No matter which neighborhood you find your apartment in, it’s likely that you’ll find yourself traveling through the Union Square area on a fairly regular basis. Just about every subway line in town stops nearby, and there are five movie theaters with more than 30 screens showing everything from art house flicks (at the Quad Theater and Cinema Village) to Hollywood blockbusters (at the Regal 14) all within a half mile of each other.
Add to that tons of shopping, lots of fun and/or crazy happenings at both Union Square and nearby Washington Square Parks, a heavy concentration of colleges like NYU, the New School, Cooper Union and Parsons and, thank goodness, plenty of quick-bite places to eat.
Like, for example, two taco spots within a few blocks of each other, newcomer Tortaria and the reigning master of San Francisco-style Mission Mexican, Dos Toros. At which should you eat, when the desire for meat, cheese and tortilla strike? Let’s go to the Urban Edge Union Square Taco Smackdown for the answer, shall we…
AtmosphereTortaria: Counter service by friendly college kids. Generally packed with same, or an after-work crowd loudly enjoying pitchers of margaritas. A cool, festive design, with lots of bodega-style groceries lining one wall, vintage-y wooden signage, window seating looking out on University Place, a full bar in the back. Comfortable and convivial. Dos Toros: Counter service by laid-back stoner types. Always busy, with long lines at peak hours, but they’ve got the system down, and it moves fast. This is a small, super-casual place, with only maybe 15 seats (three at a window counter overlooking Fourth Avenue), but the table turnover is rapid, so even if it looks like there’s no place to sit when you walk in, chances are by the time you get your food, something will open up. Advantage: Tortaria
Tortaria: Pitchers of sangria, fruity margaritas, cerveza on tap, and a full menu of tequilas: silver, reposado, anejo, and mezcal. Non-boozy beverages include those super-sweet Jarritos sodas that I get a craving for every now and then. Dos Toros: Four kinds of cerveza, including the classic Tecate in cans. Fountain soda. They’ll give you a cup for water if you ask, which is my usual. Advantage: Tortaria Drinks
FoodTortaria: Granted, I’ve only eater here once, but I doubt I’ll do so again. The Carne Asada taquitios were dry and flavorless, and, at $6.43 (huh?) for a pair of stingy three-biters, deeply unsatisfying. And the namesake Torta was even more disappointing, a bready, dry, wholly uninspired Pesce sandwich, supposedly of the red snapper variety, but who knows, it didn’t really taste like much. With tax and a dollar or two in the tip jar, my “dinner” was close to twenty bucks, and I left hungry. Dos Toros: The clear winner, by a million miles. In fact, Dos Toros serves what could be my favorite $10 meal in town, the Carne Asada Burrito, with guacamole. This is a true thing of beauty, a monster stuffed with rice, beans (I usually opt for black, but the pintos are good too), and a generous pile of juicy, spicy chunks of steak. The tortilla is fresh and chewy, the slice of melty cheese adds a nice hit of salt, the red sauce fiery, the sour cream and guac creamy. And the Carnitas (pork) and Pollo Asado (chicken) versions are almost as good. The Tacos rock, too, just without rice and beans. HUGE advantage: Dos Toros SO. If you want to hang out with friends and drink and maybe snack on chips and such, Tortaria is your move. But if you want to eat–and, especially, if you want to eat the best burrito in town–Dos Toros is the way to go. Bonus! Dos Toros is also located in the West Village and the Upper East Side. More Dos Toros info on their website. Not to be outdone, more Tortaria facts on their website.
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