The Commodore’s Stephen Tanner and Chris Young have a new big space called El Cortez. The team sort of intentionally ignores any notion about what a Mexican place “should” be, and rather includes dishes and ideas from what Tanner calls “all three Mexicans,” reports Grub Street. Those three include American Mexican, “hot plate Mexican,” and “Mexican-Mexican.” The menu includes Mission-style burritos, nachos, a chimichanga, tacos, and lots of Tiki-inspired drinks. There are plans for a smoker once the team settles in
Grub Street has more details and leaves us hungry for taco salads:
After teasing a menu of Mexican barbecue last fall, fried-chicken wizard Stephen Tanner and piña colada advocate Chris Young have quietly opened El Cortez, their south-of-the-border follow-up to the Commodore, in Bushwick. Over three years in the making, the colorful, bi-level restaurant sports a bar on each floor, a patio for drinking Zombies in the moonlight, and the capacity for just under a couple hundred revelers. Like the Commodore, there’s no unifying theme tying El Cortez together. The owners aren’t trying to mime Mexican restaurants of any era but just mesh together a bunch of things they like.
“I keep hearing about Tex-Mex and it’s almost never good,” says Tanner, echoing the sentiment of many critics around town. So instead, his menu focuses on what he calls “all three Mexicans”: hot plate, American Mexican, and Mexican-Mexican. There’s no fried-chicken queso or chile con carne, just things that Tanner and his co-chefs, Dennis Spina (Roebling Tea Room, River Styx) and Yvon de Tassigny (the opening chef at Saint Anselm) really love, like Mission-style burritos, loaded “All-American” tacos (“I’m not going to compete with the tortilla people down the street, I love those guys”), and a chimichanga (“I’m opposed to a deep-fried burrito, but Dennis, one of my oldest friends, makes it and people like it”). There’s also a cheeseburger, because who cares? And barbecue will come once Tanner gets the restaurant’s smoker situation figured out (they scrapped their original one since the only noteworthy thing it could produce was ribs).
The single dish that has Tanner the most excited, though, is the one that will bring you right back to Taco Tuesday: “You should see the taco salad; it’s kind of my proudest moment,” he says
Brooklyn Magazine was pleased as well.
Beyond the taco salad, there are giant towers of nachos and gooey bowls of chips and queso–more spicy, less orange-y, and closer to a real food product than the jarred Tostitos version you’re surely familiar with, but no less delicious. Tanner was one of the original partners in Pies ‘n’ Thighs before opening The Commodore, so it’s no surprise that fried bird plays a big role in the menu here–in crispy chicken sliders pinned up on a skewer, and on a giant, juicy slice of breast meat filling the torta sandwich–tasty, although the slab of chicken is so huge that it’s barely possible to get a good bite in. There’s also a basic cheeseburger, and a chimichanga which is, well, a golden, deep-fried mound of ground beef, which, if you ordered a chimichanga, the most American of all “Mexican” dishes, you’re probably pretty damn happy about…
El Cortez is not angling for a write-up from the New York Times restaurant critic or a following from foodies far and wide. This is a place you’re meant to come to late at night when you’re a few too many drinks in and looking for some serious bar food to soak it up, along with a sugar-y cocktail you’re probably going to regret in the morning, and a bowl of queso you’ll definitely regret. As of right now, the kitchen closes at midnight, which hopefully will change because this place seems tailor-made for 2am nachos. For now, if it’s midnight in Bushwick, you know exactly where to go to make the best bad decisions.
Check out the menu, here [pdf].