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Manhattan & NJ (Bergen County) Restaurant Reviews

Ian Hunter's Guide to Manhattan and Bergen County, NJ's Best Restaurants, Bars, and Gourmet Markets

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MEXICAN / LATIN AMERICAN
 

Calle Ocho: New Latin. 45 W. 81st @ Columbus; 23/22/$46; 873-5025;  Energetic atmosphere and strong Latin drinks- especially mojitos; Fun setting, festive; Creative and tasty food. Feels like a vacation; Best time to go: Brunch (Rez needed, 12-3 weekends)- it features a crazy all you can drink Sangria bar with 8 or so varieties; Bright and festival atmosphere; Up front bar and large dining hall in back- large place.  

 

Rosa MexicanaMexican. 61 Columbus @ 62nd;  22/21/$48; 977-7700;  Rosa remains a fun, hip-ish place to take a date and enjoy upscale Mexican; Guacamole made at table is best in the city, sorry Dos Caminos and everywhere else – love their formula; Pomegranate Margaritas top notch and strong;  Well decorated; There is a reason they became a mini-chain.

 

Victor’s Café: Cuban. 236 W 52nd @ B-Way-8th Av; 22/21/$55; 586-7714; Lively Cuban; High energy dining; Delicious Cuban classics & modern takes on traditional dishes; Strong, creative drinks. Certainly a fun vibe; You must have a Mojito or Sangria here; Flexible dining – prix fixe lunch or dinner or a la carte & brunch available; Try the Ropa Vieja – house specialty (steak dish). Large menu.  Perfect pre-theatre. brunch available; Try the Ropa Vieja – house specialty (steak dish). Large menu.  Perfect pre-theatre.

 

ToloacheMexican. 251 W 50th @ B-Way – 8th Av; 25/19/$45; 581-1818; Bold new flavors at this creative new Mexican; Huge tequila selection ( 150+) & potent Margaritas; Décor is murals of Mexican scenes. Duplex scene great for groups; Menu is incredible – large special platters as well as simple taco entrees and quesadillas; Guacamole; Best Mexican in midtown.  Ever improving quality.  Brunch served. 

 

Hell’s Kitchen: Mexican. 679 9th Av @ 46-7th; 23/16/$43; 977-1588; Creative dishes; Walk in only; Small location with Great food; Toxic Margaritas; Sleek interior. One of the first ‘upscale’ Mexicans. Ahi crusted tuna stands out; Guac is outstanding; Menu is very unique and they have a fun cocktail list; Pre-theatre favorite. Almost call in New American with a Mexican twist.

   

Dos Caminos: Mexican. 675 Hudson @ 14th St; 21/21/$48; 699-2400; Great upscale Mexican, though becoming more of a chain; Sexy, young, hip setting in all locations; Energetic scene perfect for dates or larger groups; Margaritas will put you under; Guacamole is tremendous; Steve Hanson empire journeys on. Can be loud and service a bit iffy. Best of the mid-level Mexicans.  Reliable fare & polished service. 

 

Mole: Mexican. 57 Jane @ Hudson; 24/17/$34; 206-7577; Patrons rave the cooking at this mini-chain is as authentic Mexican as it gets; Friendly, speedy service and a huge menu make the experience worthwhile; Fish or crab tacos stand out; Memorable salsa; Giant portions;  Fun atmosphere. Tasty Margaritas; Laid back décor; Fun happy hour;  Table side Guac.

 

Ofrenda: Mexican. 113 7th Av @ Christopher-W 10th; 23/18/$39; 924-2305; Upscale modern Mexican with a happening happy hour from 4-7pm daily with $5 Margaritas and wine/ sangria; Most main courses under $20 with $30 quality; Then bend over backwards to serve you well; These guys get it – Mexican at its best and not overpriced. (as it shouldn’t be).  Guacamole is amazing;  Major brunch/lunch scene.

 
Negril: Jamaican. 70 W 3rd St @ LaGuardia; 21/17/$34; 228-9440; Large Caribbean clientele; Jamaican/ Caribbean food; Reggae Cool; Jerk chicken and shrimp and a solid breakfast. My favorite: Oxtail Stew; To drink – Rum Punch, so good; Jerk it up at this fun alternative; Seafood Creole is amazing; Red Snapper; Curry Goat Stew; Other chicken and lamb dishes. Live Reggae on Wed; Rum lounge to chill in.  Upscale date-friendly scene;  Can get sampling plates – so good. 

 
Cuba: Cuban. 222 Thompson @ Bleecker; 23/20/$39; 420-7878; Mojitos rule the place; Lively, fun; Live music. The salsa and the halibut stand out; Authentic island tastes; Every night a party here. Consider trying one of the Paellas – seafood galore; Under the radar in terms of quality; Certainly a great place to consider for a fun Friday or Saturday night with friends. Large menu. Hand rolled cigars. Brunch served – bottomless.

