Tres Carnes

Perfect For: Cheap Eats Quick Eats Serious Take-Out Operation

We've done plenty of bitching about the lack of Mexican food in New York City, and it's officially time to stop. Over the last couple of years, things on this front have improved to the point where haters like us should just shut it already. Want some examples of progress? We now have an award winning restaurant that pushes the boundaries of Mexican flavors (Empellon Cocina). We have a restaurant that ably executes the basics a trendy setting (Gran Electrica) and one that does so in a traditional one (Mexico Lindo) too. We even have tacos being served out of a VW bus in a faux-Mexican courtyard (Tacombi), and an establishment dedicated solely to the art of the torta (Tortaria). Not to mention the entire neighborhood full of great home cooked Mexican eating that is Sunset Park, which is a separate discussion all together. And on top of all that progress, it's time to add Tres Carnes into the conversation, in the category of fast food Mexican. Dos Toros, you better watch your back. Mostly because you kind of suck, but also because these guys are from Texas.

The food at Tres Carnes is something that you usually only see in The Lone Star State, where they like to throw a little bit of the BBQ game into their Mexican dining. The idea here is that they smoke three different meats (hence the name) and allow you to put any combination of said meats inside of tacos and burritos, or even into a bowl if you and your personal trainer so choose. And the guy in charge of smoking all of that meat apparently used to man the pit at The Salt Lick, the legendary BBQ joint outside of Austin. That's actually the singular reason that we came to check this place out in its infancy, and we've gotta say, we like what we see. Tres Carnes is far from perfect, but damn are their brisket tacos good.

Yes, this restaurant is called "three meats" in Spanish, but you can just go ahead and forget about the pork and the chicken - it's the 16-hour smoked brisket that's the star of this carne party. That beefy goodness is absolutely ideal for placement in tacos and burritos, what with its delicious smoky flavor and perfectly moist...moistness. If this place got a rating on it's brisket alone, you'd see a much higher number here. Unfortunately, there are also some problems at Tres Carnes that you're going to run into. First of all, they need to figure out their taco assembly line. The service doesn't run smoothly, and takes way longer than it should. Also, their seating situation needs help. There are bunch of high top tables in this place, but most of the stools are tiny. That doesn't make for a pleasant eating situation, unless you have a really huge torso. And finally, we just couldn't get down with much other than the brisket and the incredible chili here. The chicken tends to be dry and unappealing, and the pork is kind of a snooze. Even the salsas kind of sucked, which is disappointing.

I guess at the end of the day, even though New York is making progress in the Mexican department, it will always still be New York. It doesn't matter who shows up with what taco credentials, Manhattan and Brooklyn will never be Austin or Southern California. So for now, we'll stop bitching...but we probably won't ever be truly satisfied. Thanks for making us miserable, Texas.

Food Rundown

Smoked Brisket

This meat is crazy moist, with an incredible smoky flavor. It's the perfect kind of brisket to cover in toppings and put on a corn tortilla. But be careful not to judge this meat as a stand-alone product. If you want to eat brisket for dinner, you should go to Mighty Quinn's BBQinstead. What you want to do here is dress this stuffup with all kindsof fixins and take it out for a night on the town in your mouth.

Chicken Adobo

Dry rubbed, smoked, and kissed with lime and adobo, this chicken sounded great on paper but was pretty much a disaster in reality. It's potentially the driest meat we've ever had, and it lacked any kind of discernable flavor. You can get away with this if you throw it in a bowl and cover it with cheese, but in any other vehicle this chicken will leave much to be desired.

BBQ Pork Shoulder

The pulled pork isn't all that impressive in the flavor department, but it is nice and moist, and pairs up nicely with the roasted chipotle squash and street-cart style corn on top.


We really liked the guacamole at Tres Carnes. It's got big chunks of avocado and a nice, creamy body to it with a little touch of smoke. The salsas, on the other hand, left a bit to be desired.

Brisket Burnt Ends Chili

Last, but by no means least, is the chili. Oh good lord, the chili! This stuff is a must order. It's super spicy, and the flavors come bursting out of this paper cup like Kate Upton in a bikini. Dive in head first.

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