Mexicue is a food truck that spawned multiple brick-and-mortar locations within Manhattan featuring tacos and other vessels for meats that meld Mexican and barbecue flavors. The Broadway location is a more mature operation that features a full bar, choice of counter or table service and a menu that goes well beyond the limitations of the initial incarnation. Sure, the approach is a slightly barbecue version of Chipotle, but the nicer ambience, a full fledged bar and table service are nice options to have.
The menu is more complex than when I visited their Chelsea location a few years earlier. Gone are the sliders, gone is the Alabama white sauce chicken, but you can now get your brisket, chicken or pork (or fish) in a pair of tacos, a burrito, a "bun" (open faced cheddar jalapeño cornbread), a rice bowl or a salad. A huge plus on the tacos is that you can get two different tacos in your pair. Market plates ($12.75 to $15.50) bypass the housing and instead supply a pair of sides. Note that on the brisket plate, the meat is still pulled, just like in the tacos and such. There are a few different interpretations of lemonade and some interesting house cocktails.
Young Bride and I hit Mexicue for an 11:30 weekday lunch.
Brisket taco: The brisket in the brisket taco ($10.75 for a pair) hid beneath ample toppings of salsa, pico de gallo, lime crema and grated cotija cheese. My first bite on this visit was probably the least impressive meatwise—I could taste the brisket no better than I could see it. A closer look at the brisket revealed not much crust and not much color; the texture was predictably pot roasty. Smoke and general flavor were as absent as on my earlier visit to the Chelsea Mexicue. But the overall package of starch, meat, vegetation and sauce still squeaked by with a good balance of zesty and creamy. If I were comparing this taco to Chipotle, I'd call it a wash on the toppings, give Mexicue the edge on the housing and Chipotle the edge on the meat.
Chicken taco: Things improved with this one ($8.50 per pair), which delivered very heavily seasoned chicken in greater abundance, a creamier condiment that still offered a bit of heat, and a reprise of the pico de gallo and grated cotija. I can't say that I tasted any smoke, but I can't say that it didn't have flavor. Would I get it again? I probably wouldn't seek it out, but I'd go along if someone else suggested it.
Smoky Carnitas Bun: Served not on an actual bun but open faced cheddar jalapeño cornbread, this item ($9.50) supplied large chunks of pulled pork topped with chili bean spread, lettuce, pickled tomatillo slices and a creamy chipotle sauce. Once again, a good mix of zesty and creamy, and more importantly, the accoutrements didn't suffocate the meat this time. About the pork: "smoky" might not be a misnomer, but it was certainly a stretch. And once again, the meatdid have flavor—even if different from most barbecue—along with some nice textural contrast and good moistness. The crumbly and corny cornbread base added even more contrast and a fresh take on the starch/meat pairing.
Sauces are integrated into the individual selections. I spotted some sauce bottles on a counter but these were never offered or mentioned. Those seeking heat should seek them out.
Mac and Cheese: A fairly simple affair with an Italian style pasta, this had mid-level sharpness in the cheese sauce that started out surprisingly mild before the light chile heat kicked in. It seemed like the cheese component and the chile component were two separate entities that just happenedf to be occupying the same bowl.
The Times Square location is a little tough to find if you're looking along Broadway. Even though the address technically is on Broadway, the entrance is on 40th Street.
Service was a big plus. All of the servers contributed to a very welcoming environment.
The Bottom Line
I liked this visit more than my maiden voyage to the Chelsea location, but maybe that's because expectation plays a big part in the enjoyment level here. If you go in wearing your barbecue purist armor, wielding a clipboard and pen to jot down every reason that last syllable in their name is undeserved, you're almost guaranteed to be miserable. But if you go with the flow and take Mexicue for what it is, you (and they) can do alright. Just keep that Chipotle comparison in mind: sure, Mexicue's not all that different, but it's just different (and similar) enough to give it a shot.
My 2011 Review of Mexicue Chelsea
Yelp reviews of Mexicue Times Square
Urbanspoon reviews of Mexicue Times Square