 

Dos Caminos: Mexican. 475 W B-Way @ Houston; 21/21/$48; 277-4300; Great upscale Mexican, though becoming more of a chain; Sexy, young, hip setting in all locations; Energetic scene perfect for Dates or larger groups; Margaritas will put you under; Guacamole is tremendous; Steve Hanson empire journeys on. Can be loud and service a bit iffy. Best of the mid-level Mexicans.  Reliable fare & polished service. 

 

Sazon: Puerto Rican: 105 Reade @ Church- W B-Way; 22/21/$43; 406-1900; Hip, cool and fun; They serve huge portions of authentic Puerto Rican cuisine; Incredibly friendly service; Try the amazing White Wine Sangria; Gets crowded on weekends – try weekdays; Tilapia and the Paella stand out; More upscale, though not fancy, then others in genre. Same owners as Sofrito. Big menu – all looks great. Bi-level space.  Brunch with unlimited Mimosa, Sangria.  

 
Papatzul: Mexican. 55 Grand @ W-BWay; 21/17/$35; 274-8225; Fusion of ultra gourmet and traditional classics at this rustic, yet lively space; Affordable pricing and super-strong drinks add to the experience. Name means: Mayan for “Food of the Gods”. The classic combo to get here: Fish Tacos and a large Margarita; Also of note – you won’t break the bank here.  Very casual setting.  Not fancy.

 

Tacombi Nolita: Mexican. 267 Elizabeth @ Houston; 24/25/$32; 727-0179; Décor points are for the ‘cool’ factor, not for formality; Like a beach stand in a warehouse; Delicious tacos served from a vintage VW Van;  Other outlets on Bleecker & in Flatiron;  They have a few other menu items but you come here for the tacos and drinks;  Great for a casual dinner before bar hopping. 

 

Barrio Chino: Mexican. 253 Broome @ Orchard; 24/20/$39; 228-6710;  Just incredible food at reasonable prices; Try the enchiladas verdes and be sure to order a margarita or caipirinha; Cantina setting – great bar scene and cool spot to hang;  Lunch and brunch served as well; You can fill up on the salsa and chips – be sure to order Guacamole;  Not a huge place – gets crowded.

 
Macondo: Latin; 157 E Houston @ Allen-Eldridge; 23/19/$41; 473-9900; Spanish/ South American fusion; Small plate format – street food; Has a great bar scene and tasty drinks; Great for dates or a later evening scene; Weekend brunch featuring Bottomless mimosas for $9; Very affordable menu; Try the delicious lamb burger. Good service and setting seal the deal. Ultra casual keep in mind.  Latin Taperia.
 

Yerba Buena: Pan-Latin. 23 Avenue A @ 2nd St; 25/19/$45; 529-2919; Very cool, hip scene; Date friendly and amazing drinks; Havana vibe; Fish tacos and the short ribs are the staples; From owners of Toloach restaurant; Brazilian paella is amazing; Black Cod; Suckling Pig; Peruvian shrimp soup; Overall a very small place with a limited menu; What they serve is excellent and the bar and drinks top notch. Rave reviews.  Sun-Fri 5-7pm Happy Hour – go for cocktails;  Brunch with unlimited cocktails.

 
Black Ant: Mexican. 60 2nd Ave @ 3rd-4th St; 24/22/$50; 598-0300; Unique and innovative cuisine – be ready for surprises; Amazing cocktails; Dark lounge like setting; Super fresh guac made in house; Happy hour 4-7pm with great specials; Dinner only;  Beware – they have fried grasshoppers on menu and Black Ants ground up in some of the salt; Dishes are amazing, however, and nothing like you’ve seen. 
 

Rosa MexicanaMexican. 9 E 18th St @ BWay-5th Av;  22/21/$48; 533-3350; Rosa remains a fun, hip-ish place to take a date and enjoy upscale Mexican; Guacamole made at table is best in the city, sorry Dos Caminos and everywhere else – love their formula; Pomegranate Margaritas top notch and strong;  Well decorated; There is a reason they became a mini-chain.

 

ABC Cocina: Latin. 38 E 19th @ Park-B-Way; 25/24/$60; 677-2233;  Jean George inspired; Funky, hip environment – date friendly; Amazing brunch; Just a great cocktail list and sangria options; Essentially it is a Latin tapas house – order several small plates to try; Large menu as well; Cheese Fondue; Tuna Tartare; King Crab legs;  I love the menu here and it’s in a great location for drinks. 


