If you think tacos should crunch, let Javelina change your mind.
The sure-fire hit of the new Union Square Tex-Mex spot: the San Antonio Puffy Tacos. The shell, soft and flaky like a croissant, but dense and lightly fried, is the perfect vehicle for the marinated pork and cotija cheese filling.
Owner and Dallas native Matt Post has been trying to sniff out Tex-Mex (the Tex part is American ingredients, the Mex is south-of-the-border cooking traditions) since moving to the city in 2005. When he would ask for recommendations, “people would just sigh and shrug like you asked about their dead dog,” he says.
So he opened a restaurant serving all of his favorite things from home, with former Rosa Mexicano chef Richard Caruso behind the counter. There are four kinds of queso, including a white variety with poblano peppers that doesn’t shy away from spice.
Indeed, a lot of the menu will come as a surprise to those used to mainstream Mexican restaurants — the outstanding Stacked Enchiladas with pork is a massive portion of assertive flavors that you’ll want to ask for a couple of extra napkins to handle. And while we’re not sold on cactus as a food, avocado and cilantro in a margarita was a unique (in a good way) change-up to the ubiquitous drink.
Meals at Javelina end with free sopapillas, the triangles of airy dough lightly dusted with sugar and honey. (There are no other desserts, not that you’d have room for them.) And for beer lovers, a newcomer to NYC's taps: the Texas-brewed amber ale Shiner Bock.
Javelina also launched brunch service recently, with customizable breakfast tacos as the centerpiece (“That’s like an obsession for Texans,” says Post.)
We recommend making a reservation — the restaurant was full throughout a recent Tuesday dinner service — but biding your time at the bar with a sangria swirl margarita is a valid option, too.