Roosevelt Avenue is like the culinary Silk Road of NYC. Venture underneath the elevated 7 train, along the path it carves through Queens, and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best, most diverse food in the city. While it would be easy to eat your way through the globe within a few subway stops, we set our sights on just one dish on our last journey down the thoroughfare: the almighty taco.
It’s a simple enough dish if you really think about it. Take a tortilla, heat it up, then dish out some juicy meat or veggies to fold up inside of it. But with so many varieties of toppings and textures, there are some cooks ‘round these parts elevating the humble corn-based canvas to a true art. That’s why we’ve sought out the real Picassos of the field. Follow along and ready the salsa, folks. Here’s our guided tour of where to get the best tacos along Roosevelt Avenue and beyond:
El Gallo Giro
Where: Roosevelt Avenue and 75th Street
Why: El Gallo Giro is a nickname for the “champion rooster” and it’s a fitting moniker here. Though there are many food trucks that line up at the 74th Street stop on the 7 train, this one always draws a crowd. Eyeball the sizzling flattop while you try not to drool in anticipation. You’ll soon be rewarded for your restraint with thinly sliced, and perfectly seasoned, carne asada.
Where: 7605 Roosevelt Avenue
Why: This place is the real deal. From the generous helping of fillings loaded into each taco to the creamy avocado salsa, grilled jalapeños, sliced lime and crunchy radishes that all come as toppings for your prized al pastor or juicy lengua. Yessir, we’re willing to wager that these heaping delicacies are some of the best in the city — and they’re incredibly filling taboot.
Tacos al Suadero
Where: 3757 90th Street
Why: The phrase “al Suadero” roughly refers to a cut of beef from between the belly and leg of a cow, with a texture similar to hanger steak when cooked. The best way? Slow cooking it for hours at a time. At this 90th Street joint, they’re broiling the beef to maintain juiciness and flavor. Order it up in a taco, squeeze lime on top generously, devour with impunity.
Where: 94-13 37th Avenue
Why: You might’ve stumbled upon the rolling outposts of this fine establishment if you’ve ever wandered aimlessly through the East Village or Williamsburg desperate for a taco fix. You feel yourself losing hope when — what is that intoxicating smell? You follow this beacon through the night, toward an oasis that might not exist. Once the first bit of the taco hits your lips, you know it really does. Even better than these drunken moments though? A trip to their brick-and-mortar location that surpasses the already-satisfying fare at the trucks.
The King of the Taco
Where: 90-17 31st Avenue
Why: It’s a bold name to be sure, but these guys are putting in the work to live up to it. Like Tacos Morelos, they have several trucks in their fleet, dishing out tacos all around Astoria. After the success of the wheel-based biz, the owners opened a homebase over on 31st Avenue. Have a seat and order the stuff you’d normally spill everywhere while eating at the truck. While we’re strictly talkin’ tacos here, we wouldn’t be too angry if you went straight for the gorditas instead.
Where: 104-05 47th Avenue
Why: When making a delicious taco, most folks focus on what’s inside, but at Tortilleria Nixtamal? It’s what’s outside that counts. According to the spot’s owners, “nixtamal is an Aztec word to describe corn that has been partially cooked and soaked with calcium hydroxide.” The element’s tasty effect on the grain was discovered when the Aztecs ground corn against limestone found in riverbeds. These days, we’re reapin’ the benefits in the form of fresh tortillas and tamales at Tortilleria Nixtamal.
Bonus!: Rockaway Taco
Where: 95-19 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, a short walk from the A train or an excellent pit stop on a bike ride to the beach.
Why: If you’re feeling ambitious enough to eat your way through all six of the above spots, then we’d say it’s also worthwhile to catch a beach day down by this legendary beach-side taco purveyor. Although Hurricane Sandy forced the eatery further up onto dry land after extensive damages sustained at its former location, Rockaway Taco remains as delicious as ever at its new space on Rockaway Boulevard. Pro tip: don’t balk at the line out front. The fish tacos here are absolutely, positively worth the wait.