News & Culture in Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Points Nearby
March 7, 2021
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Food + Drink

Best Cheap Eats on Smith Street

By Lisa M. Collins
Pork, onion and cilantro, what else do you need
Photo by Joshua Kristal

We sit in the nexus of the media universe in Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill. Or, at least, in the bedroom community for so many of the writers and editors of our nation’s biggest newspapers and magazines. And so it goes that little Oaxaca, a modest taco stand on Smith Street, was reviewed shortly after opening last year by The New York Times. It was mentioned again more recently in that paper; this time, for the Korean tacos, little hand-held delights that pack a flavorful punch.

The Times said Oaxaca’s tacos were “almost daintily composed… fresh and light.”

It is true, Oaxaca is really good. Their traditional soft corn shell tacos have a healthy airiness about them, yet carry big, rich flavors. It’s the best cheap meal on Smith Street.

Mo Alhidami, 22, a native and resident of Cobble Hill, opened the restaurant in July 2009. His dear old friend, the chef Sergio Vasquez, who is from Oaxaca, developed the menu, Alhidami told me.

“He’s been cooking for over 30 years. He’s like family,” said Alhidami, whose parents moved to Brooklyn from Yemen.

What Alhidami and Vasquez created is a mouthful of pleasure at a bare bones little taco stand.

“I’ve been in the restaurant industry since I was 13. I love Mexican food. I wanted something simple, a simple concept and a short menu. So far it’s working out OK,” Alhidami said.

The atmosphere is Spartan. You’ll sit on a bench in the window, at one of two bar tables or at a bar overlooking the cooking area.

The Korean taco, which often sells out, features Kalbi marinated steak topped with Korean BBQ sauce, Kimchee, asian pear slaw and lettuce.

Prices are what one hopes for in a taco stand. For $3.25, you can savor a soft-corn shell taco stuffed with your choice of fish, braised pork, stewed chicken, stewed shrimp or grilled steak. They are substantial. For $9.95 you’ll get three tacos with rice and beans, and you will be stuffed. Oaxaca also features tortas, enchiladas, quesadillas, salads and Mexican drinks, house made salsas and Coca-Cola in bottles imported from Mexico. The Coca-Cola from Mexico is lighter than our American version, because it features sugar instead of corn syrup. Too bad they can’t make it that way here.

Right now Oaxaca is featuring a potato poblano soup in addition to the regular offerings.

The menu says the ingredients are purchased whenever possible from local, organic and sustainable sources, and all the food is made fresh every day. Take for instance the popular Korean taco. It developed, Alhidami said, when he was talking to his friend about Kimchee. His friend’s family owns the K&Y vegetable market (my favorite) on Court Street near Degraw.

“We get Kimchee from his mom, it’s homemade,” Alhidami said.

So if your children are climbing up a wall and you need to feed them in a hurry, Oaxaca is your spot. Grab the kidos some rice and beans and enjoy yourself a sinfully delicious taco.

And, if you would like to read a really interesting story about the people of Oaxaca, check out a The New York Times cover story about residents of the southern Mexican state gaining recognition for communal management of forest land.

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