The after-hours murderously good tacos

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Photos by Ben Dwork

Food carts are all the rage these days, but Tacos El Bronco isn’t part of the growing fleet of retrofitted cargo vans with sleek logos and Twitter feeds that serve Kobe hot dogs or $4 brownies sweetened with agave nectar. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) It’s just an old-school lunch truck that sets up nightly in front of the Key Food at Fifth Ave. and 43rd St. and serves murderously good tacos for $1.50 apiece. And that’s it—no burritos, no quesadillas, not even rice and beans.

I had a notion once to try every taco on Fifth Ave. to determine the best, but my new plan is to save myself the effort and declare these the winner until someone shows me different. For proof, you can’t do better than the el pastor: roast pork cut from a gyro-style rotisserie and mixed with tiny bits of diced pineapple. Usually when confronted with pineapple or the like in a savory dish I’m reminded of my old friend J.G.’s long-ago words on the subject—“I hate it when they mix fruit with food”—but the combination of crisp-edged pork, sweet pineapple, chopped cilantro and earthy corn tortilla works beautifully. In all, there are tacos in eight or nine different varieties, including veal head, pork stomach and beef intestines for the adventurous. (Note to those who insist that these are the “real deal,” and the only choice for any true chowhound: shut up.)

And the taco takes another leap skyward when you apply El Bronco’s arsenal of secret weapons. First and foremost, some grilled green onion. Second, some chipotle-laced red sauce that looks hot but isn’t, and some avocado-based green sauce that doesn’t look hot but is. Third, a slice or two of cucumber and a squeeze of lime.

Like I said, murderous. And they’re here all night long, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., every night.  El Bronco is well known locally, so it’s possible to wait a good 20 minutes for your tacos at 3 a.m. But checking out the street scene livens the wait. A guy on the sidewalk will take your order and pass it up through the window, and hand you the bounty when it’s ready. Note that the tacos are relatively small—eating five or six of them wouldn’t be much of a stretch if you’re hungry.

Tacos El Bronco, Fifth Ave. at 43rd St., Sunset Park

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  1. Check out their new sit-in restaurant over on 4th Ave and 43st street – they’re open till 1 am every night! The portions are great.

  2. FYI, Reyes is actually on 4th Ave and 14th St. The tacos are great, and so are the tamales (weekends only).

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