2007_05_shrimp.jpgThe 7 month-old Taqueria Tlaxcalli in the Parkchester section of the Bronx seems unassuming enough: the narrow dining room is painted in nice colors, and is adjoined with a half dozen counter seats and an open kitchen where you can see your food being prepared. It turns out that the food is incredibly good, made using an arsenal of different chili peppers for a variety of culinary effects. Serranos (10,000 to 23,000 on the Scoville scale) are substituted for the milder jalepeno (2,500 to 8,000) in the guacamole; the bright tomato salsa that comes with the super-crunchy complimentary chips has just the slightest kick of heat. The food is fresh, without the we-don’t-have-freezers-here-type mission statements emblazoned on every last possible dining room object, as seen in the 1001 California-style, simultaneously overstuffed and underwhelming New York burrito places. Taqueria Tlaxcalli probably even does have a freezer somewhere in the back of the house. More importantly missing from the restaurant, however, is that distinctive assembly line daze, the food factory ennui found in any single Chipotle.

“I don’t feel the burning anymore,” our dining companion exclaimed mid-meal. “Just an almost pleasant tingling.” Under the right circumstances, these are truly magic words. In this case it was because of the food, specifically the many habanero slices in the Camarón Tlaxcalli ($11.95)- shrimp sautéed with onion, white wine, and parsley. It’s served with Spanish rice, black beans, and a few corn tortillas kept warm in a styrofoam-lined basket. The peppers keep things interesting.

Order the Steak Alambre ($7.75). With grilled steak, bacon, green peppers, and melted Mexican cheese, it’s something like a fajita (they appear in a separate menu category) with less theatricality, no sizzling sound effects. Rolled up flour tortillas are served on the same plate. You’ll know what to do. The steak and bacon combination is winning enough, but what makes the Alambres really special are the sauces served on the side in a caddy: one is plain, tart tomatillo; the other is tomatillo with guajillos and chiles de árbol. You also get a small, mindblowing plate of raw habaneros, salty onions, and oregano pickled in lemon juice to stuff into your tortillas.

2007_05_taqueria.jpgOnce you're settled in and the food comes, the dining room sort of comes alive, too. One of the walls is painted with depictions of Aztec myth, including one figure of a decapitated tree with tentacles. The opposite wall is decorated with Mexican prints and stenciled decorations; even the electrical outlet covers are made of floral-design ceramic tile, giving the white sockets they frame the stark appearance of Day of the Dead skulls. Taqueria Tlaxcalli is open daily, from 10 AM to midnight. At breakfast, they serve chilaquiles with eggs and choice of meat- try chilaquiles cecina- with salted beef. They even have French Toast with fresh fruit and ice cream. Rolled out later in the day is the larger menu, including fried tacos, sincronizadas, and tortas. Another specialty is the sausage, peppers, and spicy sauce (red or green) with meat (chicken or steak) cooked in molcajetes, the basalt mortar-like receptacles that other restaurants merely pretend to pound their guacamole in.

Taqueria Tlaxcalli
2103 Starling Avenue
(347) 851-3085