The perfect end to a semi snow day â€“ Storm Hercules no less – we settled into one of El Toro Blancoâ€™s cozy booths. Extreme weather and El Toro are connected in my mind â€“ I had reservations at the then week-old restaurant the night hurricane Sandy left it in the dark, future uncertain. And here we are nowâ€“ packed house despite a foot of snow â€“ not entirely appropriately dressed in monster boots â€“ surrounded by blond women in cashmere sweaters sharing tamales.
Yes, we wanted margaritas â€“ a little on the puckering side even for my sour-leaning tastes. Yes, we wanted Guacamole, medium â€“ for a certain definition of medium that includes large chunks of green chile â€“ and never-ending bowls of warm, salty, splintering homemade chips.
El Toro Blanco, the Mexican cousin of our favorite burger joint, B & B on Houston Street, is the kind of cleaned up restaurant you could totally take your parents to for a burst of authentic flavors served in up-scale American Organic style. The tacos are presented on silver cake stands, propped up by artful wedges of lime, for example. The napkins are red and white Country Kitchen dish-towels. It dinner designed by Tumbler. Ever so slightly dainty. The opposite of uncouth.
Weâ€™d come primarily for the queso fundido with chorizo, which seemed like ideal January fare. It arrived bubbling in cast iron, with fresh tortillas for dipping. And it was as comforting and unctuous as youâ€™d expect a pool of melting cheese covered in crumbled spicy sausage to be, which is Very. Blistered and chewy at the edges, molten in the middle. Slicked orange with fat. Spiked with green chile. Brightened with lime.
Then there were tacos; crispy fish, soft, melting beef, frankly a-little-on-the-chewy-side -goat, with a little plate of plantains in mole elegantly arranged in a fan, and Mexican Street Corn. This latter was served off the cob for maximum convenience, minimum actual Street. Unless that street is in the Hamptons, in which case, sure, why not.
â€œYou know, this is really first date corn,â€ said Jon, spooning out another portion from the white china bowl. â€œThereâ€™s way less stuck in teeth paranoia this way.Â You can both date, And eat corn, which is a win, right?â€
“Though is it really cheating?” wondered Ingyn, scooping up left-over mole sauce with a tortilla chip. This is a valid point.
We finished with super-sized churros, perfect for dunking into dulce de leche and chocolate sauce â€“ or, in reality, spooning sauce over with little silver teaspoons. â€œThis might be the first time Iâ€™ve eaten a churro and not got a stain on my shirt,â€ Jon noted. Then we finished our Stumptown coffees â€“ you knew it would be Stumptown, didnâ€™t you – and headed back out into the snow, warm, full and happy.
Whatâ€™s the damage?
Queso Fundido – $14
Tacos – $10 â€“ 12 for 2
Margaritas – $12
El Toro Blanco -Â 257 6thÂ Ave. 212 645 0193