A number of years ago while hitchhiking up Baja, Mexico, I ended up on the bed of a pickup truck, rolling around with pickaxes, rakes, bags of trash and my backpack. Gripping the edges of the truck’s frame, I was so hungry; I wondered what would be worse: dying in Mexico of starvation, or dying in Mexico from being flung from the truck. I figured that regardless of how it went down, my Jewish mom would be pretty pissed. When the truck finally stopped about 100 miles south of Tijuana, I jumped onto the dusty main street of this unnamed town. I sought food immediately, and didn’t give it a second thought that anything would really suffice. I ran across the most insane traffic on the peninsula to a gathering of men at a bus stop. Bewildered and in the best gringo understanding I could muster, they directed me to a three-walled plywood structure two blocks north on the edge of town. They said Maria made the best tacos. And sure enough, not only did I not die of starvation while in Mexico, but these were the best tacos I’ve ever had, until, of course, I stumbled upon Tehhuitzingo in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan.
Tucked squarely in the back of an unassuming, very typical Mexican bodega at 695 10th Avenue, Tehhuitzingo serves everything from breakfast (open at 8 a.m., close at midnight, seven days) tacos, burritos, tortas, beer and soup out of a 2-foot, square window in the way back of the store. Sitting below piñatas and amongst an array of lights that would make the most festive Christmas caroler jealous as he nods his approving head, you can feast on the best tacos (starting at $2.50) I’ve had on the east coast, all while sipping on your favorite Mexican brew. Keep in mind that the hot sauce is not joking around.
We know New York best for its blockbuster culinary spots. Places like Nobu, Per Se and Le Bernadin tend to get all the attention in the latest Zagat guide writeups. And it’s certainly true that these places offer some of New York’s finest cuisine.
But to take these high-profile (and high priced) dining spots as symbolic of New York’s dining scene would miss other more intriguing trends. Just as much as New Yorkers like to be seen in high profile eateries, they also like to know about those “hidden out of the way” places where the food and drink is just as good and you have to be “in the know” to find it and get in. We’re talking about one of the city’s more recent food trends – hidden speakeasy cocktail lounges and unadvertised restaurants.
For some, this sort of trend can seem a bit obnoxious. Why should a bar or restaurant be hidden from plain view? And who are they trying to keep out anyway? But the fact is many of these places are highly accessible and provide for very fun experiences – you simply need to come with an open mind and know where to find them. The reward for your trouble is often a one-of-a-kind New York eating and drinking experience.
Ever wanted to play detective and sneak through a phone booth to a hidden 1920’s-style cocktail lounge? Interested in eating some of the most authentic Mexican tacos in New York in an unassuming Midtown grocery store? Or perhaps you’d like to try one of the city’s best hamburgers at a hidden greasy-spoon diner? Click below to check Undiscovered New York’s picks for secret eating and drinking in NYC…
Please Don’t Tell
You might already know about the New York hot dog. You know, that flavorless casing of meat they serve up at food carts stationed at every corner? We’re not big fans of the New York hot dog here at Undiscovered New York, but we are fans of Crif Dogs, a quirky hot dog and sausage place in the East Village. The best part about Crif Dogs is that they don’t just serve red hots – step inside what appears to be a simple phone booth on the side of the restaurant and prepare to enter one of New York’s hidden drinking dens.
On the other side of the phone booth lies Please Don’t Tell (PDT), one of the more recent additions to the city’s underground “speakeasy” cocktail lounge scene. This dimly lit drinking establishment serves up high-end specialty cocktails to a small crowd of “in the know” patrons. Make sure to call ahead if you want to stop by – the tiny space fills up quickly during the evening.
New York in 2009 does a surprisingly good job with Mexican food. One need only look at restaurants like La Palapa and rejoice at the fact that decently good Mexican has finally made its way to the Big Apple. One of the best results of this trend towards good Mexican is the rise of the casual taqueria stands all around the city. For perhaps one of the city’s more interesting taco experiences, head to the rather unexciting Midtown corner of 47th and 10th Avenue, home to Tehuitzingo Taqueria. Tucked inside the very back of a small Mexican grocery is a small taco stand, barely five feet wide, serving up some of the most delicious tacos you’ll find anywhere in the city, as well as Latin-American refreshments like Jarritos and Horchata.
New York’s Parker Meridien Hotel along 57th Street is just what you expect: a shiny and modern upscale hotel catering to the city’s more well-to-do visitors. But there’s one experience you don’t have to spend $500 a night on a room to enjoy – the hotel’s greasy-spoon hamburger shack, Burger Joint. Walk through the marbled-tiled lobby and you’ll come to a large red velvet curtain with a small neon sign. Pull back these heavy drapes and you’re suddenly inside a blue-collar burger spot, complete wood-laminate walls and cheesy movie posters taped everywhere. Don’t let the ambience fool you – Burger Joint serves up a delicious mouth-watering hamburger – good enough, in fact, to warrant a visit inside a fancy Midtown hotel.