Authentic Mexican food hiding in plain sight

By Victoria Esquivel

Taco Bell and Chipotle are the primary examples of Americanized Mexican fast food that have gained popularity in New York. Being Mexican-American has showed me that real Mexican food takes hours to prepare. It is not meant to be a fast food industry.

La Newyorkina has several trucks throughout the city, this is their first official sweet shop located on Sullivan St. Photo by Victoria Esquivel

Hidden in the East Village, are a few traditional small shops that bring to life Mexican culture and the food reflects the essence of the south.

In the past 10 years an increase in Mexican migrants has been see in the boroughs surrounding Manhattan but the popularity of Mexican food has not blossomed in the heart of New Yorkers.

Chinese food continues to be the preferred food sweeping across the entire United States and very popular to New Yorkers. New York is fast paced and Chinese food is fast take out for those on the go.

“I think if any nation in the world would be ready for Latin American food it was the United States. Americans are inquisitive. They’re curious. They jump into things with a passion.” Latin American Culinary historian Maricel Presilla said.

Taqueria Diana has two locations in Manhattan. One in the East Village and the other on 9th Avenue. Photo by Victoria Esquivel

Taqueria Diana and La Newyorkina are both found in East Village and have gained a crowd thanks to authentic Mexican food. Taqueria Diana, is a taco shops that serves burritos with pinto beans and rice, quesadillas and tacos with the taste of Baja California. La Newyorkina is a Mexican sweet shop that serves different kinds of ice creams from soft serve to popsicles of different flavors, only found on the streets of Mexico City.

Food Review: Taqueria Diana

One of the workers was preparing a customers order. Taqueria Diana busiest time is the weekend. Photo by Victoria Esquivel

Located on Second Avenue next to Abe Lebewohl Park and the New York Public Library- Ottendorfer, Taqueria Diana attracts tourists and residents alike. Resembling a typical taco shop found on the streets of Mexico with bright colors and stone-cement tables, the atmosphere takes one back to their Mexican roots. I know it did for me.

The menu offers main course dishes that taste like my grandmother’s homemade tacos. I had the tacos Al Pastor with cebolla, cilantro and pineapple. I personally added green salsa and guacamole but those are additional add ons. Nonetheless, the tacos were delicious.

All products were fresh and the dishes had the warmth of homemade food. The chefs take great care in preparing their customer’s orders. The restaurant also caters for all tastes in the selection of drinks that they offer, from Jarritos, a Mexican drink, to Horchata, a milk drink made from almonds. This location of Taqueria Diana does not offer liquor.

Due to its small size, one can see the cooks work on their tacos and view how they prepare them. All seats are located in the back of the restaurant on stools and the tables are made of cement coming out the the wall. However, the sink and cleaning materials are right next to the tables on the left giving the restaurant an even more claustrophobic feel.

The service provided is amazing. Customers are attended right away and are treated with the utmost respect. Most if not all orders are completed within minutes. All workers are kind and offer a smile to entering customers.

I had a pleasant dining experience with food of the most exquisite flavors. For this reason I highly recommend going to the taco shop Taqueria Diana for your daily dose of Mexican food.

Location: 129 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003
Hours: Sun and Mon: 12pm to 12am
Tues to Wed: 12pm to 1am
Thu: 12pm to 2am
Prices: $3.15- $3.50 per taco
Best Seller: Tacos Al Pastor

The ice cream made in a barrel

La Newyorkina usually has one or two workers in the sweet shop. They offer a variety of ice creams and drinks. Photo by Victoria Esquivel

Have a sweet taste of Mexico.

Slow churned ice-cream, or better known as Nieve de garrafa in Mexico, is hidden in the East Village in a small sweet shop on 240 Sullivan Street named La Newyorkina. The ice cream is close to a gelato as it has less air and fat that American style ice cream.

La Nieve de garrafa is found all over Mexico and is made in metal cylinders (the garrafa) that is placed inside a wooden barrel. In between layers of salt and ice the garrafa is surrounded and the ice cream is made with a wooden paddle. Some flavors include dairy while others just ice.

La Newyorkina is the only restaurant in Manhattan that serves this kind of ice cream that is made daily every morning.

One of the worker serves coconut Nieve de garrafa in a small cup. They had two other flavors as well, queso fresco and tequila raisin. Photo by Victoria Esquivel

Fanny Gerson, owner of La Newyorkina, said the flavors rotate everyday. On some days they serve coconut or mango and in a different day they serve queso fresco and tequila raisin.  Some of their best sellers are Mexican vanilla bean and Oaxaca chocolate chunk.

“In 2009 I spent a year doing research and traveling through Mexico to write my first book ‘My Sweet Mexico.’   That experience changed my life and when I returned to New York  I knew I wanted  to share and celebrate the amazing frozen treats and sweets of Mexico,” Gerson said.

Gerson’s sweet shop offers more than just cold sweets. It sells Mexican hot chocolate, pan dulce (Mexican doughnuts) as well as cookies and many more sweets.

Location: 240 Sullivan Street
New York, NY 10024
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 12-9PM
Friday & Saturday 12-10 PM
Prices: $3.75 – $7.25
Best Seller: Mexican Vanilla Bean (Nieve de garrafa)

Victoria Esquivel is a rising senior at Bonita Vista High School in San Diego, California.