This month marks La Superior's first full year in business, after opening up in Williamsburg much to the delight of taco-loving locals. Their authentic Mexican street and market fare has tantalized the tastebuds of everyone who has stopped by the taqueria (the first real one in Williamsburg, for those keeping track). This year they've got a new mural up, and hopefully by next year they'll have their outdoor seating available.
Co-owners Iris Avelar and Felipe Mendez recently told us a little bit about their joint, the prospect of a liquor license, and chatting with James Brown in a hotel room.
How did the idea for La Superior come about? Iris: People often think the name has a Los Angeles reference or that it means “the superior” taqueria, but the intention is a play on the Mexican vintage beer, Superior. We believed La Superior made sense since we wanted to recreate the experience of a neighborhood cantina in Mexico.
Felipe: The idea of La Superior came out from seeing a big gap between fancy "mexican" restaurants and really bad ones in NYC, and even worse, no taquerias at all. The name of La Superior came out from a joke/game that is very common in Mexico that the traditional taquerias and cantinas are called La Poderosa (the powerful) La Unica (the unique one) La Especial (the special one) and so on... and also there's a famous beer brand that was really popular in the 60's and 70's that disappeared from the market in the late 80's, called La Superior.
What were you doing before this? Iris: I moved to New York to pursue television production but I soon put it on hold when I realized the best job offers were in LA and I didn’t want to leave New York. Then by chance I got into PR and discovered I enjoyed doing publicity. I’m still doing PR, I manage all press for La Superior and I’m currently working on developing other PR projects with a friend.
Felipe: Bartending in the mexican restaurant Papatzul (SoHo) for two years and before that at La Esquina, Rosa Mexicano, etc.
Did you know you wanted to have the restaurant in Williamsburg? Will there be any other locations? Iris: It took us about a year to find the right location. We looked at some places in downtown Manhattan but nothing really convinced us, besides Felipe has been living in Williamsburg for ever and it just made sense to open a neighborhood eatery there. We do want to expand whether it be in Williamsburg or outside the hood, but for now we are focusing on putting the finishing touches on our first location.
Felipe: We were looking for locations in downtown and after pretty much a year of looking down there we realized that setting the restaurant there was a bad idea and really hard. Plus I've been living in the neighborhood (Williamsburg) for almost 10 years and know it pretty well. We want to finish polishing La Superior before thinking to open a new location.
There was a rumor you would be opening an outdoor area, is that happening? Iris: We have benches outside the storefront where people can order take out and eat outside but we plan to have a sidewalk café next year.
Felipe: Yes, for next summer (also will be the World Cup!).
Are you still awaiting a liquor license? Iris: Yes, but hopefully not for long.
Does there seem to be a favorite menu item amongst regulars? Iris: Besides the tacos probably the quesadillas.
Felipe: I would say pretty much all the menu is popular, we don't have a single dish that people don't order, but the most popular dishes (tacos) would be the carnitas (pork confit), camaron (shrimp) and cochinita (pulled pork in banana leaves).
Do you ever alter the menu? Are there any secret items not on it that some regular customers may know about? Iris: We do seasonal specials biweekly and during significant Mexican holidays.
Felipe: We do bi-weekly specials. And sometimes we have tryouts and...it's secret.
Please share your strangest "only in New York" story. Iris: This story is more humorous than strange but I was with a friend at the corner of Broome and Bowery when we saw what we thought was a lost cat. When we read his collar we were relieved to find out he lived nearby on Spring street so we called one of the two telephone numbers listed. A lady answered, listened to our story and responded unconcerned, “He’s fine. Sometimes he likes to take walks in the neighborhood..he always finds his way back.” Really? I thought, he might as well be a stray cat, I mean who lets their pets run wild on the Bowery?! Go figure it’s New York and everything is wild.
Felipe: I was working in Jean George restaurant about 6 years ago and for some reason I had to do room service that day. I was working the 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift and I was sent to a suite for a room service delivery, it was the first time I did a room service, I came up several flights, I was really nervous, and I ended up at James Brown's suite in the Trump Tower. His wife(?) asked me what else besides serving at restaurants I did for living, I said "music" and she ran to the room and brought him down and suddenly I was having a chat with James Brown himself about music. Then he told me his theory and "secret" about music which I'm not going to reveal.
Then after 45 minutes of being there and chatting I had to leave thinking I was getting fired for taking so long there (I quit the job 2 weeks later) they tipped me $152 dollars for bringing a burger and a orange juice to their room! Only in NYC....
Which New Yorker do you most admire? Iris: Chloë Sevigny, she’s pretty cool! I admire that she’s an ambassador of downtown culture and a creative entrepreneur.
Felipe: Adam Yauch
Given the opportunity, how would you change New York? Iris: This city is always changing, it’s really exciting! My ambition is that with La Superior we are making a mark culturally.
Felipe: Give mandatory chill pills to the NYPD every day...
Under what circumstance have you thought about leaving New York? Iris: I don’t think I would ever leave New York for good. Though I admit at times I just want to escape the rhythm of the city because it can wear me out, but I can’t stay away too long because I get bored and anxious to come back. I like to one day be a jetsetter so I can visit my family more often back in California, Mexico and Europe, wouldn’t that be the life!
Felipe: I haven't really, I love NYC and not sure when I will escape from here. I believe once you fall in love of NY you never really leave, even if you are living somewhere else you always will think about it and you will always come back.
Do you have a favorite New York celebrity sighting or encounter? Iris: You know I’m really bad at recognizing celebrities but one of my favorite encounters so far was at Sway on the dance floor dancing real close to Ryan Gosling!
Felipe: Yes, about 3 weeks ago I did a catering at Studio B and don't really know how, but I ended up having drinks and getting wasted with James Murphy and Pat Mahoney from LCD Soundsystem until really late. I had soooo much fun.
What's your current soundtrack? Iris: There’s always a song stuck in my head, these past two weeks it’s been Cyndi Lauper’s “When You Were Mine”
Felipe: Mmm, that's really hard to say. I do listen collect a lot of music. Tough call, but lately I'm reviving a lot of old records.
Sabres of Paradise - Haunted Dancehall
Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92
Daniel Wang - I was a Disco Malcontent.
LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
Mathew Dear - Asa Breed
Best cheap eat in the city. Iris: I like Café Petisco on East Broadway, it’s tasty, fairly inexpensive and reminds me of a small town eatery in Europe. I like going for brunch.
Felipe: Mooncake Foods. Delicious, cheap and reliable. Is not the coziest place, but tasty. I just discovered a new location at Midtown.
Best venue to see music. Iris: Ask Felipe, he’s the music fanatic.
Felipe: Bowery Ballroom, Hammerstein Ballroom, Studio B (r.i.p.), Love, Cielo.