I have another fun New Jersey restaurant review for all of you today. I apologize for my lack of recipe sharing in the past few weeks. The wedding appointments paired with attempts to fit in catch up sessions with friends and family has had me dining out way more than often lately. The good news about this is that I have so many food loving friends and the handful of restaurants I have experienced lately have really been top notch.
A group us had a friend visiting from London who was staying in New York City. With the rest of us scattered across northern New Jersey I suggested we try Jersey City. It has easy access from the city and its downtown is known to be a mecca for good food that I have yet to explore. So my suggestion may have been a selfish push but lucky for me everyone agreed and a recommendation was even proposed by one friend. All I had to read were the catch phrases “budget friendly” and “best tacos ever” and I was in! Taqueria Downtown was the meeting spot.
I arrived a little early for our meet time but was easily able to find street parking one block away from our destination. With some extra time I walked Grove Street for a few minutes which seemed to be a very “happening” area. Then I made my way back to Taqueria Downtown which hugs the corner of grove street with its small, step down, dining room. Upon entering you’re greeted with the bar where I quickly ordered a Corona to get into theme. The bright yellow walls are filled with everything from sports photographs to maps of Mexico. Small string lights help to lighten the dim, but busy room. I see that we entered in just the nick of time without a reservation. Within minutes the line for a table is out the door.
After being handed the menu and scanning the large number of offerings I realized that this truly was going to be a cheap meal. Tacos and tamales were just three dollars apiece. Enchiladas, tortas, quesadillas, burritos, flautas, tostadas and more were all under the ten dollar mark. On top of that the table was of course greeted with crispy chips and salsa. We requested quite a few refills and some guacamole to share with them as we dissected the menu.
The tacos had some authentic and almost terrifying options. The “stranger” varieties ranged from cactus to beef head and cheek, to cows tongue. I wasn’t daring enough to go with the carnivore choices but, I thought I could be adventurous enough to try the cactus taco. I added in a classic ground beef taco (picadillo) and a chicken tamale to round out my order.
The cactus taco was shockingly delicious. The vegetable’s consistency closely mimicked cooked asparagus. However; it had a lot more flavor. It was a little sweet, a little sour, and with the medley of cilantro and spice topping it off it was a great collection of flavors. The beef taco was a little greasy but the meat was hearty and the filling was speckled with peas and other vegetable bits. I can always tell a taco is more authentic when it is delivered without the “Americanized” toppings of shredded lettuce and grated cheddar cheese.
Taqueria lets the main produce or protein of their tacos really shine in the dish. A slim slather of salsa or herbs is the only topping needed. Last up was my tamale. I needed an extra beer and glass of water for this one. I wasn’t expecting the level of heat that this simple tamale packed in it. But, the fiery spices didn’t stop me from polishing off what I can say was probably the best tamale I have had to date.
One anecdote I had to share was that the restaurant has their own set of commandments for dining in their establishment. More than three of them call out the lack of Fajitas on their menu. Apparently fajitas are quite a taboo when it comes to authentic Mexican meals. In doing a little look up I found that its Tex-Mex cuisine and doesn’t have the right to earn a place on this true to its roots menu (Lesson learned Taqueria, lesson learned).
Our friend date was filled with noisy chatter, a couple rounds of Dos Equis and Coronas, and great down to earth, Mexican food. Our bills were all under $20 and we left full and happy. What more can you ask for?!
Taqueria Downtown’s website leaves a lot to the imagination aside from sharing its menu so you’ll need to trust me that this casual hotspot is worth the visit. http://www.taqueriadowntowncateringco.com/
…all for the love of the dish