February 24 – Tortilla Chip Day
We had a similar food holiday back in January, for Corn Chip Day. Tortilla chips are essentially made from the same product as corn chips–duh, corn–but unlike corn chips, which are made from processed corn meal pressed into a chip shape, tortilla chips are made from old tortillas that are cut into triangles and then fried. According to Wikipedia tortilla chips came about as an easy solution to a problem found at a Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles: broken fresh tortillas. Rather than throw them out because they were no longer good for their intended purpose, they were cut into pieces and fried, and found to be a great side dish or snack. And thus the tortilla chip was born!
These days the tortilla chip is a ubiquitous snack found in the chip aisle of the supermarket or on the table of any Mexican restaurant, placed out with a tepid bowl of salsa or guacamole (if you’re lucky!) It’s tough to rate the “best” tortilla chip in New York City because of this, especially since so many restaurants now purchase their tortilla chips instead of going through the hassle of making them in house. But there are a few standouts that still make fresh tortilla chips, not out of necessity like the first ones were, but in their own right, and are crafted with care and presented with taste, not as a throwaway snack.
El Rincon Familiar is one of those places that takes pride in their tortilla chip. Although they are served as a complimentary part of a full meal at the restaurant (served with guacamole, also fresh and made in-house), there’s a lot of care put into making them, and the patrons of the establishment have definitely noticed. The regulars of this Brooklyn establishment also love the value you get on a delicious, full-balanced meal: the chips, salsa, drink, and a meal with rice and beans comes for less than $10. If you were to stop by one of the swankier Mexican restaurants in Manhattan, laying down a Hamilton would just cover you for the chips.
El Rincon Familiar
651 5th Ave (between 18th St & 19th St), Brooklyn
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I never go anywhere for brunch, but I go to El Rincon Familiar for brunch. It’s $9, comes with a full basket of complimentary house made tortilla chips and salsa, an entree, and a fruit shake (or coffee or tea, but why would you pass up a mango shake?).”–Matthew C.
“If I were just rating the chips and salsa that came as soon as we sat down though – I would have rated it 5 stars, so good!”–Katie C.
If you’re looking for something a little more transformative on National Tortilla Chip Day than a plate of really good tortilla chips, head a little north of El Rincon Familiar to Fonda, another Mexican restaurant in Park Slope. A popular establishment in the neighborhood, Fonda offers a delicious Sopa de Tortilla, or tortilla soup. A dish that also came out of necessity–what do you do with those crispy tortilla chips that have now broken and you have to make something out of them?–it includes a variety of ingredients, all different at each different Mexican restaurant you try. Fonda makes a creamy chicken sopa de tortilla, with the strips of tortilla garnishing the top of the bowl. Its unique blend of spices is reminiscent of a Mexican mole, that mysterious, rich flavor that holds a little kick to its back end. The tortillas give it an extra textured flavor, the saltiness of the chips mixing in with the broth, and the crunch and chew of tortilla chips can be found in two ways: the garnish at the top, and the chips set at the bottom of the bowl, where the soup is then poured over them to soften, but not disintegrate them. A definite dish to try for National Tortilla Chip Day!
434 7th Ave (between 14th St & 15th St), Brooklyn
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“My dining companion started with the tortilla soup, which i had to watch her eat. The delightful aroma made it difficult alone, but it was even more difficult after she shared a bite with me. It was served nice and classy as well, with the soup poured into a bowl of crispy tortilla strips at the table.”–Bick M.
“We took tortilla soup as an appetizer, and it was amazing, a very unique and flavorful soup – with mole and spice. I could have had an entree-size serving of this for my dinner and been thrilled.”–T R.