Mexican street corn at Ama Cocina

Ama Cocina street corn

By Deanna Fox

In our college days, my then-roommate Lyndsay and I had exactly two things in common: Our mutual love of certain bands, and our penchant for margaritas. Jose Cuervo (when you are a poor liberal arts student, it's the "fancy tequila"), a jug of neon-green sour mix, and a $15 Target blender were on standby to whip up a frothy, icy, puckery-sweet libation.

Those margaritas were about as authentic to Mexico as our palates would get, but this year we both turn 30. We're more worldly now, with more sophisticated tastes, and the cash to spend on food that doesn't make our mothers hang their heads in shame.

To celebrate Lyndsay's recent milestone birthday, I suggested trying our hand at Mexican once more, but this time at Ama Cocina, just off North Pearl Street in Albany, a neighborhood that peppered our college years in questionable ways. If all else failed, at least the tequila would be better, right?

Right.

House margaritas ($8 each), made with fresh orange and lime juices and housemade simple syrup, were the perfect sips to start off a new decade. The drink was smooth, with the subtle bite of tequila, and went down easy. The bitter preserved lime used to make our order of signature guacamole ($9) balanced out the sweetness of the margaritas.

Ama Cocina guacamole
Guacamole

But for as good as the cocktails were, they couldn't outshine the Mexican street corn. Ama Cocina follows the theme of "elevated Mexican street food," and that's exactly what we got with a $5 ear of the street corn. (A $12 order is listed as "for the table," but one person could easily make a meal from the corn alone.)

Steamed until just-tender and somehow tasting sun-kissed even in the middle of winter, the corn is slathered in lime aioli, a mayonnaise-like condiment tinged with the pungency of lime, and cotijaa, a fresh, crumbled cheese akin to Greek feta. Housemade "chili dust" speckles the ear of corn and spikes the heat quotient, cutting the creaminess of the cheese and aioli. Even though the corn is impossible to see under the cloak of cheese et. al., the vegetal flavors of the corn still shine through.

In Mexico, one would eat street corn hunched over and gripping the built-in stalk handle. At Ama Cocina, the order of corn comes nestled in a cast iron casserole skillet. Unless you'd like to spend the rest of dinner picking corn kernels out of your canines, do as I did, and cut the corn away from the cob.

ama Cocina fish tacos
Fish tacos

We ordered plenty of other food, too: Avocado fries ($7), which were tasty but didn't rival those other avocado fries of local fame; el pescado tacos ($7 for two) with seared fish, beer-battered rings of jalapeno, and pineapple butter; and ceviche, with was fresh and vibrant with more hits of pineapple and diced avocado.

There are certain things from our college days Lyndsay and I won't give up anytime soon, like crowding the stage at a Sam Roberts or Of Montreal concert. But the days of gummy-flavored margaritas and Mexican food to match are happily left as relics of a past life. That's easy to do when options like Ama Cocina are around, and perhaps we'll be able to look back on our thirties with a more respectable nostalgia -- at least in the gastronomic sense -- than we look back at 20 now.

Deanna Fox writes about many things, mostly about food. More can be found on her website, Twitter, or Instagram.

More Eat This:
+ Egg in the Bread at The Breakfast Spot
+ Pancake breakfast at The Sap House at Stone House Farm
+ The Antipasto Salad at Bellini's Counter
+ Pickle-brined chicken sandwich at 677 Prime

Find It

Ama Cocina
4 Sheridan Avenue
Albany, NY 12207

Comments

I always look forward to grilled summer corn slathered in sour cream, chili powder a sprinkle of cotija and a spritz of lime. Now you say I can have this any day of the week?! Dios mío chica!

I ventured here with a large group on a Friday night recently. Our experience was so incredibly poor, I'm not even sure where to start. I had wanted to try this place for a while, but the food was extremely underwhelming, and the price to food ratio disappointing. I won't even start in on the service and the inability of the staff to handle splitting checks. The bland avocado fries and tiny portions of tacos will ensure none of the group return. Even the margaritas (which a friend and I shared a pitcher of) were just not up to par with what I've had elsewhere. For a truly outstanding margarita and substantial Mexican food, I would recommend sticking to El Mariachi.

I don't think you were poor in college if you were drinking Jose Cuervo margaritas on a regular basis.

If this corn dish is good now, in March, can you imagine how much better it will be in August, when corn is at its peak?

Though maybe the point of Mexican street corn originally was to hide poor quality corn under lots of cheese and seasonings. I don't know.

I also just found this place and I LOVE it. The scallop tacos and mango margaritas are amazing. I dig the wild mushroom empanada as well.

Wow. The comments on the Eat This! articles continue to ruin my day. Thanks, Albany.

Wow, such diverse comments.

@Jamie -- yes! Go try it now.

@Steve N -- That's a great point. It might be one of those "utility dishes" that really took hold.

@Dave -- Well, I also worked three jobs while putting myself through school. Paying tuition, making rent, eating as cheap as possible... it's okay to splurge on one item from time to time if needed. And I wasn't boozing it up every weekend, either.

@Kriskaten -- I'm so sorry to hear that. I had the very opposite experience, though I do agree with you on the avocado fries. I think the food at Ama Cocina and El Mariachi are different enough to have different Mexican experiences as both, though.

I hate this new fad of serving food on surgical trays. Unless the tray is pre-warmed, it just sucks any heat that the food had right out of it, the second taco is sure to be cold by the time it's to be eaten.

@Steve N, Hello. The mayo, cheese and seasoning is added for flavor like mustard and other fixings are added to a hot dog here.

Try grilling corn at home this August. Place the corn directly over a hot fire, turning occasionally, until brown and cooked through, about 10 minutes total. You can substitute feta if you can't find cojita.


I love this place! While the tacos portions aren't overwhelmingly large, the flavors are outstanding and totally justify the price. Plus, the margarita pie is out of this world.

"In Mexico, one would eat street corn hunched over and gripping the built-in stalk handle. At Ama Cocina, the order of corn comes nestled in a cast iron casserole skillet. Unless you'd like to spend the rest of dinner picking corn kernels out of your canines, do as I did, and cut the corn away from the cob."

The street corn I've had in Mexico city was always cut from the cob and placed in a cup. Ama Cocina even has a part of their menu called 'Street Cups'! The corn is listed next to these on the menu, but inexplicably comes on the cob. Come on, Ama, move the corn to a cup and let us dine with cleaner hands and teeth! :)

Oof. The street corn at Ama was even worse than the tacos I ordered, and it's hard to make street corn bad. I wasn't expecting anything comparable to the fresh cups I've tasted in Mexico, but even Cantina in Saratoga knows you can't skimp on the crema, garlic and mayo. I want to love this place, and I want something unique and permanent in that space, but they need to step their game up.

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