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Breakfast Tacos' Triumphant Gotham West Debut

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All photos by Robert Sietsema

Anyone who visits Austin, Texas is likely to come away with a profound passion for breakfast tacos. Usually constructed with scrambled eggs, refried beans, pico de gallo, yellow cheese, and sometimes avocado folded into a flour tortilla, the flavor is memorably sunny and mellow — until you squirt on the hot sauce. But until now, New York has had trouble getting it right. Given that breakfast is the new frontier for many cash-strapped restaurants, it's a wonder that more places are not serving this grab-and-go Lone Star treat.

Latest to make the attempt is Choza Taqueria, new tenant in the Gotham West Market luxury food court, occupying the space where Saltie's Little Chef lately decamped. On a recent morning around 10 a.m., four employees labored behind Choza's long counter, behind which a flat griddle and convection oven saw constant action. They're used to whip up a roster of five breakfast selections, mainly in a Mexican-American vein. A friend and I ate our way through the entire menu.

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Two to an order and deposited on a pair of white-corn mini tortillas, the breakfast tacos ($4.13) come pretty close to their Austin counterparts. The tortillas have been warmed separately and are thus pliant, the eggs soft and curdy, the cheese and greenery applied in some profusion so that the mass towers above the tortilla. Pretty damn good!

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The second best thing tried was the tamale ($4.36), which comes topped with a gritty chile sauce and a poached egg. Apart from a striking redness, the tamale is of the plain sort. When you cut into the egg, it spills liquid gold all over the tamale, making for a memorable breakfast — though the tamales are on the small side and you'll need two.

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Although the potatoes were more profuse than you might have liked, good marks are still due Choza's breakfast burrito ($4.60), which, as with the other breakfast entrees, can be improved for a dollar more with any of four meats (carnitas, chorizo, sausage, and bacon). The chorizo would be the obvious choice due to its assertive flavor; still, it's too bad adding another egg instead isn't an option.

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The Mexican sandwich called the torta involves a choice of one of the four meats, included in the $4.60 price tag. It's the best deal, volume-wise, on the breakfast menu board. It would be a mistake to choose the bacon, which is so brittle and fragmented it cascades from the sandwich as you eat it. Rather pick the soft shredded carnitas, which are a bit bland but go well in a sandwich that has a little too much going on already.

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The only breakfast entrée that we outright didn't like was the one that sounded most promising, but also cost the most money: baked eggs ($5.28) served with a pair of small corn tortillas. Sadly, the eggs got lost in the amorphous heap of ingredients, which included pico, shredded cheese, and carnitas — the most profuse ingredient in the aluminum receptacle. We'd asked for the other option — sautéed zucchini — but the kitchen didn't have it. Really, Choza, with so few ingredients going into these breakfast treats, couldn't you manage to have all of them on hand?

Gotham West Market

600 11th Ave, New York, NY 10036

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