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Sneakeater

El Atoradero

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Here's a new trend-in-the-making: noted outer-outer-borough (i.e., not Brooklyn) "ethnic" joints either relocating to, or opening branches, on Washington Ave. in Prospect Heights.*

 

This relocation of a famous-to-those-who-follow-these-places Bronx Mexican was the first, opening last week. Look, a sister restaurant to the similarly lauded Elmhurst Thai Plant Love House, opened soon after.

 

Admittedly, El Atoradero opens under mixed circumstances. It was originally opened in the Bronx by Lina Chavez in the back of a bodega, and then expanded. Rising rents forced Chef Chavez to close, to the consternation of her fans. Now, she reappears in Brooklyn -- backed, this time, by Noah Arenstein of Arrogant Swine and two other (perfectly nice) young Jewish guys. I have no idea what the financial arrangements are here, but it looks depressingly like Chef Chavez went from running her own place to being the employee of White Money. While it's good that she's cooking again -- and very good for me that it's a few blocks from my apartment -- it seems somewhat regrettable.

 

When I went a week ago Monday, they were still in soft opening and tinkering with the menu. But everything I had was pretty great. Chef Chavez comes from Puebla and cooks Pueblan. But she's several cuts above the City's Pueblan norm. Sure, she makes her own moles every morning. So do others. BUT -- and this may be the influence of the Three Jewish Guys -- her ingredient quality is several steps above such lauded Pueblan places as Tulcingo del Valle on 10th Ave. in Manhattan. Imagine a lamb barbacoa in a non-fancy NYC restaurant in which the meat is actually good! (Too bad it can't be mutton -- but if Keens can't, El Atoradero can't.) I also had some queso-filled flautas that were so much better than you'd expect that they seemed a notable treat. Flautas without a hint of grease, at a non-fancy NYC Pueblan restaurant!

 

So yeah, I'm pretty excited about this place. I'll just forget the unpleasant implications.

 

COMP DISCLOSURE -- A shot of Mescal.

 

ETA -- See correction below about ownership of this restaurant, from an extremely credible source.

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* Luckily, so far they've all been on the Prospect Heights side of Washington Ave. If they were across the street, they'd be in Crown Heights.

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Guest Chris E. Crowley

Just for the record, Lina isn't employed by White Money. She is an owner.

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White money, that was my nickname in high school

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Just for the record, Lina isn't employed by White Money. She is an owner.

 

That is very good to know. Thanks for clearing it up.

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Guest Chris E. Crowley

Glad to. Early on at her Bronx restaurant, Lina made some ridiculously good flautas filled with light, airy potatoes. Hoping those make a comeback.

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Had a few things to eat there last night. Cute space, comfortable vibe. One of the owners was behind the bar, which is also where we sat.

 

We ordered the Milanese cemita, a couple of tacos cochinita and tongue and the pastor nachos.

 

The nachos were my favorite dish we had. The tortilla chips are amazing and the pastor reminded me of something almost Filipino. A Mexican sisig of sorts. Pork butt or shoulder and skin were all braised together. Guy rattled off a list of sodas the meat was cooked in. I think o heard orange Fanta and Coke or something. Either way, it was large chunks of beautifully cooked pork. The style of braise reminded me of adobo. Sour crema, pickled spicy nopales, replaced jalapeños. It was worth returning for.

 

Ear tacos were more chunky than I have had anywhere else. The pork was porky with a little barnyard funk.

 

The bread in the cemita was delicious as well.

 

Happy to return and try more things.

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Sadly, El Atoradero seems to have been streamlined. The menu - now laminated - has changed since I last went, offering many proteins in either taco, burrito, quesadilla, or torta format, a few larger-sized dishes served with rice and beans, and listing just one particular special for each day of the week. They used to have multiple specials that changed somewhat frequently and had more of a home-cooked feel. (The menu online is not up-to-date.)

 

Lina Chavez was not cooking the night we went and, looking at the restaurant's Instagram, it seems like she has a Bronx location again. Our food was just ok, left a lingering aftertaste of lard, I think, and was more greasy than I remember it being in the past.

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Went back with a group of friends on a Friday night around 9:30.

 

Service was friendly and a little harried. Had to ask for everything at least twice. Share plates, limes for beer, each round, there were three rounds and salsas.

 

I had the ribs plate. I really enjoyed them. Came with rice and beans and the ribs were fall off the bone braised really nicely in a tomato like broth.

 

My friend had the mole enchiladas and loved it. Another friend got the burrito with chorizo and loved that as well.

 

Still don't understand how they can operate only 6 hours a day. We went Friday around 9 and there were seats available.

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I haven't a dog in this race, as I haven't been, but someone closely involved with the place tells me Lina is there 6 nights a week, and that there isn't a Bronx restaurant operation any more; they just did some photos up at the bodega.

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I read somewhere that Lina's daughter is running a small place in the Bronx (which would have nothing to do with this place or Lina's being at this place). Don't remember where I read that, or if it's anywhere reliable.

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We went a month or two ago with the boys. They were accommodating to a 4 year-old and a 2 year-old at brunch. When the older boy didn't want to eat anything on the menu, first they tried to tempt him with posole, then they wound up taking him into the kitchen, showing him everything, letting him put together his own plate, and making him some eggs after that. They refused to charge us for all of his food as well. Really lovely people. Good food, although the al pastor was greasy and mostly fat.

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