Address: 30 W 24th St.
How hard is it to get in?: Effortless.
Wallet stress: Low
Get this: Al pastor taco, Sonoran shrimp taco
Skip that: Guacamole
Does it live up to the hype?: This is a fun spot for good tacos. It exist in a place and time beyond hype.
Forget the Benjamins—it's all about the tortillas, baby. And Café El Presidente makes them fresh, courtesy of a conveyor-belt contraption manned by two tortilleras. The lively space is part Mexican market, part taqueria, and comes to us from the team behind Tacombi at Fonda Nolita. Both offer a vibrant scene, but the new offshoot is notably sleeker and sunnier. The cocktail menu has also been elevated. On offer: a paloma made with fresh grapefruit juice, a nice michelada, and a dangerously refreshing tequila drink shaken with pineapple agua fresca. Bonus points for the lime garnish—always appreciated in this citrus fruit-impoverished economy.
Rather than an elevated take on Mexican like Empellon, El President delivers authenticity in familiar, no-fuss iterations. A shrimp taco is seared with garlic and amplified by a blistered, slightly greasy tortilla. The al pastor tacos (my Mexican bodega go-to) feature tender pork shaved off a pineapple-topped spit and rich avocado crema, and deliver the ideal balance of sweet and savory. The preparation is traditional; it's the tortillas that make the difference. A manager came by and asked how the meal was, and I found myself delivering a monologue about the merits of their tortillas. She offered to send me home with a fresh batch. I declined, but I will return for this reason. That, and the limes. It's the little things. —Shanté Cosme