Every Tuesday, Bushwick Daily features one of the many beloved taco joints in our area, recounting why we love these places so much.
My personal Bushwick journey started in 2010 on the stretch of Myrtle Avenue between the Central and Myrtle Broadway subway stops. I walked the street veiled in the perpetual shade of the elevated subway tracks several times a day, popping into the storefronts long before Bossa Nova or Juno or Birdy’s.
There was a house of worship in a makeshift garage; a mysterious botanica whose owner swore a flaming skull had been appearing in the store every Halloween (and to be fair there was a large burnt hole in the middle of the floor); and an elderly lady with a parrot sitting on her shoulder parading herself in what is today called Fine Fare Supermarket, buying everything but “organic” and “vegan” groceries that are nowadays so loudly touted on the signs outside.
Many things have changed, but Zefe’s Taqueria at 1224 Myrtle Ave. (on the corner of Evergreen Avenue) stays the same. During the months of late 2010 and early 2011 when Bushwick Daily was a mere infant, I used to eat their tacos literally every day.
My order was always the same: two cheese tacos with a bottle of Poland Spring, or a Mexican cola in a glass bottle. The price, a little over $6, remains the same to this day.
I am aware that objectively there probably are better tacos than these in Bushwick, but to me Zefe’s tacos are the best, the first and only ones I can have every day. They taste like the surrogate home that Bushwick has become and like the building blocks of a new life I have carved out for myself despite the odds of my visa expiring, a crappy job market, and Bushwick Daily having only 100 readers a day.
When I swung by Zefe’s for an impromptu lunch earlier today, I had a chance to talk to Jorge Rodriguez who has owned Zefe’s since 2008 at its current location, and many years before that at 83 Graham Ave. Jorge’s two daughters were helping him in the kitchen. Teresa interrupted cutting a seriously tempting cube of a flan to take my order, while the other daughter, who made my tacos, was too shy to give me her name. Jorge explained that he has five children: four girls and a boy. Two of them go to college, and so Zefe’s has to make many, many tacos every month to cover the bills.
Amidst the changing neighborhood, Jorge made one good decision: he bought the building that houses his taqueria. He and his family even used to live above the restaurant but moved further away in Bushwick, vacating the two apartments for tenants. Jorge explained that it is their rent that pays the mortgage and added that he has a better parking at their new place anyway.
A proud sign on the wall announces that Jorge was named the Minority Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008; colorful pictures of a variety of Mexican dishes adorn the wall above the counter; the tables are covered with plastic table cloths and cheerfully colorful flowers. Santa Maria posters and a Mexican telenovela on the TV mounted in the corner belong to Zefe’s just as salsa belongs on your tacos.
Zefe’s offerings are abundant, ranging from flautas, ensaladas, burritos, to hamburguesas, soups, and homemade batidos milkshakes. But I stuck with my usual order, enjoying the side of chips and red and green salsa that came with my tacos. The tacos were scrumptious, flavorful, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, fresco cheese, and sour cream. As always they tasted like real tacos, like the tacos I will compare all other tacos against. They tasted like the beginning, and like all the good things that came afterwards.