photo credit: Kate Previte
You never really know whether it’s going to be a great night. That magic comes from unpredictable factors, like who you end up meeting, what music is playing, and whether your cool pants fit. But Oxomoco, an upscale Mexican restaurant in Greenpoint, is the kind of place that lays the rest of the groundwork for you.
If you like to mitigate risk at every opportunity, you can make a reservation. If you don’t, you’ll probably encounter a wait. But fortunately, this doesn’t mean you have to go into fight-or-flight mode, frantically searching for a plan B to salvage your night. Instead, you can hang on the front patio if the weather’s nice, or at the long indoor bar if it’s not. The cocktail list is one of the best things about this place, and there are drinking snacks like spiced mango and lime and chile popcorn to keep you from getting hangry. One crucial step at this point is ordering a frozen margarita or paloma. It’ll come in a glass that’s half the size of your head, and if you’re looking to set the tone for your night, this is how you do it.
Once your table is ready inside, you’ll be glad you waited. The dining room is a high-ceilinged space that’s covered in white paint and green plants, which doesn’t make it unique. But some other things do: the big round booths that make you feel like it’s your birthday even if it’s not, the chef’s counter overlooking the wood-fired grill, and the kind of good lighting typically only achieved with a filter.
None of this would matter if it all ended in disappointing food. But that won’t happen here, as long as you primarily focus on the grilled dishes. Oxomoco is owned by the people behind Speedy Romeo, a pizza restaurant that makes all of its dishes over open fire, and the best things at Oxomoco are cooked in the same way - like the pollo a las brasas. It’s a grilled half-chicken that comes to your table covered in salsa and pickled onions, with sides of housemade tortillas and crispy red rice you will want to shovel into your mouth as quickly as possible.
That chicken setup is our favorite way to eat tacos at Oxomoco, but a few of the ones listed in the actual taco section of the menu come close - like the lamb barbacoa, the beet chorizo, and the masa tempura shrimp. Otherwise, there are some raw fish starters, which you don’t need to be ordering unless you have a taco allergy. You do, however, need to be ordering the tlayuda - a pizza-sized tortilla topped with melted cheese, crema, grilled corn, hot sauce, and fresh herbs. Even if the rest of your night involves meeting someone who shares your interest in sloths, or Jerry Seinfeld cutting you in the bathroom line, or dancing on a table while singing along to ABBA (as sung by Cher), this tlayuda is what you’ll wake up thinking about tomorrow.
The tlayuda is also one of the most affordable dishes on a menu that overall feels slightly overpriced. The guacamole is $14 (the same price as one of the cocktails) and three fish tacos will set you back $24. We say this to you now, because it’s the only real thing at Oxomoco that runs the risk of ruining the fact that you’re three giant margaritas in, and you look good in those pants. Now go enjoy the rest of your night.
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Chile-lime popcorn, fancy peanuts, smoked mango, and pickled vegetables. They range from $2-$4 each, so put a couple (or all) of these on the table with your first round of drinks.
This tastes like an open-faced popcorn quesadilla, and if you don’t want to experience that, we feel sad for you. This is hands-down our favorite thing here.
They present this carrot-stuffed tamale in an empty bowl, then use a beaker to pour green mole into it at the table. Inexplicable beaker aside, this is delicious.
Punta Verde Caesar
Three grilled heads of romaine, lots of dressing, and some spicy and crunchy bits. This tends to be a little too salty, but is otherwise a great thing to put on the table to share - it’s huge.
Oxomoco has quite a few fish starters, and this is our favorite of the bunch, although it’s also a bit too salty. The rest aren’t bad - they’re just not as good as the things that get cooked on the grill.
Shrimp Ceviche Tostada
This is a little too creamy - it kind of tastes like mayo-y shrimp salad on a tortilla. No one actually wants to eat shrimp salad.
This guacamole has three major problems: too many cherry tomatoes, too much feta, and too much salt. Especially given that it’s $14, you can feel free to skip this.
Pollo A Las Brasas
This isn’t just one of the best dishes at Oxomoco - it’s also one of the most economical. For $32, you get a grilled half chicken, which is actually a grilled-chicken DIY taco station. Stuff the red rice into your tacos, or take it into a corner and hope no one notices while you eat it all by yourself.
Beet Chorizo Tacos
Don’t be skeptical that “beet” and “chorizo” are next to each other. Just order these. They’re also filled with crispy potatoes and chunks of avocado, and they’re excellent.
Lamb Barbacoa Tacos
Oxomoco’s tacos aren’t cheap, but they do stuff them full of meats and vegetables and other fancy accessories you don’t see much of elsewhere - like zucchini flowers. These are our favorite of the meat tacos.
Shrimp Tempura Tacos
Life advice: if you have to choose between raw fish starters and fried fish tacos, choose fried fish tacos.
Arrachera Flank Steak Tacos
These are forgettable. If you’re looking for red meat, go for the lamb tacos instead.