I was thoroughly enjoying a restaurant that was meticulously designed to feel like a road side eatery in a developing country. The New York dining scene is indeed filled with irony.
Tacombi at Fonda Nolita, on the Northern tip of Elizabeth Street, looks from the outside like a temporary space put together to house several vendors. Upon closer inspection, the converted garage with cheap-ish metal furniture is actually one highly coordinated restaurant. There’s a proprietary brand of soda on display up front, salads coming from the back kitchen, and tacos coming from a modified VW Microbus.
As the story goes, the folks behind Tacombi at Fonda Nolita (and La Brisa de Tacombi in Montauk) were at a beach in Mexico when they saw the converted taco vehicle. Not only did they decide to buy the bus on the spot, but they also hired the chef at the particular eatery to bring his casual beach-side Mexican fare into New York City.
As Corona says in its ads, find your beach. This couldn’t be more accurate at Tacombi. Once the food starts showing up at your table, and the Mezcal starts to flow, you literally feel transported to a beachside dining shack.
Start with a plate of house made corn chips with a heaping chunk of guacamole. The smooth guacamole is topped with just a bit of chili powder, and the corn chips are lightly sprinkled with salt. Look around the room, it seems to be the requisite order.
Corn Esquites arrives in a cup that reminds you of its content. “Esquites! Esquites! Esquites!”. The casual road side snack of roasted fried corn is neatly placed inside the cup, where it’s up to the diner to stir it up and enjoy with a spoon. The chipotle mayo packs just the right amount of heat, so stir well.
Ceviche Tostada shows up also on a chip. These lightly cooked pieces of fish are soaked in a zesty lime bath, and seasoned with a light dose of salt. We’ve been accustomed to seeing delicate ceviche at Peruvian and Japanese restaurants, this is more rugged, but the flavors are quite refined.
There are 8 types of tacos on the menu, each type of main ingredient is served on top of three soft “shells”. Your job is to assemble it before devouring. If you had an appetizer, 2 tacos (which forms into 6) is abundant for most people. The crispy fish and pork belly are crowd favorites, which are even better when you drizzle some of the house-made hot sauce.
I applaud the overall concept and incredible branding efforts at Tacombi. From the custom branded soda to the hot sauce, it’s mind boggling how this was done all for 2 small restaurants. If I didn’t know, I would have imaged it to be part of a chain with a corporate branding strategy. Next time Corona tells you to find your beach, hop on a cab to Elizabeth Street for some tacos.
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Tacombi at Fonda Nolita
267 Elizabeth St
New York, NY 10012
Note: This meal was complimentary. This did not affect my opinion, nor were we required to provide coverage.