145 East 39th Street near Lexington Avenue, Murray Hill
Getting There: 4,5,6,7,S to 42nd Street- Grand Central Terminal
Restaurant Review: Salvation Taco
[img src=http://www.localbozo.com/wp-content/flagallery/restaurant-review-salvation-taco/thumbs/thumbs_p1010666.jpg]130Ceviche Verde Con Chicharones ($9)
[img src=http://www.localbozo.com/wp-content/flagallery/restaurant-review-salvation-taco/thumbs/thumbs_p1010668.jpg]120Crispy Pig Ears ($7)
[img src=http://www.localbozo.com/wp-content/flagallery/restaurant-review-salvation-taco/thumbs/thumbs_p1010670.jpg]90Sampling of Tacos
[img src=http://www.localbozo.com/wp-content/flagallery/restaurant-review-salvation-taco/thumbs/thumbs_p1010675.jpg]80Crispy Sweetbread with Chickpeas ($4)
[img src=http://www.localbozo.com/wp-content/flagallery/restaurant-review-salvation-taco/thumbs/thumbs_p1010674.jpg]60Korean BBQ ($5)
[img src=http://www.localbozo.com/wp-content/flagallery/restaurant-review-salvation-taco/thumbs/thumbs_p1010672.jpg]50Moroccan Lamb on Naan ($5)
[img src=http://www.localbozo.com/wp-content/flagallery/restaurant-review-salvation-taco/thumbs/thumbs_p1010676.jpg]60Skirt Steak with Pecan and Chipotle ($3)
[img src=http://www.localbozo.com/wp-content/flagallery/restaurant-review-salvation-taco/thumbs/thumbs_p1010677.jpg]60Roasted Cauliflower with Curried Crema ($3)
[img src=http://www.localbozo.com/wp-content/flagallery/restaurant-review-salvation-taco/thumbs/thumbs_p1010679.jpg]50Al Pastor ($3)
On the ground floor, adjacent to the lobby of the newly opened Pod 39 hotel, sits a uniquely novel concept from the innovative masterminds behind the likes of The Spotted Pig, The Breslin Bar and Dining Room, and The John Dory Oyster Bar, bringing a touch of casual classiness within the confines of a typically frowned upon Murray Hill. With Salvation Taco, owners April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman have cultivated a remarkably spacious layout that offers equal parts fun and intimate in a relaxed setting. And despite portion sizes that seem to leave more to be desired, the flavors and fare being served are quite often excellent.
Shadowed by green scaffolding out front, the entrance to Salvation Taco is a bit hidden. The interior however opens up to a massive, dimly lit cantina-like space, which extends much further than you’d expect. The lengthy bar which runs the full length of the main dining area is often filled up, surrounded by high top tables strategically placed throughout the room. The space’s true gem however is just past the restaurant’s main floor, where collegiate like common area couches offer up more informal seating near the often occupied ping pong table. Similarly, the secondary back bar is a welcomed addition as the trendy bartenders up front are taking time to prepare intricate cocktails from a Mexican inspired program. (The “Fly By Night” ($12) is especially refreshing)
Since the restaurant’s inception, the menu has been conceptually talked about more for what it isn’t than what it is. In fact, it’s owners have gone out of their way to effectively declare Salvation Taco as an inauthentic Mexican restaurant, which should neither disappoint nor delight hungry diners. Instead, the seemingly affordable menu should be embraced as an opportunity to taste a sea of distinctive flavors put forth as a culturally diverse smorgasbord from a team with as sterling a track record as any in New York City. That said, the menu is incredibly selective, offering solely ‘Snacks’ and ‘Tacos,’ and the portions, although delectable, are also diminutive.
Salvation Taco’s “Crispy Pig Ears” ($7) are an absolute standout here. Deep fried to a crisp, each of the three large ears are seasoned with a kick of spice and are as sticky and delicious as any delicacy in recent memory. Despite spending a considerable amount of time spent wiping off your fingers and plucking bits out from your molars, these are a must try. Similarly tasty, the “Ceviche Verde Con Chicharones” ($9) allows freshly salted crunchy pork rinds to lap up the small, chilled green smattering of flavors. The truly untraditional portion of the menu becomes evident when moving toward the helping of tacos. The three bite tacos are priced between $3 and $5 each, and while they all sound scrumptious, some are clearly better than others.
For our money, the much bandied about “Moroccan Lamb on Naan” ($5) was the finest overall ‘taco,’ despite its misleading description. The fluffy flatbread was simply the platform for tender hunks of seasoned lamb, freshly chilled cucumber, and a creamy white sauce laid over the top, completing our favorite concoction of ingredients. The sweetly doused “Korean BBQ” ($5) served as a more than competent runner-up, with the barbecued strips of beef enveloped in pepper flakes and vegetables, topped with strings of green seaweed. The pineapple and pork stuffed “Al Pastor” ($3) and the vegetarian “Roasted Cauliflower with Curried Crema” ($3) were all excellent additions to our dining experience, although the “Skirt Steak with Pecan and Chipotle” ($3) was more of a run of the mill, tasteless taco. The “Crispy Sweetbread with Chickpeas” ($4) however more than made up for any letdown with its inventiveness in meshing fried animal pancreas and mashed legumes successfully.
You’ll be forced to order what seems like a great deal of food at Salvation Taco to be sufficiently satiated. But the surrounding setting is a fantastic change of pace for the neighborhood and the fare being served is often quite delicious. While you may not find the typically overstuffed burrito or two-handed taco that you’re used to holding here, that might not be such a bad thing. Grab a couple of cans of Modelo ($6), two tacos of your choosing, and a ping pong paddle to boot to fully experience the greatness of Salvation Taco, a newly instituted neighborhood gem and a wonderful suggestion for that low-key first date.
Rundown of the Meal
Spicy Beer Nuts ($3)
Crispy Pig Ears ($7)*
Ceviche Verde Con Chicharones ($9)*
Al Pastor ($3)
Roasted Cauliflower with Curried Crema ($3)
Skirt Steak with Pecan and Chipotle ($3)
Crispy Sweetbread with Chickpeas ($4)
Moroccan Lamb on Naan ($5)*
Korean BBQ ($5)*