202 Leonard Street, Williamsburg
Haab appeared tucked away on a forgotten stretch of Leonard Street a few months ago and it's a shame more people haven't discovered it. Owner Joaquin Velazquez came to New York from Puebla and opened the first Haab in Woodside, Queens, in 2004. His Williamsburg outpost is a modest but stylish affair, 22 seats in a narrow, bright space decorated with handmade paper lanterns from Puebla and rows of colorful Jarritos bottles in the front window.
The first thing I ever ate here was the burrito, one of the best in the neighborhood. All of the meat here is cooked to order; not high standards for, say, an upscale locavore restaurant, but a welcome guarantee from a tiny Mexican joint. The chicken here is tender and rich with the taste of herbs and guajillo chili, stuffed inside a soft tortilla with Monterrey jack cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo, rice and black beans. The al pastor isn't bad either. They marinate the pork in pineapple juice laced with three different roasted chilies. If you really want to get crazy, you can opt for the Haab, featuring both the chicken, al pastor and grilled steak in one Frankenstein of a burrito. Wash one of those babies down with a couple of Bohemias or Negra Modelos and you've got yourself the impetus to one hell of a nap.
The tacos are equally as good as the burritos, while the tortas are a bit lackluster. Luckily, Velazquez is expanding his menu in the weeks to come to include entrees like chicken smothered in mole poblano and grilled rib-eye steaks. In warm weather, the 10 metal seats on the sidewalk patio get filled with neighborhood locals downing Mexican food and sipping red wine sangria.
Now, don't get me wrong; this isn't cutting-edge Mexico City cuisine or a New Brooklyn take on Mexican. This is simple, home-style Mexican food, made with care and sold at recession-friendly prices. It's also the best of its kind in the neighborhood, a perfect place to fill up on burritos and beer without breaking your bank account.
Photo by Ashley Minette