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ITHACA, NY — Beginning February 2, Bickering Twins will serve tacos three days a week: Tuesdays out of Lincoln St. Diner, and now Thursdays and Saturdays at The Loft in Collegetown.
Cooking out of the Carriage House Cafe’s kitchen downstairs, Corey and Kevin Adelman will do a la carte tacos and appetizers rather than full platters in the cocktail lounge from 6 – 11 p.m.
“Since it is a more upscale spot, there’s more room to play around,” Kevin said.
The staples will be there: lamb barbacoa, Yucatan-style baked chicken, garlic shrimp, and a delicata squash, jalapeno, red pepper vegan taco topped with fried pumpkin seeds. So will the house-made corn tortillas accompanied by red and green salsa, and fresh pickled onions and jalapeno.
Fish taco on hand-pressed corn tortilla topped with all the good stuff: homemade pickled onions and jalapeños, cilantro, and chopped radishes. Try A new taco of the week every Tuesday @ The Lincoln St. Diner (309 E. Lincoln St. Ithaca, NY) from 5-8pm
A photo posted by Corey Adelman (@bickeringtwins_catering) on
But the brothers may expand their weekly rotating taco comida tipica offerings to include the likes of red snapper, or maybe even octopus tacos.
Now, the twins are riding a wave of creativity spawned by their January trip to Mexico, where they ate their way through the regional cuisines of Mexico City, Puebla, and Oaxaca.
The Adelmans found themselves particularly inspired by both the showmanship and subtle flavors of food stalls.
Part of the learning experience, Kevin said, was that they could play with flavors that were a little more humble or modest.
“The food is not as in your face as American food. They don’t go crazy with salt. They aren’t trying to create a flavor explosion,” Corey said. “It’s more like, taste the delicate herbs, taste them for what they are. It was a totally unique eating experience.”
But at the same time they were enamored with the sensory aspects of the street food culture, something they hope to bring to future endeavors: al pastor spinning on a spit, sliced in front of you, hand-pressed tortillas while you wait, taking a seat next to a steaming pot of posole.
“We were really interested in stuff that wasn’t made by restaurants,” said Corey. “We had a Lonely Planet book and that got us started, but we would eat on our way to eat. If we were on our way to a food stall we’d heard about, we would stop on another food stall on our way.”
In Mexico City, they bellied up on familiar chalupas, gorditas, sopas, tamales, and of course, tacos.
Puebla brought them to squash blossom quesadillas, classic mole poblano and pipian verde and cemitas, a specialty sandwich on sesame rolls.
In Oaxaca, they took a cooking class, and in the streets they sampled tlayudas, a kind of a Mexican pizza griddled until crispy, tasajo, thinly-sliced roasted beef, and memelitas, a riff on a masa taco folded over with quesillo, Oaxacan ‘string’ cheese like mozzarella.
“Part of going here was confirmation that we’re doing things correctly,” Corey said. “It really is different when you see it with your own eyes and taste it. Everything you’re reading and learning about, it brings it all home.”
It was time to make it grow, Kevin said.
“We’ve been saying that for a long time but we didn’t know what that was going to look like,” Corey agreed.
Starting out their business initially as caterers, the Adelmans have quickly but steadily found their footing in the Ithaca food scene.
“The first taco Tuesday was not necessarily going to be a weekly thing. Because it went well we decided to do it every week, and because that went well, this seems like the natural progression,” Corey said.
The twins have previously held pop-up dinners at The Carriage House, and have been turning Lincoln St. Diner into a taqueria once a week since late August.
It was that sense of momentum that led Kevin to leave his job at Gola Osteria recently; both brothers are committing themselves full-time to make Bickering Twins work.
It may sound cheesy, Corey conceded, but initially running the business solo made him feel like “half a person,” because they’ve learned to work as a unit.
“I was making it happen, but now that he is involved (full-time), it’s like the missing link,” he said.
“People will come in and ask, ‘Why aren’t you bickering? I thought that was part of the deal.’”
While the ultimate goal is still a standalone restaurant, the two have been happy to answer the door when opportunity knocks. They still hope to do more pop-up Latin American dinners, but the catering side of their business has also been picking up, with frequent taco lunch orders and even a New Year’s Eve party under their belts.
Now, the twins are spending two to three times as much time together as we were,
“and that could have been a disaster,” Corey admitted.
“I think we both like what we’re doing, we’re happy and excited. And we know what we want to do, we’re working towards a common goal.”