Lunch: The Gringo Taco Gamble (and Win) at Nick’s Place

Fish tacos on the brain. I was on my way deeper into Midtown when I decided I actually didn’t have enough time. (Lunch is always a weird algorithm of hunger x time you can carve away from the office x cravings/impulses.)

En route toward my backup plan — oddly, Schnipper’s Quality Kitchen has fish tacos on its menu — the clapboard for Nick’s Place caught my eye. One of the specials posted was tacos, beef or chicken.

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Hmmm … why not? I’ve always been curious about this restaurant oddity, tucked away at the end of a hallway off the service entrance of a giant Midtown building that’s home to Donna Karan — I went for it.

The verdict? No carnitas tacos from Las Poblanitas these, in terms of price point or authenticity, but I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed Nick’s chicken tacos.

photo(4)There’s something good-familiar about them, these gringo, Tex-Mex style chicken tacos ($7). For starters: the chicken has been slow-cooked, Crock-Pot style (I’d wager) with a blend of spices not entirely unlike Lawry’s taco seasoning. Not spicy to taste, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a residual heat builds up slowly. (The tacos would be killer with some pickled jalapenos.) Soft, cooked white onion bits are threaded through the chicken.

I hate when chicken cooked this style makes your tacos liquidy and soppy. Nick’s are not. The chicken is nestled into three corn tortillas, warm and browned from the griddle, topped with shredded cheddar cheese that’s properly melted and stringy, by the time the tacos are served up. Only other garnishes are some chunky guacamole and sour cream.

Not done properly, Mexican food can be both incredibly bland (bad) and so over-spiced, over-flavored, it’s abrasive (also bad). The sweet spot, in my opinion, tends towards the big, bold flavor profiles, but the tacos at Nick’s were a pleasant reminder of the potential for the fare to be understated and modest, without loosing personality.

TIP: The address on the menu is 550 7th Avenue, but enter through the service entrance on the north side of W. 39th Street. Look for the clapboard and the big double doors.

Photos inside Nick’s Place, and some delicious looking cookies, after the jump: photo… Homey, right?

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