Good evening, everyone.
I accomplished something today. Hat tip to my Uncle, who invited my family and me to my new favorite spot in New Brunswick, NJ. It’s called Costa Chica restaurant located at 314 Handy Street. It’s in a relatively hidden location, so only the motivated will find it.
This place produces awesome Mexican food. Not Chipotle, not Taco Bell, or Qdoba Mexican food, but legit Oaxacan-influenced food. The menu includes everything from tamales to tortas, burritos to tacos, to full on entrees like grilled chicken or beef with salsa and plantains. Each meal starts off with complimentary tortilla chips (we even got a free refill) with three different condiments. One was a salsa verde, which had a bit of heat to it. The other was a salsa rojo, which had a more intense, smokey heat. The last was a more typical tomato salsa that I actually didn’t try.
We also ordered some guacamole to go along with the chips, but I wasn’t as impressed with it. It seemed to be lacking some acidity, and was almost too creamy for my liking.
In any case, the chips were an awesome free appetizer.
Now. I mentioned in the title that a milestone had been reached. Today, for the very first time, I tried tripe. Not only did I try tripe, but I had beef head and goat tacos. The tortillas are clearly made in-house, and they were very well done. They, my friends, were epic.
The beef head meat was fatty, meaty, and all-around succulent. It melted the minute it hit the tongue, indicative of careful, slow cooking. Mixed with cilantro and salsa verde, it was the perfect blend of savory, zesty, and spicy.
Just take a moment and really look into that taco below (the pictures never format properly with this layout….). Looks a little bit like bacon, no? Look.
Tripe is not scary. People, particularly in this country, tend to harbor the notion that with industrialization and thus, civilization, comes the privilege of no longer eating certain parts of animals. Gone are the days when every part of the pig, cow, lamb, or chicken need be cooked. Why, with the advent of packaged, portioned, processed, and unapologetically adultered foods that are now staples in most Americans’ homes, who should give a second (or even first, for that matter) thought to the foods that lay the foundation for every culture?
Anyway. This tripe was cooked the RIGHT way. Whatever way that was. I assume it was boiled for a long period of time to soften it up. Then, it was chopped and fried to crispy perfection. I thought it had great texture and was not at all chewy, as most would expect. It did not have a gamey flavor, and with some salsa verde (which was my favorite salsa, if you couldn’t tell), it was absolutely delicious. If you have tripe prepared properly, the texture will not throw you. Neither will the taste. It is all about the preparation, and I’m very….VERY happy that this place introduced me to tripe.
Finally, the taco de barbacoa, or goat taco. Here’s a bit of an analogy for you: duck is to chicken as goat is to lamb. Goat is fattier, darker, and much tastier than lamb. Just like duck is to chicken. The goat was hearty and well-seasoned. It had clearly been braised for a while, and was then shredded (or pulled, if you prefer). Again, accompanied simply by cilantro and some onion (and salsa verde, but you probably guessed that much by now), it was fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.
And that was that. That was my experience. I encourage you all in Central Jersey to check this spot out. New Brunswick is full of awesome places like this, and I’m really interested to explore the area a little more thoroughly. However, this is my new go-to place, and they even deliver and do take out. So seriously, check out Costa Chica.