Long Island Pekin owner Jason Lee said out of all the 12 restaurants he has opened, the menu for his takeout taco spot is the “best he’s ever created.”
Lee partnered up with Huntington Grub Shop owner and food blogger, Salvatore “The Grubfather” DiBenedetto, to transform part of his Cantonese eatery in Babylon Village into a pop-up late-night birria taco spot called Long Island Taco (LIT Birria).
It launched on Thursday to immediate fanfare, Lee told GreaterBabylon.
Here’s how it works
The pop-up operates inside Long Island Pekin after hours on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. or until they sell out.
Long Island Tacos will run just this summer for now, Lee said, with the possibility of extending it to the winter hours.
There’s no seating or alcohol on the menu, it’s strictly late-night food to go.
“[It’s basically] a stationary food truck,” Lee said. “People are going to line up… put in their order, and either wait in their car, or in the lot.”
The birria tacos will be made with beef, homemade crema instead of cheese, and the consommé will have “more body” so it’s not so watery.
Salad, chicken satays (“Chick on a stick”), and birria dumplings are also on the menu.
“Everything is pretty straightforward because it’s already so good, we didn’t want to change it too much,” Lee said. “We wanted it to be recognized as a birria taco, but have our little twist.”
Lee said what sparked inspiration was a food truck in Jackson Heights called Birria-Landia Tacos.
“That probably started this whole trend on the East Coast,” Lee said. “It was four-plus hours to get these tacos, my attitude was I was going to hate these tacos — but even with that attitude, they were the best tacos I ever had, so I was on a mission to recreate these because I’m not waiting again.”
For those not familiar with the Mexican dish, it is a braised beef taco (traditionally goat) paired with a consomé which is a hearty broth the taco is dunked into.
The taco shell “sets up the whole experience,” Lee says.
The corn tortilla is dipped in the broth and lightly crisped to create a soft and crispy taco.
Lee made birria tacos for his staff, who immediately fell in love. He kept the idea on the back burner for a bit.
About a year ago, Lee met the DiBenedetto, who had just moved to Babylon Village at the time, and the two hit it off, he said.
“We had this mind to want to do something together, and we were searching for the right project,” Lee said. “We went from bottled sauces as an idea, to other concepts, but then this ultimately ended up making the most sense and the least barrier to entry.”
For updates on LIT Tacos, opening on Thursday behind Long Island Pekin located at 96 E. Main St., follow their Instagram.
Top: A birria taco from Long Island Taco.