East End Eats: La Brisa, Que Bueno!

La Brisa is modeled after the taquerias you find all over Mexico
From the shady turquoise tables outside to the bright interior, the taqueria La Brisa is warm and welcoming. Morgan McGivern

La Brisa
752 Montauk Highway
Montauk
668-8338
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily


La Brisa in Montauk is just that: a breeze. If you don’t like paper plates and picnic tables and wobbly stools and loud music, maybe this isn’t your cup of tea, or shot of mezcal. I found it delightful and I am an expert on Mexico, having been there . . . once.

La Brisa is located where the Plaza Diner used to be, and is modeled after the taquerias you find all over Mexico. Right on the Plaza, it offers primo people and tourist watching from the wraparound floor to ceiling windows or the numerous turquoise picnic tables under shady trees outside.

The decor is simple and charming, lots of white, with turquoise walls, retro logos, fresh pineapples ripening on shelves by the bar, and bags of masa harina, cans of chipotles, various chilies, and dried herbs lining the back wall.

On a recent visit we opted for the outdoor picnic tables, as the inside only offers high backless stools at small tables, and the music was inexplicably loud for Sunday lunch. We began with guacamole, fluke ceviche, and corn on the cob. The guacamole was very good and a bit mild, probably a necessity for gringos. It was chunky, full of onions, cilantro, and lime juice. If you want it spicy, there are three excellent sauces on each table to amp up the heat. The chips served with it (all tortillas are made in-house) were excellent, thick and crunchy with a whisper of mild chile powder on them.

The fluke ceviche was also delicious and a good-sized portion for $16.95. It was cool and super fresh, full of cucumbers, tomatoes, and lime juice and served on a bed of guacamole with chips on the side. The corn on the cob was superb, the corn roasted, then coated with chipotle mayo and sprinkled with cotija, a crumbly salty cheese reminiscent of mild feta. The corn was sweet and not overcooked; often this classic Mexican street treat can be starchy and dull. It was served with a wedge of lime to give it a bit of tang.

From there we moved on to the crispy local tilefish taco, vegetarian taco, chicken taco, and a side order of rice and beans. The tacos come three to an order and they are small but seem to be the right amount. The crispy fish taco was delicious, topped with lots of cabbage and moistened with a bit of chipotle mayo. The vegetarian taco contained sweet potatoes, black beans, and a bit of red sauce. It was okay; I would have appreciated a bit of crunch in it, perhaps some cabbage or pico de gallo. The chicken taco was good, just a bit bland. The chicken was shredded and topped with pickled red onions. The three sauces offered in squirt bottles at each table allow you to doctor up your taco to your liking. All three are great.

One is a dried chile de arbol, tart and smoky with a bit of heat. Another is a hauntingly delicious and sweet chipotle hibiscus. The third is a creamy, green concoction of chiles and tomatillos, muy caliente! (Under the label Vista Hermosa, they are available for sale, and I bought all three.) The rice and beans were excellent, perfectly cooked and seasoned black beans with garlic-cilantro infused green rice. It was a small portion but was a mere $4.95.

La Brisa has a tiny, reasonable menu and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast items are $7.95 to $10.95, starters are $4.95 to $16.95, tacos are $10.95 to $24.95. There are creative and not terribly expensive cocktails such as the Paloma, a tart and refreshing mixture of fresh grapefruit juice, tequila, and lime. Beer, wine, sangria and many aguas frescas are offered as well. There are no desserts.

The service on the day of our visit was great, from the manager to our waitress, Pilar, to the chef, Luis, coming out of the kitchen to share a recipe for cochinita pibil. (He saw me purchasing the sauces and a block of achiote paste.)

The food and atmosphere, especially outside under the majestic maples, is fun and family-friendly. La Brisa is indeed, a breeze.