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New MacDougal Street Mexican Joint Seeks to Offer Chipotle Alternative

By Andrea Swalec | January 30, 2013 9:30am

GREENWICH VILLAGE — Step away from the guacamole.

A new hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant in Greenwich Village will reluctantly permit customers to smother the spot's carefully engineered northern Mexican creations with guacamole or cheese — but they'll suggest they don't.

"You're welcome to do that, but I recommend trying it my way," said Dominic Giuliano, executive chef and partner at Choza Taqueria, the 10-seat food counter at 124 MacDougal St. that opens Wednesday.

Giuliano is asking Choza customers to think outside the choose-your-ingredients Chipotle model and trust his judgement in creating menu items like braised pork tacos with citrus and spices, tomatillo salsa and pickled carrots.

Like Chipotle, the food counter that opened its first location on Madison Avenue near East 27th Street two years ago lets customers choose between tacos ($7.35 for three), burritos ($8.04) and bowls ($8.04).

But the similarities end there, said owners Giuliano, 40, and Matthew Wagman, 47.

The menu Giuliano made with inspiration from a lifetime of trips to Mexico includes grilled boneless beef short ribs with pico de gallo and guajillo salsa, and braised chicken with grilled onions and arbol chile salsa.

Each item on Choza's menu features a different salsa that compliments the protein, Wagman said.

"If you give yourself over to the experience, you're going to get a dish that has already been crafted from beginning to end," he said.

The vegetarian options are zucchini, squash and mushrooms paired with avocado salsa and queso fresco, and potatoes and poblano chiles sauteed with lemon and chiles and topped with guajillo salsa.

Wagman said diehard fans of Tex-Mex toppings can add guacamole for $1.15 and cheese or sour cream for 50 cents — if they must.

Choza Taqueria, at 124 MacDougal St. between Bleecker and West Third streets, opens daily at 11 a.m. and closes at 11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.