While it’s true that I have managed to eat my way through impressive swaths of New York City in my eight years as a New Yorker, there are some rather untouched spots in in my eating landscape. Based purely on subway inconveniences (and my great sloth) the gastronomically rich far East Village, sadly, is one of them.
So when I recently found myself in that neighborhood, still coming down from the high of having just met and read with the lovely Gabrielle Hamilton, chef of Prune and author of “Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef,” at KGB Bar and completely ravenous from our joint reading from our food memoirs, the stomach, naturally, started calling.
“Mmm … Snack Dragon,” my friend Noa said, her eyes getting so large I instantly could envision them popping out of their sockets. When she started smacking her lips at the thought of the place, I knew we had to go.
Despite the raves that this little taco stand has gotten in the five years it’s been around, I’d never been there. From Noa’s look of utter shock, clearly, this was something that needed to be remedied. Pronto.
At Snack Dragon’s East Village location — its original one; a second is in the Lower East Side — the operation is tiny.
Designed to essentially be a stationary taco truck with a drive-through sensibility, Snack Dragon comprises a little kiosk of a kitchen, a window through which you can place your orders and a handful of stools.
The tacos, ranging in price from $3 and $5, come with toppings that include grilled sole, chorizo and red pepper- and cilantro-speckled pilaf. (The stand last year unveiled a Thai-influenced taco featuring pork braised in tamarind sauce, five-spice powder, garlic and coriander — unfortunately for us, that wasn’t on the menu that night.)
Of the ones we did try, two stood out: the $5 carne asada, comprising blue corn tortillas topped with chunks of steak that’s been marinated in a citrus-chipotle marinade. The steak, which our taco lady chopped to order right in front of us, was tender and just lightly tart.
The favorite of the evening, however, was the $4 “Freshly Slayed Dragon Tacos,” of which the star was the deliciously falling apart slow-roasted pork braised in a citrus marinade with herbs, pineapple and various spices.
Also on our must-list were the Nacharitos, an open-faced double-decker sandwich of crispy yellow corn tostadas packed with black beans, cheese, salsa, sour cream and meat. ($3 to $5, depending on the filling.)
Granted, at $3 to $5, these tacos are a little pricier than the $2 tacos you can find in various New York food trucks. But that’s a price we didn’t mind paying for being able to park our tushes in a comfortable spot for a moment while admiring the owner’s excellent taste in music.
Being able to sit has its drawbacks, however. The moment we were done with our meal, we found ourselves mesmerized with the taco-making show that continued to unfold before us.
The smells were irresistible. Before we knew it, a second round was fast on its way.
Snack Dragon, 199 E. Third Street, New York, N.Y.; http://www.snackdragon.com/iWeb/Snack%20Dragon/Snack%20Dragon.html