Red Hook'd: Hernandez Huaraches
Several Red Hook regulars recommended the Hernandez tent as the spot for huaraches, so The Porkchop Express headed over to see what the big deal was. Our first impression? The line. It was long, snaking one full tent over, occupied by people patiently waiting to sample the homemade tortillas, savory meats, and melted cheeses flying off the Hernandez grill. Not wanting to be left out of all the fun, we joined the crowd, placed an order, grabbed a seat, and waited for the prize: one carne asada huarache con todos.We didn't wait long. These folks match heavy demand with quick turnover, and our huarache soon arrived fresh and piping hot on a paper plate several sizes too small, topped with lettuce, chopped tomato/onion/cilantro, crema, grated queso anejo and fresh grilled green onions. How did it look? To these uninitiated eyes, pretty damn good. I couldn't wait to dig in.
Unfortunately, haste made waste. This thing was literally bursting at the seams, and a modicum of strategy and/or patience was required. I sampled a few chunks of carne while plotting an attack, but this didn't help at all. The meat was too tasty: salty, crispy, juicy, and nigh-impossible to resist. So instead of self-denial I simply surrendered, and started tearing at the tortilla while experimenting with a few salsas they keep on tap. Be sure to try the surprisingly spicy, smooth guacamole and hot tomatillo, both wonderful compliments to the meat.
As for the huarache itself? Terrific. It had a truly homemade flavor: this was some richly-textured, sweet, soft masa. The bean layer was equally distinguished, standing out and saying hola without upsetting the balance or consistency.
And that meat: oh yeah. Their carne asada was so good that we decided to try an enchilada taco (spicy pork) for desert. This proved to be a delicious move: Hernandez serves some of the tastiest enchilada The Porkchop Express has had in quite some time. All-too-often, this meat is tough or excessively fatty; potential frequently outweighs execution. Not so here. Hernandez struck a sophisticated balance between tender and crispy, spicy and savory, that only comes of slow, fine marinades and careful two-step cooking. (To wit, check the multiple griddles in constant rotation.)
Happy Days: Margarita Hernandez spreads the culinary love
Margarita Hernandez is the brains behind this operation, so I stuck around until she had a moment to chat. Hailing from Hidalgo (a mountainous state north of Puebla named after the father of Mexican Independence), she arrived in NYC 19 years ago. At the time, she spoke no English and had no idea how she was going to make a living. Until, that is, a culinary inspiration struck.
You see good reader, Margarita missed a hometown favorite: the huarache. No one in the city was making them at the time, so she decided to blaze the trail herself. After nailing a recipe, she and her husband pitched tent at the Red Hook Soccer Fields and set up shop. This was about 14 years ago... and it is still going strong. Although her husband sadly passed away, Margarita continues to hold down the operation with stellar results. Things start on Thursday for the weekend run: slicing and marinating fresh meats, storing them in giant coolers, mixing tubs of guacamole, salsa verde and salsa picante, stuffing Jarritos in buckets of ice, mixing masa, grating cheeses and chopping veggies... all for you, huarache-loving reader. So if you haven't tried one yet... now is the time.
Not only are these delicious treats, they come from good peoples. Margarita Hernandez is a class act who happens to cook what many consider the best huaraches in town. But don't take anyone else's word for it. Try one for yourself, friend; you wont be disappointed.
Bay Street side
(second tent from the corner)