Dos Caminos: Mexican. 373 Park @ 26-7th; 21/21/$48; 294-1000; Great upscale Mexican, though becoming more of a chain; Sexy, young, hip setting in all locations; Energetic scene perfect for Dates or larger groups; Margaritas will put you under; Guacamole is tremendous; Steve Hanson empire journeys on. Can be loud and service a bit iffy. Best of the mid-level Mexicans. Reliable fare & polished service. 

 

El Parador Café: Mexican. 325 E 34th @ 1-2nd; 23/17/$43; 679-6812; Under the radar; Very good spot; Sangria & superb Margaritas; Thrown-back Mexican cuisine; Absolute winner without tabs of high end Mexican; Friendly staff. $20 3 course price fixe; Seafood paella; Very interesting menu or ‘new-Mexican’ selections; Fish tacos stand out; Even Mexican Baby Back Ribs. Lobster salad. Retro décor; Closed Sun.
 
Zengo: Pan-Latin. 622 3rd Av @ 40th; 23/25/$50; 808-8110; Celebrity chef Richard Sandoval owned; Gorgeous décor – date or celebration worthy; Sophisticated environment; 400+ Tequilas; Handcrafted cocktails; Pricy for the genre; Great 5-7pm happy hour; Dim Sum and small plates; Sushi Rolls; Shortbread sandwiches; Amazing entrees – try Beef short ribs, Crispy Tofu, Mahi Mahi or Glazed Cod.  Weekend bottomless brunch for $42/person – tons of options. 

 

PampanoMexican. 209 E 49th @ 2nd-3rd; 25/23/$59; 751-4545; Famous chef Richard Sandoval; Elegant, Seafood oriented menu; Classy great Mexican; High energy staffers; Tuna steak; Black bass; Two levels; Great for parties and large groups as well; European infused Mexican.  Other Pros: Lobster Tacos, Attentive service, Romantic for a Mexican,  Sandoval does no wrong!  Bottomless brunch for $47/person. Classy date spot or great for larger party. 

 

Dos Caminos: Mexican. 825 3rd Av @ 50th;  21/21/$48; 336-5400; Great upscale Mexican, though becoming more of a chain; Sexy, young, hip setting in all locations; Energetic scene perfect for Dates or larger groups; Margaritas will put you under; Guacamole is tremendous; Steve Hanson empire journeys on. Can be loud and service a bit iffy. Best of the mid-level Mexicans. Reliable fare & polished service. 

 

SofritoPuerto Rican. 400 E 57th @ 1st Av – Sutton; 22/20/39; Party atmosphere;  Sangrias; Mojitos; Authentic food; Fun setting; Huge portions- be ready to share. Can get loud but it’s a party. Probably a great spot for a birthday or party or a larger group; Quality is hit or miss but always at least tasty;  Try a Red Snapper dish.  Sunday Brunch with 1 cocktail;  Seafood stew; Grilled Shrimp;  Skirt Steak.

 

Rosa MexicanaMexican. 1063 1st Av @ 58th;  22/21/$48; 753-7407;  Rosa remains a fun, hip-ish place to tak a date and enjoy upscale Mexican; Guacamole made at table is best in the city, sorry Dos Caminos and everywhere else – love their formula; Pomegranate Margaritas top notch and strong;  Well decorated; There is a reason they became a mini-chain. 

 

Cabana: New Latin/ Cuban. 1022 3rd Av @ 60-61st; 22/18/$36; 980-5678;  Part of a mini chain but the Cuban infused food is scrumptious; Amazing Mojitos; High energy and stylish; You will walk out full. Try the skirt steak with a fresh Mojitos (with actual sugar cane);  They focus on excellent service; Also have a long menu so something for everyone.  Excellent date scene but a cab away from nightlife after.

 

Maya: Mexican. 1191 1st Av @ 64-5; 22/20/$49; 585-1818; Upscale new Mexican; Gourmet food; Superior margaritas; Beautiful, young crowd with a good happy hour scene (5pm-close weekends, 3pm-8pm weekdays , $7 margaritas, wine);  Steak tacos; Seared scallops stand out; 85 tequilas. Guacamole made fresh;  Can get loud so not for romantics but overall a great Mexican experience. Bottomless brunch for $45 – includes unlimited small plates. 

 

Mole: Mexican. 1726 2nd Av @ 90th; 23/17/$34; 289-8226; Patrons rave the cooking at this mini-chain is as authentic Mexican as it gets; Friendly, speedy service and a huge menu make the experience worthwhile; Fish or crab tacos stand out; Memorable salsa; Giant portions;  Fun atmosphere. Tasty Margaritas; Laid back décor; Fun happy hour;  Table side Guac.