Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to Clinton Hill to Castro's, a neighborhood fave.
For more than 20 years, the family owned and operated Castro's has been feeding Brooklynites a vast menu of mostly-Mexican dishes, both common crowd-pleasers and lesser-seen delights, from their modest digs on Myrtle Avenue. But if you're new to the neighborhood, or even if you've strolled by a hundred times, you might not realize just how good this place is from the outside.
Castro's looks like any number of other Mexican restaurants you've been to in your life, with its terra cotta floors, dark wood, decorative ceramics, and color-saturated art. The friendly staff hustles about taking orders, running food, and turning tables, and traditional Mexican guitar music plays at a pleasant volume. You get the sense that most of your fellow diners are regulars, and I know one Clinton Hill resident who half-jokingly says she can never move because she'd miss it here too much.
Castro's reports that so far they've been doing alright during the pandemic, surviving on takeout orders and outdoor dining, the latter mostly out on their festive backyard patio, though there are a couple of tables set up out on the sidewalk as well, slightly shielded from the bustle of Myrtle Avenue by a pair of large plants. The interior layout, with two separate dining areas, one up front and one in the back, allows for distanced indoor eating, if you're so inclined.
Castro's diner-sized menu spans eight oversized pages, complete with photographs, and covers multiple varieties of just about every conceivable Mexican dish. It's almost too much to deal with, but you should know that everything is good here, and a lot of it is great, so you don't really have to worry about ordering "wrong." There are ten types of soup, for example, but I never get past the Posole, the rich broth laden with soft, bloated kernels of white corn and chunks of pork, and accompanied by bean-slathered tostados. It's one of my favorite bowls of soup in the city.
The Soft Tacos are huge and come stuffed 16 different ways, including a wonderfully tender and flavorful Lengua del Res, or beef tongue, and a decent Cecina, loaded with dried, salted bits of steak. The Enchilada de Pollo platter totally hits the spot, and don't underestimate the deep pleasure of tucking into a pile of really good yellow rice and black beans. You'll get two bottles of housemade hot sauce delivered to your table with every meal, one red and one green, and you should pour either or both all over everything.
Not that this food isn't plenty jacked-up as it is. The Chicharon in Salsa Verde, for instance, is an explosive dish, though, somewhat unusually, the pork skin is simply pan-fried and served soft rather than crackling. The Chilaquilas con Bistec also has some real fire to it, with plenty of gooey cheese going on as well. And though you can order any number of regular quesadillas, real heads get the Quesadilla Azteca, made with corn tortillas and almost comically enormous. I got mine stuffed with a good, crumbly chorizo, but as with everything at Castro's, you have about a dozen different options.
Castro's is the dream neighborhood spot, featuring consistently good food from a menu you could never wear out. I'll be doing my part to see that they get through the winter and, if you like eating mountains of Mexican food, you should too.
Castro's is located at 511 Myrtle Avenue, between Ryerson Street and Grand Avenue, and is currently open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily (718-399-0084)