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Fast Casual Goes Local at Dos Toros Taqueria
Now that more chefs are realizing the flavor potential (and marketing potential) of local/seasonal menus, there are plenty of options for locavores looking for a great meal. What we can’t always find is a great casual meal, something we can pick up between school and soccer practice, or on our way from the office to an 8:00pm show. There are days when we just don’t have time for a tasting menu with wine pairings, and local food shouldn’t just be for special occasions. What’s a hungry, hurried, sneakers-wearing local foodie to do?
If you’re in NYC, get thyself to Dos Toros Taqueria, which offers a short menu of tacos and burritos that are the fast, frugal answer to the MUST EAT NOW dilemma. Dos Toros, started by Leo and Oliver Kremer, two brothers from (of course) San Francisco, now has three locations around the city, each of which offers something rare for a fast casual restaurant: local ingredients. They have an eye on other sustainability issues too: they compost, use reclaimed wood in their furnishings, and use biodegradable cleaning products.
On a recent visit to the Union Square location, I ordered the Pollo Asado (grilled chicken) burrito with black beans. Typical order at a taco joint, right? Except in this case, the chicken came from Freebird, which sources free-range, vegetarian fed, antibiotic free chickens from nearby Pennsylvania Amish country, and the black beans came from Cayuga Pure Organics, a certified organic bean and grain farm located four hours northwest of the city. Typical for a New York local food restaurant, right? Except my meal cost less than $10, and I could have had a beer for less than $3.
So it’s local and it’s cheap. The next questions are: is it good, and is it a sustainable business? The food is solid: great flavor, moist chicken, filling without being overwhelming. Not to overstate things; this burrito won’t change your life. But that’s what five hour fine dining extravaganzas are for. Dos Toros is for filling the tank with something way better than a cardboard deli panini.
As for whether the model works, the crowd of New Yorkers lining up at 7:00pm on a Monday night seemed to think so. Selling carefully sourced, non-fussy food in a casual environment for slightly less than what you’d pay at that better-known burrito chain around town has allowed the Kremer brothers to open their second and third location less than three years after opening their first.
Dos Toros isn’t 100% local; those avocados aren’t coming from Jersey, and there’s no indication of where their beef and pork are from. But we don’t ask for perfect when we’re hungry and in a hurry. We just want better options than we used to get, and Dos Toros provides them, no jacket required.