Split From the Crowd and Head to Tacos El Bronco
Crowds in this city do not always correlate to good taste -- see the hordes that flock to the Tacos Morelos carts in Williamsburg or the East Village instead of the more venerable Jackson Heights restaurant from which the mobile vendors were born. Further proof is Tacos El Bronco (4324 Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-788-2229), a restaurant off the main drag in Sunset Park that operates a night-time taco truck an avenue away (which seems to do double the business of the brick-and-mortar, even on chilly winter nights).
If you find yourself at the cart, head down the hill to Fourth Avenue, where you'll find Tacos El Bronco Restaurant. It looks somewhat like a cafeteria in a retirement home with gentle lighting, patterned wallpaper, tables with rounded corners, and sturdy-backed comfortable chairs. Instead of General Hospital reruns, the Biarritz-Worcestor soccer game murmurs from the corner TV, and the smell of charring onions permeates instead of mothballs.
The menu is large and meaty: breakfasts of eggs with cactus ($7), lots of soups, bready tortas wrapped and sliced down the middle ($7), platters of porkchops smothered in sauteed onions ($10.50). Tacos come in two sizes: small ($1.50-$1.75) and regular ($2.50-$2.75); price depends on your protein selection. You will want the small ones -- two tiny tortillas, slick with steam and grease from the flat-top come topped with a grab-bag of meats like cabeza -- chopped bits of head meat, which is less scary than it sounds -- carnitas, tinga (a chicken stew), or campechano; mix whatever you think might be joined harmoniously in a warm corn tortilla. The barbacoa -- steam-roasted goat -- stands out; it is cooked until soft with the pleasant twang of iron-rich muscle, sprinkled with a confetti of diced onion and cilantro, and doused with excellent red sauce, a thick, viscous puree of chipotles, garlic, and tomato that you can almost eat with a spoon.
The chicken soup ($6.50), a scalding broth with beads of golden fat collecting at the surface, contains an entire chicken leg jutting out over the edge of the bowl. Slices of zucchini and carrot, as soft as mush but somehow still holding their shape, rest at the bottom of the trough, and leaves of hoja santa perfume the liquid with the faintest whiff of mint. There's a plate of additions served on the side: chopped herbs, onion, and jalapeños as mild as bell peppers. The soup may have you longing for their birria, a vibrant goat stew that Tacos El Bronco serves only out of its truck. But this is the way chicken soup should be: dangerously hot, mostly broth, more comfort than kicks. My mom loved it.
Scarlett Lindeman is a Brooklyn-based writer, covering the city's best taquerias, fondas, and cantinas. She writes the ¡Oye! Comida column for Fork in the Road.