UPPER EAST SIDE, NYC | Ever since Cascabel Taqueria first opened up here on the Upper East Side, they have been serving elevated iterations of traditional Mexican food to happy, grateful, frequently returning customers—myself among them.
Another recent visit afforded me yet another opportunity to enjoy their refreshingly picante guacamole (topped with a Thai chili-spiked tomato purée, fresh cilantro, and served with fresh crispy tortillas), and a rich, very flavorfully balanced tortilla soup (with juicy, tender chicken, and Mexican oregano), itself topped with queso fresco and a roasted pasilla pepper that diners are instructed to crumble by hand by hand into their sopa.
The starters are especially welcome as the seasonal temperatures begin to dip, which explains why the tortilla soup is a popular delivery and to go menu item as well.
Never one to rest on their laurels, however, the owners and chef are always looking to create new yet still authentic dining experiences as well. They may have very well done so with the newest addition to their menu—the queso mac fundido.
Yes, the already popular queso fundido—a hot, bubbly, melty mix of chihuahua and oaxaca cheeses in a skillet—gets empowered here with a healthy serving of al dente elbow macaroni. And sticking true to the essence of the fundido, there is no roux- or bechamel-based origin to the dish. Which means that this is as pure a mac 'n' cheese as you are going to find around anywhere. And with the addition of the house-made chorizo, this homey starter is pretty much unmatched anywhere in its singular culinary awesomeness.
And as always, much the place is a both uniquely familiar and special. Comfortable and exciting. Rustic and modern. Down-home and lots of fun. And that vibe still radiates from the menu, the decor, and the staff—from co-owner David Chiong's naturally charming exuberance to the staff's infectious good humor and great service.
As ever, the "good times" at Cascabel Taqueria extend throughout the dining experience to the experience of just being here.
CASCABEL TAQUERIA | 1556 2nd Ave. (bet. 80th & 81st Sts.), New York, NY 10075 | (212) 717-8226 | cascabeltaqueria.com