It’s only natural that a dish as ancient as the Aztec empire, chilaquiles—fried tortillas simmered in chile sauce—go through as many permutations throughout the centuries as it has. The dish starts with leftover, stale tortillas, usually from dinner the night before, which are cut into pieces, fried in oil to crisp up, and then sautéed in a spicy, chile-based sauce.
What was once an economical method to use up old tortillas has been built upon and transformed in an American context. We have loaded the simple, stewed tortilla with fried eggs, fistfuls of cheese, grilled meats, and squiggles of crema to create a hangover-obliterating mini-feast that anchors the brunch menus of dozens of New York City’s Mexican restaurants. The loyalties over whose style is superior—from soft as polenta versions to nachos masquerading as breakfast, and from red sauce to green—is a debate that will last much longer than any Senate filibuster.
Start the dispute over a platter of one of NYC’s best—here’s where to find them.