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Picante Mexican Restaurant

New York NY (Harlem)

3424 broadway (btwn. 139th & 140th st), new york NY 10031
daily 11am-4am


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Rating: 90
Price: $$$

On a trip to the Gotham Girls roller derby championship, the internet tipped me off to some reportedly good Mexican food in the area. As I had some friends visiting from France (who had no conception of a delicious taco), it was essential that we got some good stuff. And, in at least one regard, we succeeded - they've consumed Mexican food for 3 consecutive dinners.

Going to Picante on the night before Halloween was a fun experience. The waitresses were all dressed up in costumes (mostly cowgirls), and there were fake cobwebs and spider decorations on the walls. Anyone who knows me knows that I love it when businesses put up decorations, so I was tickled pink (orange, really) by this Halloween enthusiasm. The normal decor of Picante was a pretty trendy and lounge-ish - dark, loud music, and funky lights. The prices, however, were just as good as what you'd get at a completely non-trendy establishment ($2.50 per taco) so Picante must have discovered a secret winning formula.

Our cowgirl dropped us off a nice dish of chips and salsa while we waited, and it was highly delicious. The chips were light, crispy, and not too greasy. The salsa was a brownish-red blend, fresh and spicy with a slight tomato-y flavor. While it wasn't mind-blowing, it was refreshing and delicious and much enjoyed after a long, hungry ride on the 1 train, delayed by construction.

Unfortunately, complete satisfaction was long in coming. After we placed our orders - mine was for 1 pollo, 1 bistec (AKA asada), and 1 cesina (thinly sliced beef) - the long wait began. In our party there was a total of 8 tacos and 1 burrito ordered, which could in no circles be considered a particularly large order; however, we were left sitting there (dish of chips empty) for at least 20 minutes. While my anxiety may have been compounded by fears of missing the Halloween roller derby, it was definitely an unreasonably long period of time, during which our cowgirl did not come by to check on us once.

When the food did arrive, it was fairly significantly incorrect. We were delivered 2 chorizo tacos (ordered by nobody) and I ended up with 1 pollo, 2 bistec, and 0 cesina. Perhaps a minor mistake, but when you are a highly-paid professional taco reviewer, every bit of variety counts.

Despite the poor service, the tacos were really excellent. The bistec was seasoned perfectly (salty, but not overpoweringly so) and cooked to tender perfection. It was still juicy, rather than the dried out stuff you get someplace, and lived up to it's 'steak' title well. Similarly, the chicken was delicious, mild, and tender. It was cut nicely into bite-sized shreds and was not greasy in the slightest. The tortillas were soft and moist but held up to their contents well. While it would have been nice to have some more salsa options, their house was spicy enough to enhance the flavor of the meats perfectly.

On the whole, Picante had delicious tacos, fair prices, and quite poor service. If I lived in the neighborhood I'd likely order take-out from Picante quite frequently; however, it's not worth and hour on the train to wait so long for a meal. Spooktacular! (Roller derby was also highly recommended)

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