Greenpoint can feel like the hottest New York neighborhood one moment, with its hoards of bespectacled thrift store aficionados funneling out of the Nassau Av G stop. Then, when you pause to appreciate the old-world charm of its competing Polish pharmacies and elaborate banquet halls, you remember, this is a well-worn community with established rhythms and favorite haunts that predate any trendy Williamsburg overflow.
Toro Ironworks Kitchen and Bar, at the corner of Driggs and Graham, feels like it marries Greenpoint’s dueling personalities. Despite the fact that it’s been newly reopened under a refreshed look and name (formerly El Toro Taqueria), the Mexican American taco joint feels like it’s been there the whole time. Perhaps this is thanks to the fact that the person who took it over, Sebouh Yegparian, has been a resident of the area for over 20 years. With Toro Ironworks, he wanted to create a community-driven restaurant that serves up simple Mexican American fare with a few fusion twists (like hummus and kimchi making appearances).
It’s a casual spot, evidenced in its decor (rec room meets pre-gig hangout—a list of concerts at nearby Warsaw is chalked on a board) and popularity with locals picking up takeout on their walk home from the subway.
And who could blame them? The food here is definitely worth the detour. Initially skeptical of the introduction of hummus to a taqueria’s menu, I was quickly rebutted: the Hummus A La Mexicano (basically the familiar chickpea dip topped with salsa) worked. We tried the avocado/lime flavor, and it was much better than I expected—to the point that we were scraping the bowl for dregs. The accompanying chips felt a little underwhelming, but you don’t really care when what’s on them tastes so good—especially washed down with a Mexican Coke.
When it comes to mains, the stand-out here is the Koreano Steak taco, with kimchi, korean BBQ sauce and a drizzle of spicy mayonnaise. The flavors feel original and just plain tasty. If I lived in the neighborhood, this would be my go-to order.
If steak’s not your thing, the Papas taco, with potatoes and peppers is a vegan alternative that is a good accompaniment to the meatier taco. The quesadillas (in our case the Al Pastor on a wholewheat tortilla) have the appeal of a delicious comfort food, while the burritos (we tried the Carne Asada) aren’t half bad either.
If you’re a beer person, you’re also in for a treat: Yegparian, formerly the manager at Eataly’s Birreria, has curated a thoughtful craft beer collection highlighting brews from Mexico including the cult-favorites Day of the Dead and Ensenada.
The appeal to a neighborhood like Greenpoint is its variety, in people, in the aluminum sidings decorating its buildings, in its festive food spots. Toro Ironworks is a great addition. And one that its residents will undoubtedly become reliant on, like a familiar friend.
Twisted Talk: What’s your favorite New York taqueria? How about your top Greenpoint food joint? Discuss below!