Magic Taco Corp. review

Magic Taco Corp. in Islip Terrace is housed
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Magic Taco Corp. in Islip Terrace is housed in a funky shack, with three indoor tables for two and a few outside picnic tables.(Credit: Bruce Gilbert)

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Location info

Location: 3321 Sunrise Hwy. Islip Terrace, NY 11752

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Description: This venue is closed. ... More »

Kimchee pancakes meet pupusas. And steamed Asian buns. And, some days, even octopus tacos. No question, Magic Taco Corp. is anything but your average taqueria. And don't even think of it as a Mexican restaurant.

This quirky new Islip Terrace spot is driven by two chefs: Steven Scalesse, the force behind Tulullah's in Bay Shore, and Devin Delgado, who cooked with Scalesse for years. Their brightly painted little shack has three tables inside and six picnic tables outdoors. Forget amenities -- there isn't even a public restroom, let alone proper dinnerware. But if you're equipped with taste buds, you'll be happy to eat their food out of foil tins using plastic utensils.

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Casual though the place may be, it's not a fast-food joint. So order some house-fried nachos with lively lime-accented guacamole (for right away) and prepare to wait.

Here, you'll find that rare kitchen with respect for vegans and vegetarians. So a vegan black bean soup with marinated tofu and pickled red onion goes head-to-head with the house special version, laced with fried pork cracklings. And a nuanced vegan kale salad with cauliflower and almonds can truly compete with the dynamite pork and peanut salad.

You can get your tacos (or steamed buns, or whatever) with or without any of numerous proteins, sometimes including duck. For a savory surprise, try soft corn tortilla tacos with seared marinated tofu and scrambled eggs. One day, a daily special of Portuguese octopus with avocado and potatoes in a tomatillo vinaigrette proves sensational. So, too, do steamed Chinese buns with hoisin barbecue sauce and juicy seared flank steak (carne asada). The same buns, ordered with grilled jerk chicken, while very good, somehow aren't in the same league.

Rice flour kimchee pancakes with pickled vegetables are colorful, piquant -- and gluten-free. Somewhat dry pupusas (griddled corn and cheese masa cakes) are boosted by a topping of pickled vegetables, jalapeño and, as a protein, smoked Berkshire pork belly. But cracker-thin crisp quesadillas with grilled spiced shrimp turn up nearly empty inside.

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For dessert, there are "cinnamon things" -- e.g., fried steamed buns, to be dipped in crema Mexicana, similar to crème fraîche. Better yet are crispy-fluffy banana pancakes, made with gluten-free rice flour, topped with bananas Foster jam. A highly unusual -- and successful -- finale.

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