Taste Your Way Down Taco Street In Red Hook
Quesadillas at Bubby’s Take Away Kitchen.
By Jamie Larson
In the past year, two new Mexican food joints have opened in Red Hook, New York, essentially across the street from each other. Thankfully, they’re approaching their menu and style from different angles. What we are even more thankful for is that they’re both great places that use the best ingredients and put a lot of care and passion into everything they make.
Bubby’s Take Away Kitchen is the casual, full-menu, bricks-and-mortar expansion of the summertime destination food cart, Bubby’s Burrito Stand; Modern Taco is bringing us upscale, updated Mexican eats with scratch-made tortillas, and serving inventive margaritas and desserts customers rave about. It’s worth finding a couple days in your schedule to try both, or better yet get Bubby’s for lunch and Modern Taco for dinner.
Bubby’s Take Away at night.
Following adventure, her heart and her stomach to Mexico and South America throughout her youth, Bjanette Andersen opened the Bubby’s Burrito Stand stand in 2001 when she was just 19. She worked the stand during the summers and spent colder months down south, all the while experiencing new dishes and flavors she wanted to share with her customers. The quaint stand at 193 W. Market Street sticks to vegetarian burritos for practical reasons, but that probably helped it achieve cult status with locals and Bard students.
“At the time, I wanted to be as transient and bohemian as possible,” Andersen recalls. “I traveled as much as I could, did art workshops, met my husband in San Miguel, and wanted to live here in the summer. I wanted to serve really good food but bypass the infrastructure.”
Andersen in the original Bubby’s Burrito Stand.
While business at the stand has always been great, Andersen endeavored to expand her menu to include the meat dishes she loved while keeping things at a price point that would allow the food to be accessible to everyone, the way it was when she traveled. “Now I have a place, and it’s all about overhead,” she laughs.
Andersen keeps prices as low as possible by having customers order and pick up at the counter, and by using recyclable plates and cutlery. (There are tables at the Take Away, by the way.) Where she doesn’t skimp is the quality of the fresh, as local as possible ingredients. While the burritos, chorizo and chicken tomatillo are her signature, Andersen really wants people to try the other dishes on the menu, which are her take on some of the best dishes she’s eaten on the street or in small establishments throughout her travels.
Some of those: chicken and mole tamales wrapped in banana leaf, Caribbean chicken (based on a dish she had in a small restaurant in Brazil) and her tacos, which are her closest recreation of the best tacos she ever ate on the streets of San Miguel. There’s a set menu on the board but there are also specials and little treats, among them paletas, Mexican ice pops, with flavors like peach and mint, cucumber, coconut, plum with lemon, chili pineapple and avocado.
“I try to keep things simple and good, and have a place where I can do whatever I want,” says Andersen, who also caters. “My food is based on the idea that I want people to be able to eat something they really, truly enjoy without spending a lot of money.”
Started by brothers-in-law Thomas Turck and chef/owner Mark Brocchetti, Modern Taco uses fresh, healthy ingredients and modern culinary updates to elevate Mexican food into a fine dining experience with unexpected combinations. They also have entree options not usually found at a Mexican restaurant that make the quaint, rehabbed former bakery a source of flavor profiles unique to our area.
Spicy sweet potato croquette stuffed with chorizo, queso fresco and black beans at Modern Taco.
Turck said they aim to make people feel welcome while treating them to something original. Because everyone thinks they know what to expect of Mexican food, they’re pleasantly surpised when they taste something new in a relatable form.
“The philosophy is clean, healthy Mexican,” says Turck, adding that 80 percent of the menu happens to be gluten free. “We’re not your typical Tex-Mex restaurant; we use all authentic ingredients and we do it with a modern twist.”
The modern tacos at Modern Taco include, among a bevy of others, fried avocado with radish, jicama, pico de gallo, lime-cured onion and Mexican slaw. There’s also a chorizo taco with poblano peppers, those cured onions and spicy sweet potato with corn crema, as well as a barbecued pulled pork with a pineapple-habanero salsa, Mexican slaw, pickled red onion and avocado sauce.
Grilled pineapple mescal sour with cilantro agave oil at Modern Taco.
There’s a long list of wildly varied burritos, quesadillas, starters and of course drinks from the full bar. Turck also says people shouldn’t overlook the less traditional Mexican dishes like spice-rubbed Hudson Valley duck with grilled jalapeno corn bread, warm buttered carrots with chili oil and toasted pumpkin seeds, and barbecued salmon with spicy sweet potato croquette and warm black bean corn relish.
“It’s healthy food and it’s fun food,” says Turck. “But it’s fun food with serious ingredients.”
Turck says that when both his restaurant and Bubby’s were renovating simultaneously, it gave them pause. But when they realized they were offering such different approaches and running different kinds of hours, he felt they complemented each other and now make Red Hook a new kind of destination for Mexican food.
We would also be remiss not to mention Red Hook’s longstanding classic Tex-Mex place, Cancun’s, just around the corner at 7483 S. Broadway, a totally enjoyable “Mexican diner,” as Andersen, who often brings her son there for nachos, puts it. So, with four Mexican options within about a mile of each other, Red Hook, all of a sudden, is the go-to destination for south-of-the-border cuisine. While the surfeit is coincidental and may cause a little competition in the marketplace between hard-working, well-intentioned business owners, the victors in the new Red Hook taco wars are surely the hungry.
46 W. Market St., Red Hook, NY
Monday, Thursday and Sunday 5-9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 5-10 p.m.
Bubby’s Take Away Kitchen
19 W. Market St., Red Hook, NY
Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.