318 Grand St, Williamsburg, 718-302-2485
Price Range: $12-20
When I describe a really good taco, I tend to rave about the fillings but ignore the tortilla. Before a recent dinner at Taco Chulo, I never let a bland corn shell get between me and a full-flavored taco, but thanks to their house-made, soft, fresh tortillas, I can no longer settle for less. Taco Chulo — which loosely translates to “Foxy Taco” — offers eight fillings, including succulent, slow-braised pork ($3.50), crisp fried fish ($4.50), grilled steak ($3.50), and creamy pinto beans with fresh avocado ($3.50). Burritos ($6.50 to $10) are packed into flour tortillas with beans, lettuce, and roasted potatoes rather than rice. The menu invites patrons to “Pimp your taco or burrito” by spiking it with your choice of extras, like marinated cabbage ($.50), spicy pickled vegetables ($1.50), guacamole ($1.50), or sour cream ($.50), in regular or tofu form. (Even vegans can pig out here.)
With curvaceous tomato-red walls and streamlined tables, Taco Chulo has all the trappings of a trendy lounge — and they offer a stellar drink list to match. My friend Ryan opts for the Mexican Coca-Cola ($2), which is sweetened with cane sugar rather than corn syrup, like its American counterpart. Pete chooses the house Margarita ($7), which goes down smooth, but Allison’s Pancho Villa ($7), a sweet whiskey punch, is a little heavy on the grenadine. My Margarita de Pepino de Xcaret ($8) is the winner — cool, cucumber-infused tequila with a kick of chili pequin and Cointreau.
For dessert, we peel open the cornhusk that encases our steamy chocolate enchilada ($5.50), and a moment of silence falls over our table. Ryan breaks it by saying, “Well, it only looks a little bit turdy.” The brown log of cornmeal — served with a chocolate dipping sauce — tastes pretty good, once you get over the poop factor. We consider sticking around for late-night happy hour, but when our friendly, punk-rock waitress returns and Ryan suggests, “This dessert would be even funnier if it were studded with kernels of corn,” we decide to hit the road.
A woman with more shame (or less of a tortilla obsession) might have avoided this place for a while, but I was back two days later for brunch (all entrees cost $8.50) and greeted by the same gracious server. In the morning hours, the tortillas are baked with green chiles, cheese and onions, and hangovers are conquered with chorizo omelettes and breakfast burritos.