Otto Cedeno, who graduated with a film degree from the Tisch School of the Arts in 2007, recently left his job as director of productions and operations at Livestream to open a taco joint. That decision led to Otto’s Tacos, part of a movement to bring quality, authentic Mexican food to New York City.
“When I was 18, it was a fair statement to say New York City lacked good Mexican food,” Cedeno said. “I don’t remember when it happened, but it happened. There are a lot of other business owners now with great Mexican restaurants in New York City.”
Otto’s offers affordable options for college students. The menu includes five different types of tacos — carne asada, carnitas, chicken or mushroom tacos for $3.00 and shrimp tacos for $3.50.
“I think there are a lot of new brands coming out that are trying to cater to the clientele that wants the affordable yet delicious,” Cedeno said. “We’re honored to be a part of that movement.”
Side options, like chips with salsa ($2.00) and rice with beans ($2.75), are also available. But the star of the menu might be the masa fries ($3.00).
“Our masa fries are a happy accident that we fell in love with,” Cedeno said. “We just use the same dough we make our tortilla with, and we basically press them thicker like pancakes, cut them into strips and fry them. We pair it with a chipotle mayo that the chef makes from scratch every day.”
Otto’s differentiates itself from similar establishments thanks to the fullness of the food’s flavors.
“Through culinary school and all these different things, you’re taught to layer flavors, to season at every level,” Chef Joseph Lonigro said. “We do that here with something as simple as the taco. It gets forgotten about on the taco a lot.”
“If you deconstructed it, it would be delicious at every step,” Lonigro said.
“Joe is not afraid of marinades, seasonings and spices,” Cedeno said. “He’s really into it. He does not like bland food and neither do I.”
The flavors seem to have customers eager to return for more.
“I think the vision [of the restaurant] is remarkable and admirable,” LS sophomore Adriel Chang said.
“We built this for the community, and we’re very happy that it has been received so warmly,” Cedeno said. “We just hope to get to know everyone else around here and serve really good, fresh tacos. That’s what we’re all about.”
Otto’s Tacos is located on 141 Second Ave.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Nov. 19 print edition. Chandler West is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected]