Sobre Masa opens taqueria and tortilla factory in Bushwick

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Zack Wangeman does the math. “I have the figures here somewhere,” promises the Oaxacan chef, browsing his tortilleria which will soon open in Bushwick. He pauses. Then reflected, quietly converting Spanish to English and the kilos to pounds. “If we make 60 pounds of masa in an hour … and there are about 19 tortillas in every pound of masa … we can make 1,100 tortillas per hour,” he concludes. When it comes to tortilla operations, his is slower than most – today the average machine can produce around 140 pounds of masa per hour, he explains – but in New York it’s more. enough to get the city’s first heritage tortilleria off the ground. .

Owners Zack and Diana Wangeman.

Wangeman’s Tortilleria is located in a part of North Brooklyn that can rightly be called the “masa mile”. Starting last year, a new generation of restaurateurs flocked to the area, opening businesses that put masa – the ground, Mexican corn dough used to make tortillas – in the spotlight. In Bed-Stuy, the corner café For All Things Good has been grinding its corn since opening last fall, with a second location slated for in Williamsburg later this year. In Aldama, which debuted in this latest Brooklyn neighborhood this summer, the kitchen’s compact kitchen spits out red and blue tortillas to the sound of live DJ sets. Sobre Masa, Wangeman’s first restaurant in Williamsburg, opened one block last fall.

Their mostly Latino owners chose to open in Brooklyn, mainly because of the lower cost of rent, and in the process, they formed a tight-knit community spreading the Masa gospel. This week they have a church.

A hand picks a tortilla from a stack of yellow tortillas.  Next to it, two stacks of dark blue tortillas rest on a steel rack.

Two packages of tortillas with handwritten labels are laid out on a wooden table next to a glass.

Wrapped corn tortillas cost $ 8 for a dozen at Sobre Masa.

From the husband and wife team Zack and Diana Wangeman comes Sober Masa Tortilleria, a taqueria and tortilla production plant at 52 Harrison Place, between Morgan and Knickerbocker avenues, is scheduled to open on October 19. The couple call their new business a “micro tortilla factory,” and although the space technically contains three companies in one, they say they only have one goal in mind: “To put the tortillas in so many. hands as possible, ”he said.

At Sobre Masa in Williamsburg, Wangeman made a strong impression for his carefully prepared masa dishes, including Michoacán-style carnitas tacos served only on Sundays and mole-coated tlacoyos whose recipe comes from Diana’s mother. His Bushwick tortilleria, which also houses a taqueria in the back room, goes for something decidedly simpler with a short menu of tacos and bar snacks.

A trio of tacos al pastor is garnished with cilantro, onion and a pineapple wedge on a plate marked

Al pastor tacos, the gem of the taqueria.

There are three tacos on the menu at Sobre Masa. Two are prepared on a hot plate: the Bistec, a thin cut of short rib which is the abbreviation for “beef steak” in English, and the vegetarian cauliflower, which Wangeman marinates in a chorizo ​​seasoning with adobo and pineapple vinegar. The final taco, al pastor, is cut from a spinning trompo in the restaurant’s kitchen without ever touching the grill, as is customary.

These tacos can also be ordered in a variety of styles, including as a costra, topped with Oaxacan cheese that’s been crispy on the griddle, and an alambre, a cousin of the fajita that’s served with tortillas on the side. . Gringas, a late-night staple similar to quesadilla, are traditionally made with flour tortillas, but Wangeman serves them here on a tortilla made with starchy cacahuazintle corn.

Blue corn tortilla chips and guacamole share a bowl.

Two costra tacos, made with grilled Oaxacan cheese and al pastor.

Alambre's tacos, cousin to the pepper and onion fajita, sit on a plate coated in Oaxacan cheese.

From top to bottom: Guacamole; al pastor costras; and alambre bistec.

The space is anchored by a small but powerful tortilla operation where the corn is nixtamalized, ground, kneaded into masa and pressed into tortillas. Visible from a store window, the “factory” consists of little more than a corn mill and tortilla press, but it is enough to power the taqueria and the handful of restaurants – ABC Cocina, Colonia Verde, and soon -to open Comodo, among others – where its tortillas are currently served.

At the rear of the building, a 43-seat dining room and bar serve as a storage area for its stock of imported corn, which collectively weighs over 10 tonnes. The tortilleria goes through three 55-pound bags of grain a day, according to Wangeman, and stacked on pallets throughout the dining room, there appears to be enough here to last at least one more pandemic. The team ultimately plans to sell coffee, conchas, wrapped tortillas ($ 8 a dozen) and other masa products at a small cafe at the front of the store.

Sobre Masa owner Zack Wangeman sits at a counter with an array of tacos, cocktails and other dishes in front of him.

A sparkling al pastor brooch twirls in a stainless steel cage in an industrial kitchen.

From top to bottom: Sobre Masa owner Zack Wangeman; a twirling trombo from al pastor.

Sobre Masa isn’t the only tortilleria to open during the pandemic – Tortilleria La Malinche in Sunset Park and Tortilleria La Guadalupana in Corona come to mind – but it’s the first to make its tortillas exclusively from imported heirloom corn. The term refers to regional varieties of corn that have been kept and grown separately from genetically modified crops, mostly on small farms in Mexico, according to Wangeman.

By weight, the grains that power Sobre Masa can cost two to five times more than the generic varieties that dominate North American markets, but in recent years, more and more Mexican restaurateurs have chosen to invest in the tradition. . “There is a massive community built around this ingredient,” he says. “It has guided our culture for the past 8,000 years and we wanted to be a part of it. “

A trio of pickled cauliflower tacos rest on blue tortillas on a white plate, surrounded by cocktails and a few Mexican appetizers.

Bar manager Gaston Graffigna turns to common Mexican dishes like ep bottoms and tejuino, a drink made from fermented corn, for Sobre Masa’s cocktail menu.

Nationally, the masa revolution is taking off with the help of companies like Masienda, based in Los Angeles, and Tamoa, in Mexico City, which imports heirloom corn for cooking in the United States. In New York City, upscale restaurants including Cosme and Claro have been using the grains to make their tortillas for years, but only recently have they appeared on the menus of more casual establishments, in most places. cases for less than $ 10.

Sobre Masa Tortilleria, the latest in the masa movement, is open Tuesday to Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight. The coffee part of the company will open its doors in the coming weeks.

A high ceiling restaurant and bar is equipped with a combination of tables and high chairs.  Stacked sacks of corn line its walls.

Sobre Masa Tortilleria opens its doors on October 19.

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