The lead restaurant review in this week’s New York magazine, by “The Underground Gourmet” critics Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfield, gives three out of five stars to two Brooklyn establishments that specialize in every Texan’s favorite morning (or even better, mid-afternoon) meal.
The concept is not wholly new to New York readers—an “indoor taco truck” restaurant in Manhattan called Tacombi at Fonda Nolita was named “best breakfast taco” by the magazine last March—but Patronite and Raisfield still provide a bit of background:
The breakfast taco, like most iconic regional foodstuffs, is more of an argument, it seems, than a specific recipe, its precise contents dictated by family tradition and personal taste. Opinions on its construction are as tyrannical and precise as those about Philly cheesesteaks and Kentucky hot browns. The tortilla must be flour, and preferably homemade. Chorizo, if included, must be loose, fresh, Mexican style, not chunky Spanish. The finished product should, as a rule, be compact, streamlined, and understuffed, a svelte snack compared with the breakfast-burrito behemoths that have, until now, dominated morning menus up north.
This is usually the moment where we like to tell those clueless New Yorkers what they fail to understand about our native food, but in this case, we can’t find all that much to disagree with. Okay, maybe that line about chorizo, which seems a bit like saying, “fish, if included on a bagel, must be smoked salmon or whitefish, not sushi-grade tuna.”
But otherwise, “more an argument than a recipe,” indeed—except that no one’s ever really won the argument. Breakfast tacos aren’t barbecue, a bowl of red, or Frito pie. They pretty much exist to put anything you want inside them and can take on many forms (and names) around the state.
The two restaurants that New York reviewed are a coffee bar in Williamsburg called Whirlybird, and a place in Prospect Heights called Guero’s. Of course, the latter just happens to have the same name as one of Austin’s stalwart Tex-Mex restaurants. Eater Austin‘s Andrea Grimes first noticed the Brooklyn Guero’s in November, quoting a Prospect Heights Patch article in which owner Clay Mallow, a Texas native, said he came by the name straightforwardly.
“‘Guero’ is a slang Mexican term for light-skinned person. Growing up in Texas, many of my Mexican friends and their families called me ‘Guero,'” Mallow explained.
Patronite and Raisfield raved that Guero’s runs its taco assembly line “as energetically and efficiently as the poissonier runs the fish station at Le Bernardin,” and they especially liked the migas tacos.
They then suggest that Whirlybird’s combination of coffee bar and breakfast taco purveyor “is inspired, and makes sense, even if purebred Texans might consider the whole enterprise mildly blasphemous.”
Right. Breakfast tacos and macchiatos from the same establishment. What will those crazy Yankees think of next!?
Whirlybird’s sole breakfast taco comes with scrambled eggs, Oaxaca cheese, cooked salsa, cilantro, chorizo (if desired) and—here comes the New York touch —”a crumbling of jalapeño potato chips.” They also only come on corn tortillas.
Owner Jeff Bailey is from Connecticut, but does have ties to Texas—he’s a member of the band Phosphorescent, which records for Austin’s the indie label Dead Oceans. The restaurant’s deluxe “Waldorf” taco, which includes eggs fried, extra chorizo and extra cheese for—here comes the other New York touch—$6, is named for Dead Oceans’ head Phil Waldorf, who lives in Austin.
Now excuse us while we open up that migas food trailer in Red Hook.