“Yes, I want all that way for tacos.”
We’ve all been there, well maybe the few and lucky, but late night eating. Gosh, ain’t it a beauty, depending on what type of situation you are in of course. The best late night eating that I’ve experience was after a long night of serving tables and cleaning up after a messy, little child who’s parents disregard them and ‘pass the iPad’ or after a night of debauchery with friends usually ending up smoking a joint in a cab, climbing someones fire escape to their rooftop to watch the sunrise (we’ve all been there, right?). Either stoned and have the munchies or just goddamn hungry, New York City is home to some of the best late night grubs.
Depending on what mood you are in or what your stomach is asking for you need to decipher what neighbourhood you’ll need to go to to grab your bite to eat in the late hours. I’ve had my fair share of late night food and been to every borough and it is a tough decision to make when calling out the best late night food. Typically, I will want something quick and easy because it’s getting late people and I don’t have time to stay up late, I need to go to bed and wake up and have breakfast, just being honest- I love breakfast.
Whether it is rain or shine, hot or cold you will never miss these guys and nothing deters them from leaving the corner, yes, it’s no other then – taco trucks! The spicy charred tinga pollo that clouds the next few blocks will have your mouth watering and speed walking to that horrible fluorescent lit truck. Don’t get me wrong, you should not judge a book by it’s cover because what lays behind these pages is untold history and a cultural difference that people miss. Usually, it will be two men working in the kitchen, side by side and then their sister, cousin or someone’s novia working the cash. It’s a family affair and what they put together in that truck will put you to sleep like a warm bottle of milk would if you were one of those ‘pass me the iPad, mom’ kids.
It’s a late and cold February night in Harlem – 145th and Broadway to be exact. The heat from the underground presses through the steel covers from the sewers. A sea of yellow cabs filter in the background. The occasional horn from honking can be heard in the background, but it’s distant. The chicken, the steak, the pork, onions, garlic, the chilies are grilling and frying in this 12×6 steel box on wheels they call Tacos Azteca. I walk up from the 145th stop on the 1 train and brace for the cold. The young beautiful Latin girl leans on the counter and says, “hola, what you want?” I have studied the menu many times before and the two men working together turn and notice my gringo face. I ask for ‘”dos tacos de pollo, mas chilli, por favor”. The men in the back laugh and ask me if I like it spicy and of course I do. I’ve always been fascinated with how Latin people respond to when they find out that I love chilli. They turn their backs and get cooking. I handed the pretty latina a fiver($5) and step away from the truck and out of that hideous light. I squeeze my shoulders together creating whatever heat of my body that I can to stay warm to only now concentrate on the aromas of my tacos.
After a few moments my order is up. I thank my friends and take my tacos to go. I run across Broadway and make my way underground for the 1 train. I need to get back home now. Sitting on the cold, and wooden bench waiting for the next train which is due to arrive in 13 minutes, I indulge in my tacos. This was the perfect ending to a night. Now, I am satisfied and happy and my stomach thanks me. I just have to be careful now that I don’t fall asleep on the train and fall into a food coma.