147 Avenue A, East Village
Tucked in a tiny space across from Tompkins Square Park, La Lucha revels in the kitsch of lucha libre, aka Mexican wrestling, that beloved sport where men in tight pants and silly masks slam each other into the mat. It's the kind of hip taqueria you might expect to find in some trendy corner of Mexico City, with meticulously planned funky décor and upscale street food done to perfection.
The restaurant starts with the always excellent tortillas from Queens' Tortilleria Nixtamal. Inside goes your choice of some very tasty fillings, especially the cecina, or salted steak, toothsome strips of seared, well-seasoned beef that are beyond savory. Other good options: spicy pork, chile poblano with cheese and chicken cooked in chipotle sauce. For the full experience, it's best to order the three-to-a-plate combinations. El Santo, named after one of lucha libre's biggest stars, is the best of the bunch: cecina, chicharron and chorizo all on one plate, like a greatest hits album for carnivores. The Mil Mascaras isn't bad either, mixing your choice of steak or chicken with cheese, onion, peppers and bacon (when bacon is used as a topping for another kind of meat, you know you are in for a good meal).
Bookend your tacos with the tangy elote (grilled corn with chipotle mayo and cotija cheese) to start with and the creamy tres leches cake for dessert. Sadly, there is no booze, so you'll have to make do with one of many Mexican sodas. It's too bad; a few cold Bohemias or Negra Modelos would go well with the whacked-out décor, a psychedelic body slam of luchamania including empty-eyed wresting masks, electric purple banquettes and lots of lucha libre curios scattered about. Vintage films flicker silently against a wall, providing an action-packed backdrop of masked heroes gallivanting across Mexico. Fight-night posters are plastered everywhere, just in case you weren't already aware of the theme, but it's all so fun and the food all so good that you won't care if it's just a wee bit over the top.