La Cienega

Mexican food in NYC has been the butt of jokes for years. Popularly, it was mocked in Pace salsa commercials years back. Granted, that was more from a Tex-Mex perspective. “New York City??” More recently, transplants from California have bashed the Mexican food scene here. Often, they have been correct, especially when looking in the wrong places.
But, much like a lot of the best food in this city, there are gems to be unearthed.  Joe DiStefano hipped us to La Cienega back in 2014 when he posted about their tlayuda. This pizza-esque dish hails from the region of Oaxaca. Until then, we had not heard of a tlayuda before, but it sounded very appealing. Shortly afterwards, we found a tlayuda on the menu at the now defunct Las Maravillas Restaurant in Jackson Heights.  We tasted it and found it enjoyable, but still hadn’t tried La Cienega.
Finally, we decided to check it out on a December night in 2017. Immediately, we ordered a tlayuda topped with  a combo of tender spicy meats along with nopales. The saucy carne enchilada and smoky tinga worked really well on the crisp motzah-like texture of the tlayuda. We also enjoyed the nopales, griddled cactus, which gave it an earthy flavor. The refried beans spread atop had a great epazote flavor. We also enjoyed the freshness of the slices avocado, crisp cabbage, sliced tomato and creamy Oaxaca cheese. On two later visits, we ordered it with barbacoa de chivo, a weekend-only specialty here, much like other spots in Queens. This meat choice also works well, adding a bit of a pleasant gaminess to the whole package. But, the saucier options would be advised for those who don’t enjoy goat meat.

Oaxaca is also known for their mole and they do a tasty version here. Rich and flavorful, the chocolaty sauce is one of the better versions we had in the neighborhood. The house-made horchata is some of the best we have ever tasted. Lots of cinnamon and a unique touch of crushed pecans make this refreshing beverage a perfect complement to the food here. There have been visits where we have ordered an extra because of how good it was! Best of all, it isn’t overly sweet. We were happy to see La Cienega receive a glowing review from the NY Times in March 2018.
Have you tried tlayudas before? What are your favorite Oaxacan dishes?
Note: La Cienega can be found on our Queens food maps in the Corona map.
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