Here in Prospect Heights, we’re used to rolling out of bed on weekend mornings and heading for the nearest deli for a bagel with schmear. Gueros Brooklyn, a Texas-inspired taco joint on the corner of Prospect and Franklin avenues, is waking Brooklynites up with scrambled eggs and chorizo, wrapped in homemade tortillas and topped with fresh salsa.
Partners Clay Mallow, Wade Hagenbart, and Troy Hagenbart opened Gueros at the beginning of September.
The restaurant isn't just for breakfast. They serve a full menu of creative taco combinations, including fried avocado and jalapeno, and a blackened catfish taco with chipotle mayo. The most expensive taco is $4, which leaves room in your budget for one of their margaritas, made with freshly squeezed juices and 100% agave tequila.
“We try to do a lot of stuff in house. The idea is to do a Texas spin on tacos but with really strong, good ingredients,” said Wade.
This could be the most sustainable taco meat you’ll find anywhere: grass-fed beef, Murray’s chicken, Berkshire pork, and sustainably farmed catfish, delivered fresh from Paisanos Meat Market on Smith Street. The flour tortillas are made in house, and the corn tortillas are delivered fresh daily from Nixtamal in Queens. With cheddar cheese from Cabot Creamery and homemade salsa, this is not your average taco joint.
Gueros is also keeping it green. They compost as much as they can, including their compostable “silverware” (actually made from potatoes). Their used cooking oil is hauled away to be turned into biodiesel, and they are powered through ConEd’s Green Energy program.
While Gueros is new to the neighborhood, Clay and the Hagenbart brothers are not new to the restaurant business.
Wade owns Angry Wade's on Smith Street and, along with Clay, The Dram Shop in Park Slope.
Wade's brother, Troy, is a local artist and the owner of on Grand Avenue, and having spent time in the neighborhood, the three partners (all Brooklynites) noticed it was changing rapidly.
“Just hanging out in the neighborhood, we noticed a big trend of gentrification, moving this way from Vanderbilt, to Washington, and then here,” said Wade.
Gueros wasn’t part of the plan, but when a friend who owns the building asked if they were interested in the space, they thought, why not?
“We were not doing much as it was. The bars were running well and we had a little time on our hands, so we thought it would be an easy thing to open up in a small space,” Wade said.
The taco concept comes from Clay's upbringing in Texas, as does the name of the restaurant.
“‘Guero’ is a slang Mexican term for light-skinned person. Growing up in Texas, many of my Mexican friends and their families called me 'Guero,'" Clay said.
Some of the recipes are traditional, while others are original creations based on “stuff we like to eat, influenced by a lot of taco places in Austin, tacos I grew up eating in Dallas, dozens of trips to Mexico growing up, street food, stuff like that,” said Clay.
The breakfast taco hasn’t really caught on yet in New York.
“I don’t know why! Living in Austin for five years, it was your go-to breakfast, especially if you wanted that kind of greasy hangover food. You couldn’t go wrong: spend six bucks on two tacos with eggs and bacon and potatoes and cheese, fresh salsa on top, flour tortillas. It’s kind of a no-brainer. It’s just so simple, I couldn’t really open a taco place without doing it,” said Clay.
So far the restaurant has been well received, both by people “born and bred” in the neighborhood and by relative newcomers.
“It’s a very mixed crowd,” said Clay.
“The neighbors, they’re skeptical. They want to try it, and they come back. And I think the price is right, too. We serve a reasonable product for a reasonable price and I think people appreciate it,” said Wade.
Gueros aims to have something on the menu for everyone, even those whose mouths aren’t accustomed to spicy foods.
“I try to keep it within reason. Most of these tacos have some sort of salsa on them that I’d prefer not be too spicy for people to eat, so that they can get the real flavors. We have a house salsa that we just put on the tables that’s a habañero salsa. So that was the idea: if you want it really spicy, have at it, but we’re not going to force it on you,” said Clay.
There are also options for kids, including quesadillas, plain ground beef tacos, and Mexican Coke and Abita Root Beer, both sweetened with cane sugar rather than corn syrup.
His biggest surprise?
“Kids love steak tacos! I can’t believe when little kids eat, like, three steak tacos,” said Troy.
Gueros has big hopes for the future. They recently added delivery service, and in the spring they hope to have add outdoor seating, which will double their capacity during the warmer months.
With a location right under the Park Place Shuttle stop, the owners find they're serving a lot of people on their way home from work. And they’re already seeing a lot of familiar faces.
“We see the same person, a lot of the same people, over and over and over again. Some people are embarrassed—they put their head down, grab their taco and walk out. That’s how I am," laughed Wade. "I can go to the same place over and over, so I understand."
Gueros Brooklyn, 605 Prospect Place at Franklin Avenue, (718) 230-4941
Open Mon-Fri 4pm-11pm, Sat 11am-11pm, Sun 11am-10pm