THE BITE:The Bite exposes our magnanimous publisher’s super secret Mexican restaurant, El Jarochito located just outside of Sheepshead Bay’s borders at 195 Neptune Avenue. From the outside, one would expect a standard bodega, but it’s really a different story inside.
As you enter, you pass the typical counter and display cases of beer, which upon closer inspection places you firmly into another country. In the glass case, just below the register you can find freshly butchered meat. There’s not much to choose from but the prices are amazingly low. Keep walking to the back of the store and you pass two more display cases displaying huge cakes, pastries and cookies all completely over the top in garish colors. Continue back and you pass shelves of Mexican grocery items and dried spices until finally, in the belly of the beast, you come across the lunch counter. This is why you’re here; for the authentic Mexican food prepared to order.
For The Bite, I want to focus on the Taco Carnitas, or pork tacos ($2 each). These tacos are a combination of marinated pork, onions and cilantro, served in two small flour tortillas accompanied by a grilled green onion, wedges of fresh lime with a cup of smokey salsa roja on the side.
Wait a minute, where’s the cheese, the lettuce, the tomato? Take a hike gringo. These tacos are the real thing.
The pork for these tacos is available plain or marinated and I chose the marinated meat. The pork is seasoned with cilantro, cumin, garlic and onion when marinated and is usually cooked in lard. Many recipes call for the inclusion of orange slices in the marinade, but if they used it here I couldn’t tell. The precooked meat is then chopped and crisped on the flat top. They then grill the meat with chopped onions and cilantro and pile it high into two flour tortillas which are wrapped in bakery paper and served.
I immediately unwrapped the taco and squeezed some of the fresh lime juice across the meat. I was a little confused by the use of two tortillas for each taco, but when I picked it up for my first bite, I understood. This taco was searingly hot and the extra tortilla acted like buffer between the hot filling and my hands. I loved this taco. It’s simple and straight forward. Some meat, some seasonings, a little acid from the lime all rounded out with the plain flour tortilla. This is street food at its finest.
The salsa roja was a lightly-spiced tomato, onion and pepper mix that would make some fine eating on its own, but was totally unnecessary on the tacos. Kuddos for serving it on the side. The grilled green onion was more than a garnish on the plate. The grilling accentuated the sweetness of the onion. Picking up the onion and eating it whole brought me back to my childhood, reliving the entire Alfalfa and Buckwheat Romeo and Juliette scene.
El Jarochito offers a stunning selection of desayunos, guisados, toastadas, tortas, cemitas, tacos, gringas, quesadillas and burritos that are nothing like their fast food counterparts offered at places like Taco Bell, Chipotle or Chilis. Here the food is good. And it’s cheap. There’s nothing on the menu over $6. It helps if you speak Spanish here, as all of the signs are in Spanish and the English translations on the printed menu leave a lot to be desired. But don’t worry, the staff speaks English and will patiently answer all your questions.
El Jarochito Deli Grocery Corporation, 195 Neptune Avenue, (718) 769-4447
The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.