In Prospect Heights, an Outstanding Pueblan Restaurant Arrives from the Bronx

Hardly the only Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood, yet it’s easily in the top echelon of dining options in the restaurant-dense area, regardless of cuisine. Photo courtesy of Facebook/Mexicocina Agaveria

It’s remarkable how many different memorable dishes grace the menu at Mexicocina Agaveria.

With an absolutely tiny kitchen, the newly opened Prospect Heights restaurant showcases the cuisine of Puebla, a state in southern Mexico between Oaxaca and Mexico City. Owner Antonio Veachi immigrated from Puebla to the Bronx 15 years ago, starting as a dishwasher and rising through the industry’s ranks to chef. After opening the popular Mexicocina in the Bronx, he’s now expanding to Brooklyn.

The Washington Street restaurant fills a void left in the neighborhood by the recent closure of Madre Mezcaleria. It’s hardly the only Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood, yet it’s easily in the top echelon of dining options in the restaurant-dense area, regardless of cuisine.

Part of Mexicocina’s strength comes from its ingredients: The spices and herbs are imported directly from Puebla, and more importantly, tacos are made fresh on-site, which shows. Beverage manager Carlos Ruiz makes house bitters and syrups from fresh ingredients, including a variety of fruits and vegetables, giving the mezcal- and tequila-centric cocktail menu a distinctive edge.

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But it’s also that the restaurant’s team knows how to put those ingredients to use. Helmed by executive chef Luis Angel Rodriguez, the menu reads like a parade of hits. Nothing disappoints, but two items in particular stand out: the tacos and the tlayudas.

Tacos can easily make or break a restaurant, and Mexicocina’s come out swinging. Puebla may be landlocked, but the simple grilled shrimp tacos are arguably the best. That’s saying something when comparing them to the formidable chorizo and al pastor variants.

The tacos árabes are a must-order. The dish that hails from Puebla isn’t ubiquitous in Brooklyn, at least not yet, but you may still know about the shawarma-inspired tacos that meld Middle Eastern and Mexican foodways into a deeply gratifying bite.

The tlayuda is also a cornerstone dish. Though originally from Oaxaca, tlayudas are squarely in Mexicocina’s wheelhouse. The massive entrée is akin to an oversized tostada or a heavily topped pizza, but it really belongs in a class of its own. With a crispy tortilla acting as the base, a spread of refried beans is topped with Oaxacan cheese and mix of vegetables. A tlayuda loaded with shredded pork arrived with mixed greens, onion, shaved radishes and peppers, and the restaurant also offers the mountainous item without meat. Ideally, show up with a group and share one of these as you work your way through the drink list.

Read more: What to Eat and Drink in Prospect Heights

The salmon a la talla is another highlight and the lechon de la casa and the gazpacho will not let you down. The restaurant is proud of its queso fundido with nopal and chorizo and offers elote and a wide variety of other vegetarian fare. It will happily accommodate vegans.

As the name suggests, Mexicocina Agaveria specializes in liquor derived from the agave plant, with more than 36 tequilas and mezcals. Some are quite expensive and best enjoyed straight.

Picking just one favorite drink is a challenge. For something more straightforward, try the Madresita with tequila, mezcal, jalapeño and lime. I also recommend you go for the Curasantera—a mezcal drink with mint, cucumber, tomatillo, pineapple, and lime—or tell the bartender what you’re in the mood for and relax knowing you’re in capable hands.

The restaurant has something for everyone, regardless of your familiarity with Pueblan cuisine. Peer into Rodriguez’s kitchen as you pass to the back patio, post up at the bar or snag one of the tables in the front or back of the restaurant. Just like the menu, you can’t go wrong—it’s just a matter of preference.