Artist Eats: Taylor McKimens

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Artist Eats is a recurring column where our favorite artists share their favorite spots to get some eats. This week, Taylor McKimens (@taylormckimens) writes about a hometown Mexican restaurant and where he thinks the best Tacos in NYC are hidden.
 

 
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I’ve eaten a lot of Mexican food while growing up in Winterhaven, California, a small town in the Imperial Valley bordering Los Algadones, Mexico and Yuma, Arizona. Now I live in Brooklyn, but if there was one restaurant I could bring with me from back home to New York, it would easily be Mr. G’s on 4th Avenue in Yuma.
 
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If you happen to be in Yuma (or passing thru more likely) stop in there and grab a machaca burrito, a half dozen rolled tacos, and most definitely order my favorite, the bean and cheese burrito! Bean and cheese burritos are a southwest staple, but are mysteriously absent from NY Mexican menus. Being so simple, they’re a great test of how good a place is. When a restaurant can have people waiting in long lines to just buy beans and cheese wrapped in a tortilla, there is no debate about how bad-ass they are. Mr. G’s keeps it simple and transcendent. No burritos the size of a football. I can’t count how many times people have described a burrito spot and used the novelty size of the burritos as some sort of bizarre proof that they were good. Those burritos are clumsy meatheads, puffed up and overcompensating for their insecurities. Mr. G’s does it right with modest sized burritos priced low so you can get as many as you need to fill up. Each comes with a little cup of an addictive soupy chile sauce to dip into, and of course, the legendary tortillas are made by hand… and mind-blowing!

Tortillas are the most important detail in amazing Mexican food. You wouldn’t use Wonder Bread to make high-end sandwiches and you wouldn’t attempt to make top-quality sushi using instant rice, but New York’s best Mexican restaurants are still serving sophisticated ingredients on the same factory made, soulless tortillas that you get at C-Town.
 
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I’m thrilled to say that one shining example of great Mexican food now exists in New York! It’s Los Tacos No.1, and it’s hiding in the spotlight at the Chelsea Market! One bite of an adobada taco took me right back home to the Imperial Valley where it turns out two of the three owners also grew up! A nice indicator that this place was something different was the absence of a fish taco on the menu. Fish tacos are much more common in coastal towns, but have become the flashy popular taco at all NY taco spots. The third owner comes from Tijuana, but Los Tacos No.1 has a distinctly less Baja and a more inland feel to it. The Handmade tortillas here rule, and this place showed up to give a badly deserved spanking to NY taco places that thought they could avoid the hassle of handmade tortillas while still charging outrageous prices to New Yorkers who wouldn’t notice.

Another major indicator of the authenticity of Los Tacos No.1 is flour tortillas for tacos! I don’t recall ever seeing that outside of the southern Colorado River deserts! I love the flour tortillas here, but the corn tortillas are still the star player. Everyone needs to taste these and then go demand refunds at all your former favorite taco stand operators in NY for duping you all this time.
 
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The last great thing about Los Tacos No.1 is the signage which was done by one of my favorite artists Steve Powers (ESPO) and his company Icy Signs! It looks like a hand painted taco stand from back home, but not in an artificial Disney set kind of way or the Cracker Barrel artifact on the wall for an “authentic look” kind of way, either. It’s real honest heartfelt sign painting done by New York’s best hope for the continuation of the tradition of hand painted signage.

You may have been avoiding the Chelsea Market’s slow strolling tourists and lack of cell phone reception, but unfortunately you’ll just have to brave it now to eat the best tacos in NY.

 

Mr. G’s
501 S. 4th Ave.
Yuma, Arizona 85364
 
Los Tacos No.1
75 9th Avenue (Inside CHELSEA MARKET)
New York, NY 10011
 

Portrait by Carola Bonfili

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