Neighborhood: Flatiron District
688 Avenue of the Americas
Beef tongue is a polarizing protein. Stop into a Mexican bodega and you'll find the meat to be firm, chewy, and, yes, a little gamey. Try it at a more refined spot like Gabe Stulman's West Village gem Perla, and it will be as tender as soft and rich as a rib eye. For some, the latter is only appealing. IMHO, both are stellar, just in unique ways.
Somewhere in the middle lie the beef tongue tacos at Tres Carnes. The Texas-style taco spot improves upon the Chipotle assembly line model with smoked meats, including smoked chicken, pork shoulder, and—most delicious of all—brisket, all smoked by legendary Salt Lick pitmaster Mike Rodriguez. Since opening this April, the small shop has been beseiged by long lines, beacause, uh, 16-hour smoked meats.
For those who seek more exotic smoky meats, the restaurant does a "Weekly Smoke." Past selections have included goat, whole hog, and even Antelope. This week, we stopped by for a preview of the weekly smoke, which was—you guessed it—beef tongue.
The dry rubbed beef tongue was pleasantly smoky, with just enough fat to mazimize the tongue's rich flavor. Each taco was topped with a seriously spicy charred tomato and habanero pepper sauce, and crips rounds of radish, chopped onion and cilantro. The Tres Sangres (three bloods—how Halloweeny!) sangria was infused with hibiscuis and blood orange, and was a refreshing way to soothe the habanero burn.
The tasting ended with a smoked churro, which was more sweet than smoky, thanks to Taza's cinnamon-chocolate-caramel filling. Our only gripe: the churros weren't warm, but they had a wonderfully gritty cinnamon coating, reminiscent of canella (Mexican cinnamon).
Tres Carnes house-smoked beef tongue tacos and smoked churro donuts will be available all week. Drop by and get your tongue on.