Hey guys. The taco jerk is back! Did you miss me?
I had high hopes for La Esquina. I mean, this is the place that is supposed to be the staple of Manhattan good Mexican, right? Right?
Last night was my second time visiting La Esquina, the BK edition on Wythe and North 3rd in Williamsburg. The first time I went there with my good foodie friend, we threw down and ate EVERYTHING except the chicken tacos. And we debated. He liked it ok—me, as I’m sure you know, I am a tougher sell. But hey, I have been wrong before…hardly ever, but still, wrong before.
So we went again. We got to La Esquina at sunset. And the location is gorgeous for a nice spring day. Soft-colored wood tables, great outdoor space, and if you are stuck indoors it’s still super cute. Like a Mexican kitsch diner. And it has Frida Kahlo tequila! I mean, damn. This place has a voice. But would the food sing as loud as the walls?
We ordered a copious amount of chicken tacos, fish tacos and cochinita pibil. And I was feeling under the weather, so I went semi-rogue and ordered tortilla soup, aka deconstructed taco broth. We ordered some well-made, real-lime-juice happy hour margaritas (so far so good, Esquina) and we waited for our tacofest. The waiter was very accommodating and gave us chips and salsa in a little salsa container that we could keep (think artisanal salsa jar). This would be rad, if the salsa were good. But too bad it wasn’t. It wasn’t bad either. It was just like, meh. Meh. Not too seasoned, not too spicy, but not an abomination. I guess what I’m saying is that just like La Esquina’s food overall, the idea was better than the product.
Which brings me to the tacos. Ah, the tacos. The tacos were bad. I mean, like not terrible, but for $14 for 2, yes, pretty damn terrible. The tortilla was stiff and certainly did not taste homemade. If it was homemade, it had been sitting out forever. This, my friends, is my biggest taqueria pet peeve. If you are going to be a Mexican joint, and especially if you claim to be a high-end Mexican joint, make your own tortillas for God’s sake. It is not that hard. And we’re not done yet. The cochinita pibil committed the horrendous sin of being sweet instead of savory. It’s like when you eat bad pasta sauce and instead of seasoning it correctly people put brown sugar in it. Sugar is NOT the be-all-end-all of most things, people. Really. The cochinita had cabbage in it (um, WTF, cabbage? Really?) and the pickled onions were bland. How how HOW do you bland up something pickled is beyond me, but La Esquina managed to do it. Not only that, but it was not as tender as cochinita should be. Remember that this is supposed to be super slow-cooked pork, people. And it did not deliver.
The tortilla soup was also pretty bad. It was greasy and heavy and did not have nearly enough onion, it had no cheese and it had waaaay too much chicken. Not to mention it had no cilantro at all. I mean, spare me. This place was kind of the epitome of Williamsburg taco hype. Great scene, terrible food, really overpriced.
I will say one thing in La Esquina’s favor: the fish tacos were pretty damn good (or rather, the fish because the tortilla was still the same stiff piece of crap I had before). So if your hip friends insist on you going there, get the fish tacos and skip everything else. I will say that the table next to us ordered other things, and their fried chicken looked good—so who knows. Maybe La Esquina is better at not-Mexican than they are at Mexican.