Breakfast: $2 Gordita Discovery Post (aka “the Las Poblanitas for Breakfast!” Post)

I never realized that there was an the original thing that Taco Bell was mimicking when it introduced the gordita to its menu however many years ago (speculation: greater than three years, less than 10).

photoIn fact, I never knew that the gordita wasn’t entirely a Taco Bell invention until, famished at 11 a.m. and needing a break from the usual neighborhood suspects, a tiny thought popped into my head: I wonder if Las Poblanitas does breakfast?

Hmmm …

The answer: Yes, yes they do. And, like the majority of the lunch options I’ve tried here, it’s damn cheap and good.

However tempted I was by the $1 breakfast burrito ($1!!), I had to have a gordita, just to put this whole Taco Bell inventing-the-gordita fallacy to rest. (For the record, Taco Bell’s gordita is basically a taco, wrapped in a second, thicker, soft pita-taco shell.)

photo-1photo-2 So, what does a $2 gordita consist of? As Las Poblanitas does it, a gordita begins with a lightly-fried pita pocket made out of corn masa — think, the softness of the masa part of a tamale, but pita-thin, with browned exterior, plus warm tortilla chip smell. The shell is then stuffed with chicken or pork, warmed, and further stuffed with some cojita cheese, lettuce, the diced onion, cilantro and tomato mix.

All in all, a really satisfying savory snack. Toward the bottom, as the fillings taper off, I topped off the rest of it with a good shake from my desk-size Cholula hot sauce (yes, really).

Lunch: The Las Poblanitas Fail-Safe (aka “the Corona Ladies” Post)

Las Poblanitas‘ lunch-sign specials are my fail-safe option when payday is around the corner and I’m picking at the lint in my pockets, scraping together a few bucks for lunch.

photo(2)Today I tried the $6 chicken tostadas, a new lunch special written on a whiteboard that’s shown up outside the restaurant recently, some sort of addendum to the lunch specials posted on this sign that you’ll see most days on the southwest corner of W. 38th Street and Eighth Avenue.

The tostadas didn’t unseat the carnitas tacos as my favorite option off the cheap menu, but they did satisfy my craving for that crunch of tortilla chips that I miss when I order a burrito or tacos, neither of which come with chips (at least for free).

photo(3)Three large tostada rounds (all tostadas start with what is basically a big, circular chip) emerged from the kitchen smeared with beans and topped with diced chicken, ready for the the receiving line treatment: shredded iceberg lettuce; diced tomatoes, onion, cilantro; pickled jalapenoes; cojita cheese. White sauce? Yes, please.

Only then did it become apparent that Las Poblanitas is clearly unprepared to serve this special as a take-away order; the only way they fit into the take-out container was by stacking the third one on top of the other two and pressing down until the lid locked into place. I had strange flashbacks to when I’ve had to sit on an over-stuffed suitcase to get the zipper zipped.

photoIn my mind, one of the charms of Las Poblanitas is the no-frills decor, which includes the Corona ladies on the ceiling. It’s festive, in a basement-hangout sort of way. Cold beers in the fridge, decent Mexican food, Corona models beckoning: What more can one ask for from a hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint?

Lunch: Monday, April 27, 2009

Tacos? Check. Burrito? Check. Oaxaca cheese enchiladas? Miss.

I’m working my way through the classics at what has become my go-to lunchtime Mexican restaurant, Las Poblanitas.

photo310Today I ordered off the regular menu — (as opposed to the ridiculously-cheap lunch menu advertised only by signage on the southeast corner of Eighth Avenue and W. 38th Street). I suppose the $3 more I paid for my enchiladas made with Oaxaca cheese was for the side of rice and beans that comes with the “entree” version, but overall the enchiladas were, well, not enchiladas. They were slices of cheese rolled into (good) corn tortillas and smothered in a verde sauce.

photo64Real enchiladas, at least in my mind, emerge bubbling hot, swimming in sauce, the cheese inside and on top stringy and melty, on the verge of oozing. I’ve made enchiladas before at home (note to self, where is that tofu and black bean enchilada recipe…?) and the whole principle of the dish is that it’s a baked dish. Parts get softer, parts get crispier, all of the flavors come together as it bakes away.

I knew that as soon as my enchiladas emerged faster than whatever the guy in front of me ordered, I knew that was a bad sign. It’s not that they were bad, they just weren’t enchiladas. Let’s call them Oaxaca cheese roll-ups and move along.

COST: $7
PREP TIME: Too short to be true.

PREVIOUSLY: Best. Lunch. Deal. Ever. (the Las Poblanitas discovery)
OMFG. Now that is a taco!
(April 15, 2009)

Lunch: Wednesday, April 15, 2009

photo39OMFG. Now that is a taco.

The kind that you have to strategize about how to pick it up, and do so gently, keeping an eye on the filling-to-tortilla ratio which should hover around being stuffed to the point that it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that the tortillas give way and … you have to eat your tacos with a fork. No one wants to do that.

Other signs of excellence: The tortillas — corn, two of them — are supple and fresh; the carnitas shredded and tender with edge-bits crispy and browned. Topped with shredded iceberg lettuce (acceptable usage of iceberg lettuce no. 2, since starting this blog. See no. 1 here), and simple diced mix of white onion, tomato and fresh cilantro. A squeeze of lime and … perfection.

photo310Did I mention that they’re cheap? Look for the man with this sign at the corner of 8th Avenue and W. 38th street. Follow the arrow to Las Poblanitas. Once inside, look up: If you see a couple of posters of Corona models on the beach, you’re there.

COST: $5.50
PREP TIME: worth every second of anticipation

PREVIOUSLY: Best. Lunch. Deal. Ever.

More food photos … after the jump: Continue reading “Lunch: Wednesday, April 15, 2009”

Lunch: Monday, March 23, 2009

lunch032309Best. Lunch. Deal. Ever.

This $4 chicken, rice and bean burrito from Las Poblanitas on W. 38th Street just west of 8th Avenue is the secret weapon in my arsenal of lunching spots. It’s substantial without being overbearing, the chicken is quality, and the condiments — squeaky-salty cojita cheese, salsa verde and spicy, pickled carrots and jalapenos — hit the sweet spot every time.

Budget-friendly deliciousness, what more can one ask for at high noon in the shadow of the Port Authority?

COST: $4
PREP TIME: N/A