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We Put 14 Cameras In A Busy Mexico City-Style Taqueria

Tania Apolinar, owner of Taqueria Ramírez in Brooklyn, takes Bon Appétit behind the scenes for a hidden camera look at what it takes to serve 600 customers on a busy Friday night in the heart of Brooklyn.

Released on 09/07/2023


[midtempo music]

[Tania] This is what a busy summer Friday night looks like

At Taqueria Ramirez.

It's a Mexico City style taqueria in Brooklyn

where we'll have 600 customers

pass through our 400 square foot restaurant.

My name is Tania Apolinar

My husband/partner's name is Giovanni Cervantes.

We are selling 1,500 tacos on a busy day.

We don't really have a break in our service.

Everything has to be working perfectly

so we can really serve the demand.

We have six type of tacos, al pastor, suadero,

longaniza, campechano, the tripa, and taco de nopales.

This location used to be a coffee shop.

Our kitchen is quite small.

As much as we wanted to add more options to the menu,

we are also very limited in our space

so we wanted to have the classics.

We have four people total in the kitchen:

the register person,

then we have Carlos in the chorizera,

Ricardo on the tortillas and assembling the nopales taco,

and we also have a pastor person, Bernardino or Gerardo.

The first taco we're making is the al pastor taco,

probably the most classic from Mexico City.

We inherited from Middle Eastern cultures in Mexico.

The pastor takes two days of work.

Every Tuesday we do the adobo, the marinade for the week.

It takes half a day.

On the morning the next day we will marinate the meat.

At the beginning of the day

it's usually 100 to 200 pounds of meat.

So all that amount of meat

takes around two hours in the morning only to marinate.

Our recipe for our adobo is a secret Ramirez recipe,

but I can tell you it has a lot of spices, dried chilies,

and achiote, which gives it a more reddish color.

The marinade also has vinegar

which makes the meat last throughout the day

with the indirect fire contact.

The process to mounting al pastor,

we need a stool that can go high enough

and that can handle all the weight.

We have cast iron base

then we have to put the spit on the middle.

Bernardino can start putting layers of meat.

So he will start with a small piece of meat

and go bigger and bigger.

He will start turning the base so it's balanced enough.

And in between he would also add onion and pineapple

that gives it a lot of flavor.

The pineapple, it really balance out

the flavor with the chilies, the pork.

The fully built al pastor on the spit

is called a trompo, which is the Spanish word for top,

like the spinning children's toy.

In order for it to be cooked more evenly and faster

he needs to shape the trompo.

On the busiest days the trompo will weigh around 200 pounds.

We had to build custom-made the base where we put the spit.

We also had to build custom handles

to be able to move the trompo

from the base to the appliance.

It takes three people to lift the trompo right now.

We are in the process of building a machine

that is able to lift the trompo

and move it into the appliance.

The appliance for the trompo, it has five burners actually,

which can be controlled individually.

They are vertical burners.

It does have a motor to spin by itself.

We only use it

the moments that someone cannot attend the trompo.

So in order to shave the pastor perfectly

you need a very sharp knife.

It has to be long enough.

Bernardo has a particular angle

in order to get those perfect slices in the cut.

So suadero is muscle

that is between the belly and the leg of the cow.

It's mostly used for ground meat in United States.

It's a very hard muscle.

Mexicans invented this slow cooking process

in the chorizera.

It is salted before,

and we actually make a crisscross with the knife.

After that, just thrown directly to the chorizera.

Once the steak is ready to be served, Carlos will touch it.

He already knows how does it feel when it's ready to go.

And then he puts it in the butcher block and he chops it.

He adds that to the basket

that is also inside the chorizera.

The chopped meat will stay hydrated

and then he will serve it directly from there.

The chorizera is pretty much a pot

that has a little bump on the center.

The bump is usually to warm tortillas

in classic Mexico City style taquerias.

Since we have a lot of demand,

we just fill the chorizera with meat.

It's a slow cooking process.

It starts with lard and with water.

The lard is very important in the process of cooking

because it adds all the flavor to the meats.

We start cooking in the morning.

The first we need to put in there is the tripa

because it's the one that takes longer.

It takes around four hours to be fully cooked.

After that, the suadero will be added.

It takes around three hours for suadero to be fully cooked.

And then the last meat we add in there

is the longaniza, that takes around an hour or so.

The taquero's responsibility is to see

and calculate how much meat he's gonna put each hour

because we keep adding meat as the day goes by

and then he pretty much chops the meats beforehand

so we have a batch ready to serve

and he will keep doing that throughout the day.

The meats that are ready, he will move them clockwise.

It's like a queue, so he knows which meats are fully cooked

and which are gonna take a little longer.

The next taco is longaniza.

Longaniza is pork.

It is very classic in Mexico City

it has a little more fat than chorizo.

Once it's fully cooked, it's also chopped.

[bell dings]

The next taco is tripa, or beef small intestines.

I haven't seen tripa tacos in many places in New York City.

A lot of people are scared to try the tripa,

but it has gotten its reputation slowly,

it's one of the favorite tacos at the taqueria.

The people that are willing to try it,

they always leave surprised.

In Mexico City, it's fried.

The blow torch is actually not traditional at all.

That's gonna give it

a little crispy texture on the top of it

and it will also add a little smokey flavor to the tripa.

People really feel

very attracted to fire, I guess, in general,

and that's what we like in our kitchen too.

The next taco is nopales.

Nopales takes a lot of time

because first of all, it's a cactus.

You have to really clean it well to be able to serve it.

It could be slimy.

It has to be boiled and then cooled down.

People have a misconception that it is not tasty,

but I think we have been changing people's minds.

[Cashier] Steven, there you go, Steven.

[Tania] Once we give our guests the tacos

they will go to the toppings section

which has all the veggies and the salsas,

cilantro, onion, lime, salsa roja, salsa verde,

one is more mild, the other is more spicy.

People go through the salsa verde faster,

because it's less spicy.

The salsa verde has serrano chili, has tomatillo.

It is a very classic salsa because of the tomatillo,

and we decided to add avocado to it.

A lot of people think it's guacamole

and they put a lot of it, but it's also spicy.

And tonight, Carolina is our runner,

which is the person who is mostly on the back.

Being a runner is,

you really have to be on top of everything.

It's only a small entrance on the bottom of the register

so sodas have to be passed through there.

And every time there's something that's needed,

if we're going through sodas really fast

we will be calling them, or if the tortillas are done,

we will need that person to come

and just squeeze, pretty much squeeze in where there's room.

They will pass you everything.

It's actually a position that we implemented this summer

because when the host is taking care of running around,

it's a lot of work, a lot of chaos with people.

Like, you don't have someone

to tell them what to do in that moment,

they will just go for their tacos.

Nothing matters except getting in there.

I'm really proud of the culture

we have been exposing in here.

People are starting to get more familiar

with the different kinds of Mexican food,

getting out of their comfort zone and try different things.

I'm just really proud

of all the work we've put into this project

and it's just the the right way to make people happy,

with food.

[bright music]