The Campechano Taco at Cuatro Vientos Is Worth Leaving the Late-Night 7 Train
Walking down Roosevelt Avenue, you spot the boxy edges of a vehicle at about 67th Street. As you move closer, its form emerges out of the dark, a stationary white truck with big block letters that spell out "Tacos Mexicanos, Cuatro Vientos." You groan.
This taco truck, Cuatro Vientos, docks in Woodside, and it seems like a phantom: never there when you need it, appearing only when you've already stuffed yourself with too many Nepalese momos and can't fathom consuming anything else. You won't find it at dusk; that's much too early. When the train service slows and storefronts shutter, the time is right. Cuatro Vientos only comes out late at night.
Despite its inaccessibility, Cuatro Vientos--which means "four winds"--has been satiating the neighborhood for years. Regulars know that the carnitas tacos are topped with caramelized onions, that the red salsa is spicier than the green, and that the hand-patted quesadillas are as large as manhole covers. If you live in Woodside, this is likely often your last stop before before heading home.
The truck is owned and operated by Poblanos, immigrants from the rural southern state of Puebla, where the majority of New York City's Mexican population calls home. There are no cemitas, the gargantuan sandwiches of Puebla, on the menu, but the tortas ($6) can still feed two. There are some surprising selections in the taco meat line-up (all tacos are $2.50); the usual carnitas, al pastor, pollo, and cecina are present, but you'll also find campechano and sobrebarriga, two rarely encountered additions.
Sobrebarriga--"on the belly"--refers to flank streak and is, perplexingly, more often found in Colombian cuisine as a braised meat. Here, sobrebarriga is very similar to the suadero, two different cuts of simply braised beef offering tender, unobstructed beefiness. Campechano means "hearty" in Spanish, but the word often refers to a mix of two or more ingredients. At the taco truck, that means bistec and chorizo, seared hard on the plancha and left to sit and develop a browned crust that crunches against the soft corn tortilla. Crowned with a chunky guacamole, chopped white onion, and cilantro, the campechano taco bursts with flavor: char and caramelization, salt and fat.
And that's the taco you'll want to remember next time you're heading home after a late ninth-inning stretch at Citi Field. Hop off the 7 train at 69th street.