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One of LA’s Essential Carnitas Tacos Is Headed to the East Village

Nai Tapas chef Ruben Rodriguez is partnering with Carnitas El Momo for a new taqueria

A taco on a yellow plate
A taco from Carnitas El Momo
Trent Bozeman/Eater

One of LA’s biggest deal tacos is coming to New York. Chef Ruben Rodriguez of East Village Spanish tasting menu Nai Tapas is opening a new taqueria in collaboration with famed Los Angeles carnitas shop Carnitas El Momo.

Rodriguez has teamed up with Juan “Billy” Acosta, a co-owner of Carnitas El Momo, which serves carnitas that Eater LA dubbed one of the city’s essential tacos and the Los Angeles Times recently described as “pork in its most perfect form.”

Those carnitas will be at the new restaurant called Amigo, which is located just down the street from Nai Tapas, at 29 Second Avenue, between East 1st and 2nd streets, EV Grieve reports. L.A. Taco first reported the news of the collaboration. Though the taqueria was originally slated for a summer opening, Rodriguez is now targeting a September launch due to the coronavirus crisis, he tells Eater.

An outside photo of the new restaurant Amigo
The exterior of Amigo
Ruben Rodriguez/Amigo [Official]

The taqueria’s menu has been partially set already: Acosta’s headlining carnitas and birria tacos will be on it, plus shrimp and garlic, oxtail, and suckling pig tacos from Nai. Rodriguez says that he and Acosta will be workshopping two more collaboration tacos in August to add to the menu.

The space is split to cater to a range of diners, from those who want a sit-down dinner experience to those who want to just pop in for a taco. The front area features a cocktail bar with 16 seats and a food menu with all the tacos, plus four to five rotating tapas selections from Nai. In the back, the taqueria is set up to quickly serve diners in a standing space.

They are taking social distancing into consideration with the traffic flow in the space, and will make adjustments as needed based on what COVID-19 operating criteria is in place for restaurants this fall, Rodriguez says.

It’s a big get for NYC: Acosta’s father started selling carnitas as a side gig in the mid-1970’s, according to the Los Angeles Times, and his children helped the business garner more acclaim after they expanded the shop via a food truck and some street stands starting in 2013. Carnitas El Momo is now widely considered one of the best versions of a carnitas tacos in LA, where the competition is fierce.

Rodriguez’s partnership with Acosta is the first of several new collaboration restaurants that the New York restaurateur hopes to open up over the next year or two. The format allows him to grow and learn from others who he admires in the industry, Rodriguez tells Eater, and it fits into his overall goal for Nai — to build a successful, long-lasting restaurant group in the East Village.

The pandemic has made Rodriguez’s plans for growth “challenging” this year, but he says that he’s determined to push forward as much as possible.

Nai Tapas will be launching delivery this Saturday, and the team will be looking into a to-go format for Amigo if necessary this fall. “It’s such a hard time to launch everything,” Rodriguez says. “But I can’t let this stop the progress of Nai.”

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