brisket tacos from original j's photos by carmen troesser

2020 Best New Restaurants // No. 9 Original J's

When Mike and Liz Randolph opened Original J’s last November, diners found many of the flavors Mike first explored at his high-concept, pan-Latin restaurant Publico applied to fit a Tex-Mex-meets-barbecue theme. Meats like his fantastic smoked brisket and the sweet carnitas-style pork are fabulous on their own or as tacos. Fresh flour tortillas are the perfect vehicle for the succulent meats, ensuring minimal loss of delicious juice on the way from plate to mouth.

Brightly hued, house-made sauces and salsas are so good you’ll find yourself scraping every drop with your tortilla (or maybe a finger). In a remarkable feat of flavor mimicry, the smoked tomato jam on the brisket tacos imparts all the smoky sweetness of barbecue sauce without the stickiness. The aji verde salsa that laces the pork tacos combines the flavors of salsa verde with the texture of thinned aioli. Creamy, herbaceous and mildly spicy, it pairs perfectly with the luscious pork.

chef and chicken master andrew enrique cisneros works on his brasas de pollo, a peruvian rotisserie-style chicken // photos by carmen troesser

Randolph’s leadership style is collaborative; he sees the best chefs have to offer and lets their work shine. After a pop-up in the fall spearheaded by Andrew Enrique Cisneros, Randolph’s former chef de cuisine at the shuttered Privado, featuring brasas de pollo (a Peruvian rotisserie-style chicken) was a smash success, Randolph made it a permanent menu fixture. The chicken, which is brined and marinated for hours before being roasted whole, is extraordinarily moist and encased in crispy, juicy skin. The steak fries it’s served with are truly superlative – oversized but not massive, they perfectly blend the crispiness of a standard fry with the steak fry’s boosted potato flavor and cushy bite.

With frozen margaritas and desserts like flan and sopapillas on the horizon as well, it’s clear that Original J’s menu is constantly evolving, whether because they’re adapting or just experimenting. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next.