El Tenampa Deli & Grocery is a Mexican grocery store within which sits a cafeteria-style taqueria. Run by Poblanos, the store has been around for over six years on this quasi-interstitial neighborhood straddling South Slope and Greenwood Heights. I was here almost every day of the summer this past year. They have a pretty large selection of meats, decent tortilla (not homemade), and a self-serve salsa bar that includes a wonderful salsa roja and avocado crema, sliced radishes, cucumbers, and lime.
You order your food upfront at the kitchen counter and wait until one of the guys rings a bell and points to you when your order is ready. The theatrics of the bell-ringing ritual does not cease to amuse me: the guy behind the kitchen, bearing a stoic expression, points in the general direction of someone, index finger raised, until the right person acknowledges with an alert, precise-but-dull, head nod or a hand wave, and then points to the food. One of the guys I normally place my order with always has a grave expression – I could never tell if he was annoyed when I ordered or if it was his natural disposition. After maybe my tenth time going there, he once said to me “often, you come.” – and that was the moment we ceased being strangers to each other and became people we couldn’t conveniently ignore acknowledging.
I have tried almost all of their tacos. I usually rotate between a combination of Suadero, Chorizo, Al Pastor, and Barbacoa de Chivo (braised goat). I don’t care for pineapples, but I particularly like the Al Pastor here because of the pineapples: along with the meat, the pineapple chunks in the taco are often wonderfully caramelized on the outside. Depending on the day, you might be lucky to find offal as an option. I particularly like the Panza Negra (goat belly and stomach simmered in blood). If blood is not your thing, they also have Panza Blanca (no blood).
At, $3.25 each for grande, a plate of three tacos usually makes for a nice dinner for me. I really enjoy sitting there and eating, while watching Mexican families chatter away or watching Caso Cerrado in rapt attention– the Spanish language court show, ala Judge Judy, broadcast on Telemundo, presided over by Cuban-born, American-raised Ana María Polo – and other times football (not the American kind), often feeling like an intruder to a large family dinner, at times feeling like a foreigner that everyone can ignore (a feeling I often crave and is really hard to achieve in New York), and at times feeling unexpectedly included when practising my Spanish.
It’s worth noting that they also serve other food, including tamales on Saturdays, but I have stuck to the tacos. They are closed on Wednesdays.
El Tenampa Deli & Grocery is at 706 4th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11232, USA