Mexican on the East Coast
But my ranting aside, I have been told, and have since confirmed, that the Hudson Valley is one of the few places on the East Coast with a growing and vibrant community of Mexican immigrants building small enclaves of bakeries, eateries, and markets. Poughkeepsie in particular sparked my interest. I have tried three such places; El Bracero, Mole Mole, and Tacocina.
Tacocina (on Route 9 in Wappinger Falls) is by far my favorite at the moment. For a Southern Californian, the food can be best described as "good taco-truck tacos and rice and beans." For you East Coasters who do not know what a taco-truck is, I'll give you a more complete review. Tacocina is a little grocery-mart with a kitchen in the back. They make fresh corn tortillas, the little three inch kind, and have a wide array of meats simmering together for your choosing. The meat is chopped fresh and placed in two corn tortillas with just onions and cilantro. Tacos are are $1. Meats include chicken, beef, carnitas (pork), and all your favorite innards, from tripe to brain. My favorites so far are the beef and the longanisa, a Mexican sausage with a rich cinnamony and herby kick. Enchiladas are made with fresh, simple cheeses and the green and red salsas are all homemade. Grab yourself four tacos and a horchata and you have a beautiful $5 taste of Central-Northern Mexican cuisine. I hear through the grapevine Tacocina
is the local favorite of the Culinary Institute of America chef's-in-training.
I would recommend El Bracero also, but I need to try it a few more times to get a complete opinion. Mole Mole is good, but not great. Their items are on the greasier side and do not taste as fresh. They do not make their own fresh hot sauces. Their carne asada is well seasoned, but not seared at a high enough temperature for caramelization, a necessity for good carne asada. In terms of quality of ingredients, Tacocina beats them all. But both Mole Mole and El Bracero remind me of East LA, which says a lot on the East Coast.
One complaint about both Tacocina and El Bracero. Is it a Oaxacan norm to leave the pork-shoulder skin on for Carnitas, and then to chop it up and serve it with the carnitas tacos? If so, I find it much too greasy and chewy. I've never had carnitas like this in California, but then again, I didn't know a lot of Oaxacans in California.