Mexicue is a food truck that spawned a pair of brick-and-mortar locations with over-the-counter service of tacos and sliders that meld Mexican and barbecue flavors. The Chelsea location I visited has a small dining counter by the windows (think Gray's Papaya) and a more spacious upstairs dining area with comfortable chairs and orange walls.
The menu is as simple as it gets: three sliders (brisket, pulled pork, burnt ends chili), three tacos (smoked short rib, Alabama BBQ chicken, smokey BBQ beans), chips and salsa, a couple of sides and a couple of salads. Taco ingredients can also be had in a slider and vice versa, and all can also be had in a rice bowl.
A barbecue buddy and I hit Mexicue for an 11:30 weekday lunch.
Brisket slider: The first thing we tried was the beef brisket slider ($3.50). The
housing was the by-now-familiar potato mini roll, whose long lasting
freshness is a natural for a food truck operation. It's so fresh that
you don't need to refrigerate it, which makes the brisket slider's ice
cold roll puzzling on a number of fronts. Inside, the brisket wasn't
necessarily skimpy, but it was a far from generous portion. The meat was
quite soft and a little steamy, with a pot roasty quality buoyed
somewhat by light use of spices. I didn't get any smoke or any of the
textural characteristics of barbecue here, just a steamy scoop of
beef. The judicious saucing did a nice job picking up the flavor slack
with some restrained piquant heat and residual sweetness. If the avocado
spread was the intended coolant, it did its thing, but flavorwise it
made like the beef and yielded the stage to the sauce.
Pulled Pork slider: Excuse me, make that Berkshire pulled pork. This slider (also $3.50) was an upgrade from the
brisket in several areas: the pork portion was nearly twice as
voluminous, its texture was much less steamy, and its costar—pickled
onions—got a much bigger role, helping to deblandify the smoke-free,
light-on-bark pork. I should say that even aside from the tart onions, there was some interesting flavor in
there, kind of like a soup without being wet. But I still had to add some of
the table sauce to perk up this pork. Avocado spread was a mere extra.
Short rib taco: If the pork swung the meat generosity pendulum in the right direction,
the beef shortrib taco ($3.95) swung it all the way back and then some. The
doubled-up corn tacos held a cornucopia of vegetation (lettuce, more of the pickled onions) but not much else.
The meat here was sweeter (welcome and complex, not at all cloying)
than the first two entries and about as steamy as the brisket, but there
simply wasn't enough of it to say for sure. A sprinkling of dry grated cheese
seemed out of place. Maybe this was the cotija, but for all I know it
could have been Kraft.
Chicken slider: Not wanting to end the meal—more of a snack, actually—on a low note,
I opted for the Alabama BBQ chicken as a slider instead of a taco.
Maybe it wasn't street food, but I wasn't in a street mood. The initial
reaction: "Why are you serving me a Caesar salad when I ordered the chicken?" The greenery was piled extra high, with an extra dusting of the grated cheese. After some serious excavation, I discovered the chicken, which turned out to be neither generous nor stingy. The sauce was very creamy without being overly mayoey, and its flavor was the strongest and most pleasing of the meal. Again I got a soup vibe, this time a well seasoned cream of chicken. The chicken itself was tender, moist and all white, with no bark or smoke. Although this was the fourth straight item without a barbecue profile, I enjoyed this one a lot and would get it again in a heartbeat.
Summary: The general trend at Mexicue is not much meat, not much (if any) smoke and not much barbecue flavor. With the added pairings and condiments, some of the packages succeed as a whole.
I like the dark red table sauce that's a good blend of vinegar and habanero heat. It's thicker and a little sweeter than you'd expect from those ingredients.
We skipped the chips and salsas to save room for other exploration. I didn't notice the green chile mac and cheese until after we were done, and I want to try that before doing the inevitable update of this review.
Other Thoughts and Observations
The $8.95 deal that includes two tacos or sliders, chips and salsa and a drink seems the way to go here. It goes a long way toward alleviating some of the value issues.
The Bottom Line
Mexicue provides a quick snack with a low price tag, so there's perceived value, but it takes many sliders—and mucho dinero—to get full. For me, it's not so much that everything seems significantly more expensive than it should be. More so, it's that there's significantly less flavor (barbecue and otherwise) than there should be. Geographically, Mexicue is close to a few of my NYC barbecue favorites, so I'm bound to try them again soon. Although I'd love nothing more than to be swayed in the other direction, for now I'm unimpressed with Mexicue. It's a great space and a great concept, but aside from the potato rolls and the smaller portions, I don't see Mexicue as all that much different from Chipotle.
Midtown Lunch's review of Mexicue
Food Randomist's reviews (one bad, one good) on Mexicue
Yelp reviews of Mexicue
Urbanspoon reviews of Mexicue