more next door or get some dim sum late at night. Overall, a fun spot.
11 Doyer St.