Weekend Brighton Beach Barbacoa Run
Alongside Sunset Park, East Elmhurst, and Corona, Brighton Beach and Coney Island are collectively becoming one of the foremost destinations for southern Mexican food. That was confirmed last weekend as a group of friends and I motored down Neptune Avenue past a string of south-of-the-border bodegas. We stuck our heads into a couple to see if tacos were being made in the back, and were disappointed, though one was making sandwiches something like Egg McMuffins.
Eventually, a shopkeeper pointed us in the direction of El Jarochito ("Little Insolent One," perhaps referring to the figure of cartoon character Speedy Gonzalez on the awning), near the busy corner of Coney Island Avenue and Neptune. As expected, the front of the place is packed solid with Mexican candies, cosmetics, and dry goods, but just beyond that -- betokening the bakery in the rear of the store -- are rolling big racks of fresh baked goods, including sweet breads with crumbly toppings, round bread rolls with teeth along the edges, and, best of all, lard donuts topped with granulated sugar. Beyond that, we found herbs, vegetables, tortillas, and dried chilies.
In the back a short counter with a few stools dispenses tortas, cemitas (round Pueblan sandwiches), tacos, tacos placeros, tostados, and burritos -- though not exactly the kind we're familiar with from Cal-Mex cooking. These burritos are rolled from giant yellow-corn tortillas freshly made on the griddle. Tacos are made with either the standard white-corn tortillas or with "gringas" -- larger flour tortillas with a piece of American cheese annealed to the surface. Gringas, indeed.