I know what you’re thinking… the taco has been recreated so many times, what can really be new about it? For healthy or vegan Mexican, I go to Blockheads in Manhattan; for a juicy taco with all the fixings, I go to Mezcals; for the real thing, I go to Sunset Park in Brooklyn. For a new twist, however, I suggest you go to Ho’ Brah in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
Despite sharing the avenue with a number of other eateries (Leo’s Calamari, Kettle Black and Tuscany Grill – to name a few), Ho’ Brah has created a name for itself. And the surf board menu out front suggests that it is more than just a taco joint.
Having heard rave reviews from friends and other mothers, I couldn’t wait to try this place out. My husband, our little one and I set out early in the evening, knowing all too well the looks parents get when they saunter into a restaurant at prime time with a stroller on a Saturday night.
We stepped into Ho’Brah at 5 pm and were simultaneously delighted and saddened by what we saw – a restaurant packed with people. When the waiter asked if we would like a table for two… and a half… I hesitated and responded, “Um, is there another room because it doesn’t look like there’s enough space to sit with a baby?” The restaurant isn’t large – there’s a bar at the front, tables on the right and a few booths for larger parties on the left. Experience with a baby has taught me to take caution when sitting in close proximity to:
1. those who already look annoyed at their dining experience
2. a young couple gazing into each others’ eyes and
3. anyone wearing white
The waiter’s next few words convinced me to stay. Enthusiastically, he led us to a table for two at the far end of the restaurant, placed a high chair on the end and told me he could seat us right away. In addition, he took our stroller and stored it in the back of the restaurant for us. With an invitation like that, who could refuse?
It also turned out that the high volume of happy diners drowned out any loud babbling or shrieks from the baby. At some point, I think all parents experience that moment where they feel all eyes are on them when their little one makes noise.
Due to my indecisiveness, I appreciate their simple, easy-to-read, easy-to-order menu. Ho’ Brah’s main attraction is their tacos, but not hard shell tacos – soft corn tacos . This actually means less calories and fat because hard shell tacos are usually fried in partially hydrogenated soybean oil – the kind of oil that raises bad cholesterol and lowers the good kind. Each order consists of one taco (with two shells) and is reasonably priced at less than $4 each.
My husband and I ordered three tacos. Each one was a unique combination. The Cabo, a healthier option, is a grilled white fish taco with avocado cream. The Diablo Diego is a zesty explosion of shrimp, pico de gallo and chipotle cream. We ordered the Classic Cali at the last minute and I was very glad we did. The combination of panko-crusted Atlantic cod, jack and cheddar cheeses, California coleslaw and chili-lime sour cream was absolutely delicious. With a side of jasmine rice and beans for $2.95, we were quite satisfied.
In addition to the three fish tacos on the menu, there is also a vegetarian taco with asparagus and black beans, two beef tacos, one pork and one chicken. Burritos or “small plates” round out the meal and offer options for the non-taco eaters. There is also a kids’ menu, which is a bargain at $4 each.
The food was good, the restaurant was clean and the atmosphere was fun, but it was the customer service that will keep me coming back. My former, pre-baby self felt invigorated walking into a bustling restaurant on a Saturday night. Now, as a baby stroller precedes me, this scene makes me a little apprehensive. Don’t we, as parents, deserve a night out with our family at a restaurant that doesn’t have a mascot? Well, those at Ho’ Brah think so and they are working hard to make sure everyone’s experience is blog-worthy.
Theresa Gentile MS, RD, CDN is a dietitian at Maimonides Medical Center, adjunct faculty at CUNY Brooklyn College and counsels adults and children using sound science and holistic approaches to eating. Check out her web site at www.theresagentilenutrition.com
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