When Gidget the chihuahua died a few years ago, I always suspected that poor diet was the COD (cause of death). For those of you who may not remember, Gidget surpassed Wendy's Clara "Where's the Beef?" Peller as fast food icon in the Taco Bell "Yo Quiero Taco Bell" ads. Walking into Tehuitzingo, one of the many Hell's Kitchen Mexican bodegas on and around 10th Avenue in Manhattan, you're greeted by a glass display case of deconstructed guacamole. Avocados, limes, cilantro, onions and tomatoes are screaming to be mashed together by hand. Walk past the shelves of Bimbo cupcakes (Mexico's answer to Hostess) and grab a Boing! or Jarritos Mexican soda from the fridge before sticking your head through the window at the very back of the store.
Through the window you'll hear two Mexican women slapping around some defenseless masa tortillas before flinging them on the grill. They double wrap each taco to order. The choice of taco fillings is near infinite and variety is indeed the spice of life (at least until you take a stool in front of the homemade red and green salsas which you can spoon on yourself to enhance your tacos). I recommend pork carnitas, lengua (beef tongue) and barbacoa (goat).
Sitting at my stool I crack open my Boing! mango soda with the handy bottle opener affixed to the wall (no wimpy American twist-off caps in Mexico) and look over the pre-sliced limes, onions, cilantro and jalapenos that I can ladle over my tacos with the Christmas colored red and green salsas. The tacos are unbelievably fresh and delicious. As usual, I add too much heat but my mango Boing! loaded with real cane sugar unlike American sodas quickly cools the burn with its icy cold sweetness.
Though relatively unknown except to the neighborhood Hispanics who line up for take-out and taco-seekers who have made the rounds of established quality tacos oases, I've been coming to Tehuitzingo for years. Other food critics yearning for authentic fast Mexican food in NYC have also occupied these stools as rave reviews line the walls. The most popular recurring headline? "Yo NO quiero Taco Bell". Sorry Gidget, but I have to agree. Yo quiero Tehuitzingo.