Imagine if Hunter S. Thompson, at some pivotal moment in his young life, had decided to focus his career on studying and cooking the cuisine of Mexico, rather than doing the gonzo journalism thing. Sort of like Rick Bayless, but with drugs. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Well, the good news is that such an unlikely thing didn’t need to happen in order for New York to get its first gonzo Mexican restaurant, The Black Ant.
The Black Ant recently opened its doors in the East Village, and as I just alluded to, it is crazy. This is not another one of those trendy New York Mexican joints that survives off feeding guacamole and mediocre tacos to people who think Patrón is good. This is a real restaurant with a real chef who is doing really incredible things with his menu, and often those things are quite... progressive. Like dusting shrimp tacos with a grasshopper crust. Or like serving duck dumplings in a mole sauce that tastes like hot Mexican chocolate. Did you show up because you’re craving an enchilada? This one has rabbit in it. Hungry for some tacos? Your choices are grasshopper, cod cheeks, or shrimp with more grasshopper.
Ultimately, the most impressive part of The Black Ant isn’t that the food is unfamiliar, it’s that the food is so damn good. We’re happy to say that this place has immediately become one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in New York, not only for what comes out of the kitchen, but for the friendly staff, the weird room that sort of looks like a comic book super hero’s flop house, and the inventive and often spicy cocktails. If you want to do it right, eat at the bar and let one of the bartenders do the ordering for you. That way you’ll try some things you might not otherwise have taken the chance on, and you’ll definitely have a few mezcal cocktails to fuel the fun. No matter where you sit or who ends up calling the shots, know that you need to eat everything from the appetizers to the salads to the entrees, and yes, even dessert. Or, as Hunter S. Thompson might have put it, you’d be a fool not to ride this strange torpedo all the way to the end.
An excellent guacamole that has a little bit of orange, some dried chile, and some grilled scallions in the mix. It actually tastes more traditional than that list of ingredients might lead you to believe. It also tastes good.
An incredibly tasty, incredibly beautiful shrimp salad that you definitely need to order. The shrimp come head and shell on, but the shell is very soft and meant to be eaten. They’re super flavorful - savory and a little bit sweet. This might be the best thing we’ve eaten here.
The aforementioned shrimp tacos with grasshopper crust. The funny thing is that you wouldn’t even know that the crust was made from ground-up bugs if someone didn’t tell you. You just get a sort of spicy, crunchy bite to offset the perfectly cooked, soft shrimp. Be brave. Order them.
Cod cheek tacos. Yes. These are sort of like your average fish tacos, except no they’re not. The cod is super delicate, and the mango slaw on top is incredible.
A bowl full of little duck-filled dumplings, served with sliced figs and drizzled with a whole bunch of hot Mexican mole. Know that this dish is more sweet than it is savory, and know that it’s best shared amongst the table rather than eaten as one person’s entree. Know that you will also probably love it.
These deep fried cactus sticks are The Black Ant’s answer to Narcissa’s carrot fries. They’re crunchy, spicy, and not the least bit greasy. Order some for the table.
You want the churro bites, and you want the tres leches if it’s available. Either way, you want dessert.