Why has it taken me this long to go to Spanish Harlem to get Mexican food? You would’ve thought that I would’ve had the sense to do so sooner, but this past weekend was my first foray into East Harlem eats.
I did a quick Yelp search for the highest rated Mexican food in the area and came up with Cafe Ollin. When I went there on Sunday night with some friends, I actually passed up the place because a sign outside says “Restaurant San Cristobal,” but turns out they’re the same place.
The restaurant is tiny and narrow, but when we went there was only one other group eating so we didn’t have to wait for a table. When I was flipping through the menu, I couldn’t stop thinking, “Yes!! Finally something that resembles what I would eat back in Texas!” Meaning that it was simple, reasonably priced Mexican food with all the favorites like cemitas, tortas, quesadillas, tacos, burritos, and fajitas without the fuss. Finally!
I’ve heard good things about their cemitas, but I decided to go with the Chiles Rellenos instead. Also, I couldn’t resist adding a taco on the side since they looked so yummy in the Yelp pictures, so I got a spicy pork one with everything (everything being lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, onions, sour cream, cotija cheese, and avocado opposed to just cilantro and onions). I was so close to getting a beef tongue taco, since I’ve never tried one before, but maybe next time.
Turns out the Chiles Rellenos are a starred/popular item on their menu, and I can see why. They’re breaded poblano peppers, stuffed with Oaxacan cheese (a semihard cheese from Mexico with a similar texture and taste to mozzarella string cheese) and covered in a tomato-based sauce. Yum. And they give you two giant ones! I already came into this meal preparing to have leftovers, but I didn’t know I would have a whole pepper to take home! The taco was also delicious, mainly because of the flavorful spicy pork.
Next time, I have to try one of their popular–might I add, HUGE–cemitas. For now, I’ll just relish in the fact that I’ve found an affordable Mexican restaurant that doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is–casual and authentic.
Chiles rellenos, spicy pork taco con todo
339 E 108th St
New York, NY 10029