The more I eat at a restaurant, the easier it is for me to find the perfect string of adjectives to describe its dishes. I’ve been to this Texan spot more times than I can count, first at what started as an outdoor pop-up in the summer of 2020 and more recently to pick up bags of takeout at Yellow Rose’s brick-and-mortar on 3rd Avenue in the East Village. So based on all the time I’ve spent gazing into the face of a Yellow Rose bean and cheese taco, it’d be reasonable to assume I’d already written a book of sonnets dedicated to Rancho Gordo beans and fresh tortillas made with Sonoran flour.
My historic formula (more restaurant visits = better words) stopped working, though.
Each time I tried Yellow Rose’s pressed-to-order flour tortillas, the more daunting it became to do them justice. Sure, I’ll gladly tell you these discs are chewy, blistered, supple, buttery (though they shockingly don’t contain any lard or animal fat), and made out of one of the oldest wheat varieties in North America. But that doesn’t quite cut it. The truth is that eating Yellow Rose’s steamy flour flying saucers unearthed something in my brain beyond the language I already knew. Not dissimilar to a toddler seeing snowfall for the first time. Instead of “wow, delicious, good, yes,” I’ve had to grapple with a new baseline for tortillas in New York City.
Yellow Rose’s tortillas are integral to most of the short, squiggly-font menu, and no experience here is complete without a couple of tacos (other than the bean and cheese, my favorites are the papas rancheras and the carne guisada - more on that in the Food Rundown). I’d also encourage extracurricular snacking on things like beef chili sparkling with charred peppers, zingy vegan queso made from cashews, and chocolate Texas sheet cake you’ll want to hide in your fridge and eat at midnight.
It’s worth noting that Yellow Rose’s casual, honky-tonk-chic feel isn’t limited to the food. Even before you receive your bean and cheese, you’ll hear Willie Nelson playing through the speakers both inside and out, spot a poster of Dolly Parton glamorously overseeing business from above, and notice the bags of stone-ground grits and heirloom beans on a shelf in front of a saloon-style swinging door to the currently-unused dining room. There’s a Pac-Man arcade game set up in front, a stack of their monthly zine printed on neon paper, and breakfast specials on weekend mornings that I’ve happily planned Sundays around.
Yellow Rose offers indoor and outdoor dining, as well as nicely-packaged takeout with some hefty tortillas that don’t sog during travel time. Whichever you opt for, don’t worry about finding the right words to describe how much you like this place. Just choose someone to share their amazing food with, and know that you’ll both end up making vague grunting noises about the miracle of flour while you do. Tortilla-bliss grunting speaks louder than words.
Bean & Cheese Taco
Yellow Rose serves all of their tacos in tin foil wraps (although it isn’t pictured above). We mention this because it keeps the steam inside the taco such that the warmth from the refried beans slightly softens the unmelted cheddar strands. Imagine a buttery flour tortilla with enough bite to stand up to a congealed mix of whole and smashed pinto beans and half-melted cheese. The components at play here may seem straightforward, but it’s the textures that take this taco to a level where you’ll convince yourself you need to go back and get another next week.
Papas Ranchera Taco
Classic, earthy-tasting, and full of starch. This vegan taco is really just a gracious platform for you to enjoy Yellow Rose’s tomato-based ranchera sauce, which clings to the hearty hunks of fried potatoes and onions like a song you can’t get out of your head.
Carne Guisada Taco
Some carne guisada tacos are served with ground meat, but this one uses big hunks of beef. The meat is braised in a dark, spicy gravy for long enough that it takes on the tender consistency of a slow-cooked brisket. It’s decadent and may stain anything in its path with meat juice drippings. Consider that precious meat juice a souvenir.
Chicken Verde Taco
It’s a feat of science that this dripping, salsa verde-soaked chicken doesn’t sog its tortilla home. While we love the shredded chicken, its bright flavor overwhelms the taste of the tortilla. If you order this, make sure to get one of the other tacos as well - so you can still experience pure tortilla bliss while at Yellow Rose.
This chili’s spice level is no joke, which should be evident by the charred chili pepper flakes dispersed throughout the mixture of soft, whole pinto beans and savory ground beef. The heat doesn’t make you want to grab for water so much as it ostensibly changes the pH levels of your body over time. Mix in the side dollop of cilantro sour cream for a cooling, tangy effect.
Yellow Rose is one of many amazing vegan-friendly restaurants to open in NYC as of late, and this appetizer acts as a good example of their selection. Like any respectable queso, Yellow Rose’s version is gooey and thick. We especially like the acid that the pickled peppers bring to the creamy cashews. Also, it surprised us exactly zero percent to learn that Yellow Rose serves extra crunchy tortilla chips.
Aside from the staples listed in this rundown, Yellow Rose has a constantly-evolving menu. Expect a slew of specials we won’t be able to mention here (since they don’t exist yet). In the past, we’ve tried some fantastic pastries and a bowl of spicy vegan soup with fideo noodles, crunchy celery, and soft and starchy hominy. Follow their Instagram page to stay on top of specials, pop-ups, and more.
Texas Sheet Cake
If you see Yellow Rose’s texas sheet cake available, you have an emotional duty to comply. It’s one of the regional marvels largely missing from New York City. We’ve tried both the strawberry and chocolate pecan varieties, which make you feel like you’re eating an entire birthday party.