Taqueria Downtown
‎236 Grove Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302-4665
(201) 333-3220‎

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I’ve been to Mexico three times.  I’ve always enjoyed my meals while in Mexico, however I find it pathetic and sad that I’ve eaten more authentic Mexican food in New Jersey than I have in Mexico.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve eaten at fancy hotels and resorts that cater to Americans?  Or maybe it’s just that the best of Mexico’s chefs & cooks have all moved to Texas & New Jersey?

Here’s what they declare (los diez mandamientos):

Tacos, tacos, & tacos!

1. no fajitas.
2. no nachos.
3. no cute clay or adobe plates to match the cute clay or adobe decor.
4. crema fresca…not sour cream.
5. no tableside guacamole show.
6. no fajitas.
7. no fancy menus with a history lesson on Mexico.
8. no “mini tacos” or “mini chimis” or anything else “mini”
9. no pillow-size burritos.
10. no tacky red, white, and green uniforms with a red sash around the waist.
did we mention no fajitas?
There’s no substitution for the real thing.

That’s a heck of a declaration for a restaurant that has been blasted online for their shoddy service, even though the food has been consistently praised.  Me?  I will praise both their food & their service.  My wife & I had never eaten here until one rainy evening last week.  We just happened to be in the area, and someone had recommended it to us.  We both love Mexican – especially authentic Mexican.

You walk in to a small dining room with a big front counter.  The waiting time increased just after we got there – the line was nearly out the door.  We ordered first at the counter, then sat ourselves.  I asked what they recommended, and the guy very enthusiastically went through the choices with me.  I decided on three tacos – carnitas (pork), bistec (spicy steak), and chorizo (sausage), plus a side of rice & beans, the tortilla soup – their daily special to start, and a can of Tecate beer – the only alcohol they carry.  My wife also got three tacos – pescado (fish), barbacoa (lamb), and picadillo (ground beef), a side of rice & beans, and a 7Up.  I paid (came to like $32) and we took our drinks over to a table they cleared for us.

Tortilla Soup

The soup came first – and very quickly.  It was perfectly spiced with tortilla chips and big chunks of avocado.  The wife tried a slurp, and nearly didn’t give it back.

Before I could get halfway through the rest of our food arrived.  The tacos were bigger than expected, and we could have shared the rice & beans.  Whatever, we didn’t complain.

The rice & beans are nearly perfect.  The re-fried beans are pureed into creamy goodness, and mixed with the rice you get exactly why they are such a diet staple in Mexico.

Rice & Beans

The tacos, however are in a league of their own.  These aren’t the little chits you get from Taco Bell (although, I would never knock the Bell) or Chipotle (blech!).  Each taco is a double flour sof tortilla loaded with your meat of choice, onion, cilantro, and salsa, and topped with a wedge of lime.  If I were to go back today, I may only get two (but probably not).  They are a good size…and cheap!

Other dishes include tamales- cornmeal wrapped in cornhusk and steamed with pork, spicy chicken, or jalapeno and cheese, flautas- 3 rolled crispy tacos with lettuce, salsa, avocado, cheese, & crema with chicken, potato, or rice & beans, tortas – pork, steak, or Milanese (breaded steak) sandwiches on a Portuguese roll with beans, lettuce, tomato, avocado, & jalapeno, enchiladas – two rolled corn tortillas topped with red or green sauce, stuffed with cheese or chicken, and served with rice & beans, tostadas – pork, chicken, beans, or avocado on a fat corn tortilla topped with lettuce, salsa, avocado, cheese, & crema, burritas – ground beef, eggs, or eggs with beef in two flour tortillas served with rice & beans, quesadillas – steak, sausage, cheese, or ham & cheese, and finally big plates (entrees) including chuletas verdes – pork chops in green salsa, bistec encebollado – steak & onions, and cecina- salt-cured flank steak with chilaquiles.

Carnitas Tacos!

They also serve Mexican brunch – declared “great for hangovers!” on Saturday & Sunday from 11 AM – 4 PM that includes huevos rancheros – fried eggs over tortillas with salsa, huevos a la Mexicana – scrambled eggs with onions, tomato, & peppers, huevos con chorizo – scrambled eggs with Mexican sausage, huevos con machaca – scrambled eggs with shredded beef, chilaquiles – tortilla strips with chicken & green salsa, torrejas – Mexican French toast, and finally – one of my most favorite soups homemade pozole – hominy & pork soup.  Talk about great for hangovers…pozole will make you forget you ever drank a drop…in a good way.

We finished our meal and left the tip on the table.  The staff said goodnight as we left, and promised ourselves we would return…perhaps sooner than later, and more often…we shall see.