There’s slow food, and fast food, and somewhere in between, there’s that sweet spot where the two overlap. Given New York’s fascination with food trucks, there’s a proliferation of good, quick eats on any given corner, but a civilized, industrial interior and clean, fresh ingredients separate newish taco joint Fonda Nolita from the scrum.
Enter through the heavy steel doors and head straight for the counter on the right. Don’t be distracted by the surf-shack-style open kitchen at the back, or by the red VW microbus on the left—there’s plenty of time for that later. (The shovels and rakes and implements of destruction are, sadly, missing in action, but the bus’s pop-top menu will be more than enough to grab your attention.) First things first, though: Decide how many tacos you want to eat and pay accordingly. You will receive one poker chip for each “piece” of food you care to sample, at which point you have my permission to go nuts.
During my first visit, I eschewed tostadas and tamales in favor of three iterations of the taco: the pernil and the barbacoa, from the repurposed Volkswagen, and the crispy fish, from the back kitchen. All three were respectable representatives of the genre, and vaguely familiar, too, for what turned out to be good reason: Aarón Sanchez, formerly of the late, much-beloved Paladar, is the “culinary face” behind the menu.
I made a return trip a few days later with every intention of trying out the vegetarian offerings, but I couldn’t resist another go at the fish taco.
The fish was perfectly fried on both visits, though the mayo was a bit heavy-handed—a flaw quickly remedied with a few extra squeezes of lime, a dash of hot sauce, and the crunch of cilantro-laced cabbage slaw.
I’m ashamed to admit that even though my personal taco guru has been extolling the virtues of the breakfast taco for years now, this was my first experience with said offering. My loss, of course—I don’t call him a guru for nothing, people. Filled with a mix of chorizo, egg, and potato, dressed with a spoonful of chile sauce and crowned with a slice of avocado, this was a lovely, greasy pile of food. I could’ve gone for seconds without a problem.
Another round of tacos would’ve been preferable to my third pick: bland beans and rice that couldn’t be rescued by either salsa or salt. A definite miss.
At nearly $4 a pop, these aren’t the cheapest tacos you’ll ever eat, but for quality and location, the price is a fair one. When you drop in for a visit, try all the things I tried and then try everything else, por favor, so I know what to order next time around.
Steer clear of the rice and beans, and I’m fairly certain it’ll be worth your time.
267 Elizabeth Street
New York, NY