I’ve passed Ollin on my way to a coffee shop I like. I admired their pandemic patio and knew they had a good reputation since they were present at a bunch of Harlem pop-ups. Butttt while they’re still in Spanish Harlem, there are a bunch of stellar Mexican spots in the part of Spanish Harlem that’s right next to us. It can’t be worth the extra few blocks, could it? Yes. Yes it can.
We were both off work the week between Christmas and New Years and since we didn’t go anywhere, we tried to really treat our meals like vacation. That meant ordering in for Taco Tuesday. After lazily scrolling social media, I found my way to Ollin’s TikTok (which is FIRE, by the way) and their birria tacos. I did not know what birria was, but consider me newly obsessed. Birria is basically a goat stew native to the Jalisco area. The meat is marinated in all sorts of spices til it’s ultra tender, then it cooks further in a broth. The meat infuses the broth…the broth infuses the meat – it’s a love fest. At Ollin they have a whole birria menu: tacos, burrito, even ramen. I went with the tacos because it’s what they’re most famous for and it was Taco Tuesday, after all. When you order it, it’s served with a consommé (that was also used to brush the tortillas before they went on the flat top, which is where these tacos are assembled). The tacos are made with Oaxacan cheese and wowwwww. Honestly, tacos will not be the same for me after this.
I wanted to try more things from their menu so I also ordered a cemita. While I was tempted to try the inventive Cubano cemita, I stuck with my fave filling, carne enchilada so I could compare it to other restaurants’ versions. I have to say, this may be one of the best cemitas I’ve had. I think it was the bread which was soft with the perfect bite to the crust. The ratio of ingredients was also good and actually spread evenly across the sandwich. And, again, there was that Oaxacan cheese, which made a big difference.
Ollin is family owned and operated just a gem of a neighborhood spot. I’m learning each restaurant in my neighborhood specializes in something different – when I want quesadillas, it’s Quesadillas Dona Maty all the way. My beau loves the tacos at Sidewalk Tacos and the burrito bowls at Taco Mix. And now it’s clear that Ollin reigns supreme when it comes to birria and cemitas.