If, as the song goes, there is a season for everything, then there is a time to be purist about one’s Mexican food, and there is a time to just give in, and let it go. And generously pour the Pineapple Paradise salsa on your mediocre burrito, because it tastes soo good.
Yep, I said it. Pineapple Paradise salsa. I might have been exaggerating just a tinge about how good it is — truth be told, it’s a little watery — but I am absolutely serious about both the excellence of Maui Tacos‘ salsa bar — five housemade salsas, chopped white onion, pickled jalapenos, fresh cilantro and lime wedges — as well as the overall mediocrity of the food. (Judging by how heavily the salsa bar was utilized by every single person at lunchtime, I’m not alone in using the food as a vessel for the salsa.)
These salsas are no Red Hook taco truck salsas, which come in almost neon-flourescent colors and as diverse a range of flavors, in giant, industrial, white buckets. Yet, they deserve their due. Here is my report on the salsa bar’s contents (top to bottom):
Pineapple Paradise: a mild, lightly-sweet tomatillo-pineapple salsa. A little watery; best paired with fish tacos. Would make an excellent breakfast salsa —on top of a tamale for breakfast, or what about this on pancakes? Some kind of Mexican-style french toast?
Hula Heat: A hot salsa made with chile arbol peppers. It’s buyant, supple, with a little residual oil gleaming on the surface, in that good way. Good fiery heat that sneaks up on you.
Maui Firedancer: A hot Chipotle salsa, which means you get the deceptively sweet note up front, followed by that chipotle smoky signature taste, then it gets fiery on the back. A complex and delicious salsa.
Maui Mex: A mild, average tomatillo standard (disclaimer: I did not try this one.)
Hola Aloha: A mild tomato salsa, fairly standard. Bonus if you’re trying to learn the same, simple words in multiple languages. (disclaimer: I did not try this one.)
So what about the burrito itself? In short, too much orange rice; too little black beans; total lack of greenery or freshness, other than the cilantro and onion I stuffed into mine; oversized for no reason. Oh, and my side of chips (at least I got a side of chips) came in a Ziplock bag. Still …
330 Fifth Avenue, btwn. 32nd and 33rd Street, 212.868.9720.
TIP: Maui Tacos does a cheap, if cheesy, happy hour 4-7p at the 6-stool Tiki Bar that includes 2 x $6 import and domestic beers, and much, much more. A perfect place to slip away to if one finds oneself in the midst of Times Square madness.
Photo of the Tiki bar after the jump: The Tiki bar: Lonely at lunchtime, I bet you this place is bumping during happy hour.