Williamsburg now has a year-round outdoor taco stand from esteemed New York restaurateur Danny Meyer, the brains behind favorites like Union Square Cafe, Blue Smoke and the Shake Shack empire. Called Tacocina, it recalls one of Meyer's first successes—the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park—and is the only other stand-alone Meyer restaurant located inside a park.
Within Domino Park, the recently opened waterfront spot on the site of the old Domino Sugar factory, Tacocina occupies a dedicated area full of potted succulents and brightly colored tables with chairs in a variety of configurations. Think the inviting backyards of Mexico City, except with sweeping views of Manhattan.
The menu, developed in part by Meyer, is a clever mix of classics and creative Mexican fare with snacks that include tortilla chips with chunky guacamole and smooth salsa, a version of crudités with fresh veggies and a carrot crema dipping sauce, and a shrimp cocktail with a sweet-and-spicy tomato sauce. But the real winner here is the cheese chicharrones: fried pork rinds tossed in a dehydrated cheese and spice powder that's completely addictive.
As for the tacos, all the tortillas are pressed to order and made from heirloom corn sourced from Mexico through Los Angeles's Masienda, whose founder used to work at Meyer's Roman trattoria Maialino.
Now, you could play it relatively safe with traditional tacos like the chicken adobo, but trust when we say, you will not be disappointed by the creative offerings. The Beef & Salsa Negra is a pulled beef taco mixed with a spicy salsa negra that's topped with three squares of fried potato (genius!) and sprinkled with cotija cheese, while the Shrimp & Chayote Tartar features a coarse cornmeal-battered shrimp smothered in a homemade Mexican tartar sauce and topped with adorable pickled cherry-red Peruvian peppers.
And just as Meyer hit a home run with his vegetarian fare at Shake Shack, Tacocina's two veggie dishes might just be the best offerings on the menu. The Mushroom & Elote Sauce taco recalls Shake Shack's 'Shroom Burger ever so slightly, as mushroom slices are battered in cornmeal and fried, then set atop an elote-sauce-slicked tortilla. The elote sauce is a tasty finishing of corn, cotija and spicy mayo. Then, there's the Monterey & Cotija Cheese, which turns a basic quesadilla inside out—literally. Instead of putting the cheese inside, a slab of Monterey is wrapped around the outside of a tortilla and sizzled directly onto the plancha until it blisters to bubbly and gooey perfection. Dipped into the arbol chile hot sauce, it's pure comfort food perfection.
A chocolate and vanilla ice cream sandwich rounds out the food menu, while beer, wine and cocktails (including micheladas, margaritas, Palomas and mescal Negronis) join a nonalcoholic rice horchata and rotating agua fresca on the drinks menu.
With a tasty mix of classic and creative food and drinks coupled with the incredible view of Manhattan's skyline just across the river, there's no way Tacocina won't see epic lines hearkening back to when there was only one Shake Shack. Our suggestion: Get there early and be prepared to wait.
Devorah Lev-Tov is a contributing writer for Tasting Table who travels the globe—and traverses NYC block by block—in search of her next amazing meal. See her latest adventures on her Instagram at @devoltv.
Please check your inbox to verify your email address.