I haven’t been this excited about a Mexican street food vendor since I stumbled upon Juguitacos stand in Mexico City’s Colonia Roma three years ago. The source of my excitement is a little stand called Tacos Yancui tucked into the side of an Elmhurst apartment building around the corner from my house. Apart from its location far from Roosevelt Avenue’s teeming Mexican street food scene what drew me to it was a cooking device known as a brasero filled with blazing hardwood charcoal. I chatted for a bit with the owner, Livorio Flores and his wife, Jacinta. I’d already eaten, but I made a mental note to return.
When I finally made it back there on a frigid early spring evening Livorio suggested I try the quesadilla, but I decided on some chalupas two with meat—one cecina, salted beef, and one carnitas, or pork confit—and two without. While I munched away Livorio told me he worked for years as a chef in restaurants in Forest Hills and opened the little stand with his wife in October 2021.
“I do all the prep, she does all the cooking,” my new friend told me as he placed a memela before me. The oblong masa treats filled with beans are a rarity in Queens and even rarer in front of Elmhurst apartment buildings. I opted for a memela bandeja, so named because it is slathered with salsa roja and salsa verde, and then topped with white queso cotija mimicking the colors of the Mexican flag. Everything I tried that night had a wonderfully toasty flavor thanks to the blazing hot fire.
Livorio told me his little stand is named for his hometown, Yancuitlalpan, which lies south of Mexico City. He also said the next day’s special would be consomme de chivo. “If you have consomme de chivo I’m coming back,” I said of the young goat soup. Shortly before writing this I polished off a bowl brimming with meat and topped with jalapeños and onions. Best of all it came with two large homemade tortillas.
Tacos Yancui is open daily from around 7 p.m. to around midnight except Mondays. In case you’re wondering Friday’s special is the Lenten specialty tortas de camaron, fritters made from dried shrimp served in a spicy chipotle sauce.
Tacos Yancui, 80th Street at 45th Avenue, Elmhurst