Tortilleria Nixtamal

24 July 2010, 8:30 PM (eating) and 9:50 PM (unlocking) – Corona, Queens

“At home as well as in the world, some of the best rooms are not for the guests.”

The door that led to the room which we unlocked with the Key to the City.

I had inside information about this one from Deslyn over at the Armstrong House that this one led to a secret room. But I won’t talk about that yet – first, the tacos.

I had already had a steak taco for lunch at a street fair on the way between the Whitney and Bryant Park, so I was thinking about having a chicken taco at the Tortilleria. But Kelly, much like she does with me and hot dogs, talked me out of it – so I ordered the steak tacos, knowing that they would have competition against the pretty damn good taco from lunch.

Without question, they beat the taco from lunch. The steak was well done, but not rubbery; the tortilla was incredible; and the lettuce (which was a darker, leafier species, especially compared to the iceberg lettuce they used at the street fair) added an extra flavor.

After waiting a bit for the owner to take us to the lock, we finally moved towards the door. The secret room, was, in fact, the room where they made the tacos. It was fascinating and informative – apparently, it is the only tortilleria in the city to make their tacos from whole corn rather than from corn flour; corn’s nutritional value is gained by harnessing the potential energy in the corn, generally using limestone or something of the like; that nixtamal is an Aztec term; the corn is ground – or rather, pounded – using serrated granite stones – but the coup de gras of making your own tortilla had to be foregone, due to the facts that (a) it was ten minutes before they closed and (b) they had run out of masa for the day.

Finally, I got to sign the heavily written-on door (on which some wiseass wrote “PUSH” when it’s a door you pull open; it made Kelly laugh when I kept trying to push the door and I had to pull it).

The journey continued in September with a return to Bryant Park, which you can read about here.

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