Gorditas, quesadillas, and tiny tacos find a new home on Williamsburg’s South Side.
Sep 14, 2008http://nymag.com/restaurants/reviews/underground/50207/
Judging by its name, La Superior has a pretty high opinion of itself, and on the basis of the cheap and delicious snackathons the U.G. enjoyed there recently, we’d have to say it’s well deserved. And that’s despite the lack of customary restaurant trappings like wine and beer (the license is forthcoming), a credit-card machine (bring cash), any sort of meal pacing (dishes arrive haphazardly, with Usain Bolt–ian swiftness), and even, on occasion, adequate silverware (fortunately, most of the menu is finger-friendly). But none of those things really matter in the realm of Mexican street food, La Superior’s chosen milieu. What counts most is the toothsomeness of the griddled corn masa, the piquancy of the salsas, and the tenderness of the pork in the cochinita pibil. On these fronts, La Superior excels, and the cool music and friendly service don’t hurt either.
The bunker-style premises evoke a roadside diner in Guadalajara, perhaps, or East L.A., and the setting is shoestring-budget basic: a handful of wobbly tables along a banquette, a few counter stools, and a row of skateboards (for delivery, perhaps?) parked along the wall. The kitchen, with its open window, is dinerlike, and the service, which typically involves a spectacularly whiskered waiter abruptly pulling up a chair and joining your party, is Diner-like (as in Williamsburg’s nearby Diner, which has become known for that chummy practice).
Said whiskered waiter will invariably push the esquites, the comparatively rare Mexico City (and Sunset Park) street snack of sautéed corn kernels seasoned with epazote, queso fresco, chile powder, and a dab of mayonnaise. It arrives in a plastic water-cooler-style cup, and if you can abide the fact that the Mexican mayo tastes like Miracle Whip, it’s a fine way to start your meal. But the real highlight of the menu is the stellar selection of delectable corn-masa-based snacks that Mexicans call antojitos, often embellished with chopped onions and cilantro, drizzled with crema, and served with one of two superb house salsas—a lively tomatillo and a spicier chile de árbol. Gordita means “little fat one,” and, culinarily speaking, refers to fried and stuffed corn masa cakes. They’re filled here with a choice of chorizo, potato, chorizo-and-potato, or, best of all, a fresh ricotta-like cheese called requesón. The half-moon-shaped “street style” quesadillas are a world apart from the typical gringoized versions; the masa crescents are small but substantial, stuffed with things like stewed chicken or poblano peppers and cheese. Tacos, served singly on mini corn tortillas for $2.50 a pop, are a handy way to round out your order. Try the chipotle-spiced shrimp or the lengua, diced bits of beef tongue with cilantro and onions.
There are larger dishes, too—après-antojitos, you might call them. Enchiladas suizas are pure comfort food, cheesy and saucy, while the panuchos de cochinita is a tidy composition of three corn tortillas, each split and filled with a thin slice of hard-cooked egg and a dab of refried beans, then topped with compellingly spiced bits of shredded pork, and onions pickled in orange juice. If you like gobs of melted Chihuahua cheese, you’ll love the alambre de res, a shallow bowl of grilled chunks of skirt steak mingled with an oily stew of bacon, onion, and peppers, under a blanket of the aforementioned gobs. La Superior is particularly proud of its torta ahogada, “the first in New York,” according to the menu: Imagine a sandwich of carnitas, or “pork confit,” on bean-slicked sourdough bread, the whole thing plopped into a bowl and drowned in a sea of sauce, half tomato and half incendiary chile de árbol. It’s like a Mexican French Dip.
If, at the end of this street-food orgy, you foolishly inquire into the availability of dessert, you will be told by your waiter that it does not exist. “We are a taquería,” he says proudly, before trotting off.