"To Die For" Lunch at Taqueria de los Muertos

By: Allana Mortell

When I first moved to New York, I began the dreaded apartment search. My roommate and I checked out a billion different places - some with tiny kitchens and mini-fridges and some with bedrooms better fitted for a dollhouse - you name it, we saw it. One of the biggest deal breakers for me was apartment proximity to food. The broker we were then dealing with kept telling us how up & coming Prospect Heights, Brooklyn was. As we walked around the neighborhood, we giggled in delight as we passed restaurant by restaurant by restaurant - many open late (another of my "deal breakers").

I first saw Taqueria de los Muertos on a whim,  walking by the restaurant on our way to look at another apartment. Though I knew nothing about the restaurant, the name stuck with me and I knew I had to go back. So, three weeks later, on a beautiful too-sunny-for-March-day, I ventured over to Prospect Heights, so excited and so hungry.

Living in New York is expensive, there's no doubt about it; so many restaurants these days charge outrageous amounts of money for plates of food smaller than any tapas restaurant I know. I walk out of those "hip, new restaurants," with holes in my pocket and my stomach still grumbling. So, I walked into Taqueria de los Muertos with a ten-dollar bill,  hoping for the best. I eventually left so full of food and unbelievably satisfied that the employees and my friends could've rolled me on out down the street, seeing as after the meal, I could barely move.

When you first walk into Taqueria, the decor will undoubtedly catch your eye. Down the corridor towards the kitchen, the white walls are adorned with probably a hundred tiny skulls plastered all over. "De los muertos" simply translates to "of the dead," which I have to assume is in relation to Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a holiday celebrated in Mexico to pray for and remember those who have passed. The tiny skulls were cool but even cooler were the larger ones and decorated ones hanging from all the different walls surrounding the small yet cozy restaurant. Who knew that they were an indicator of the "to-die-for" meal that I was about to have.

As I approached the menu, I almost squealed in delight. One of my favorite things on the planet is corn on the cob. Sure, it's usually slathered in butter but I absolutely love it and when its charred black from the grill, it's even better. You can't find corn on the cob on every menu; often you find it at street fairs or carnivals when its most authentic served hands-on, super messy. When I saw I could pay 3 bucks for maiz chanclado - grilled corn with chipotle mayo and cojita cheese, I literally lost my mind. Done and done!

The corn came served on a plate, covered in cheese. Though upon taking the first bite, it wasn't over-done or heavy, it was just right amount of cheese to lightly coat the corn while still getting a saucy bite from the spicy mayo. As I chomped my way down the cob, ever so gracefully, the toasty kernels were still the highlight of the dish, not overpowered by its accompaniments. The dish was buttery, spicy and honestly, one of the best things I have ever had.

Next came the fish tacos. I decided on the masa harina catfish, which is whitefish coated with "dough flour", or masa harina. To make the flour, which is the same traditional flour used to make tortillas or tamales, corn maize is dried and then treated in a solution of lime and water. The soaked maize is then dried and ground to make a dough. Alongside the fish was shredded cabbage in the prettiest color purple I've ever seen. It was crunchy, bright and a touch on the sweet side. Inside the taco was a lime cilantro sour cream with sprinklings of pico de gallo which added another dimension to the dish. The taco was folded more like a burrito, which I found very intriguing yet delightful. The best part about that is when you're finishing up, you always have that last bite which is always the best because you get to taste all the sauce, juices and last bites of cabbage and fish, the medley of flavors shining right at the end.

You truly get more than what you pay for at Taqueria de los Muertos. It's been a good few days since my meal at Taqueria and I'm still thinking about how good the food was, always a good indicator of a great restaurant. Though we didn't end up signing any leases in Prospect Heights, I now have two great reasons to head back to a fantastic and reasonably priced restaurant.

Taqueria de los Muertos is located at 663 Washington between Prospect Place and St. Marks. They're open 12-10 Monday to Friday, 10-11 on Saturday and 10-10 on Sunday.

Photos: Allana Mortell

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