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xoxo, 

Lindsay

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Wednesday
Oct122011

This one is for all of my SoCal & Texan readers! Dinner at Florencia 13

*NOTE: This restaurant has since closed.*

  • Restaurant  Florencia 13
  • Cuisine  Mexican
  • Location  185 Sullivan Street (between Bleeker & Houston Streets), Manhattan 
  • Phone  212-677-6830
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  smaller/intimate, dimly lit, casual, bar scene, outdoor dining
  • Attire  casual
  • Ideal for  small groups, 1x1, bar, casual date night
  • Price  affordable

"I think I've met my match," I replied, via email, to Erin, of Gluten Free Fun.  For someone who has lived with Celiac Disease since she was two years old, Mexican food is one cuisine that is relatively seamless for Erin to enjoy.  So, with that very important tidbit (coupled with my undying obsession for the cuisine), we chose 'Florencia 13' as the venue of choice for our upcoming dinner date.

Habitually, I arrived at the restaurant about 15-minutes prior to our meeting time.  I was told that I could sit wherever I pleased, including one of the two al-fresco tables, and that someone would follow me with the cocktail list.  "Thank you," I replied, "I really need a drink."  I grabbed a seat outdoors and, although the restaurant was offering a $5 house margarita, I opted for something larger.  More potent.  It was one of those days, and I figured that a $13 drink wouldn't kill me.  The margarita that I was served immediately proved that I received my money's worth: approximately 12-ounces of premium tequila, freshly squeezed lime juice, Cointreau, and lots of salt. 

After just a couple of sips, Erin arrived.  Due to the mild chill in the October air, we chose to dine indoors and were seated immediately. 

Although Florencia's interior space is on the smaller, more intimate side, the restaurant houses a decent-sized bar, located in the middle of the dining room.  The atmosphere is warm, casual and, strangely, sexy, in the fact that the lighting is dim enough to where you can be on a date, still look hot, and actually evoke a spark.

A basket of warm, salty, handmade tortilla chips and the best salsa this side of El Paso, TX. coated our stomachs between sips of our margaritas and food menu perusal.

The menu at Florencia, just like the name of the restaurant, itself, is very East LA-centric.  Think: dishes named after famous areas/streets, such as Echo Park, Boyle Heights, and Mulholland Drive.  With so many items to choose from, I ultimately decided to order the 'City of Angels,' which is a combination plate that comes with your choice of three items: a hard or soft-shelled taco (with choice of filling), enchilada (with choice of filling), or a chile relleno - plus rice, beans, and guacamole. 

Per the above picture, I will begin with the bowl of refried beans and move clockwise in my descriptions: 

  • Refried beans: while the consistency was near-perfect, I found the flavor of the refritos to be "too vegetarian."  What I mean is that they tasted as if, instead of being 'refried' with some sort of vegetable oil or lard, they were lightly pureed and then thinned with vegetable stock. 
  • Shredded beef hard-shell taco: not since the last time I was home (El Paso, TX.) or in San Diego have I had such an excellent taco.  Sure, I've raved about Arriba Arriba's version, but this one blew it out of the water.  First of all, the house-fried taco shell was not over-fried.  Second, the shredded beef brisket was perfectly moist and not one bit gristly.  And third, the toppings - consisting of iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and finely shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses - were as El Paso/SoCal authentic as you can get.  This, my friends, was the perfect taco.
  • Cheese enchilada with salsa rojo: in terms of flavor, there was nothing wrong with this enchilada.  My issue was that it wasn't served as warm, temperature-wise, as I would have liked, causing the cheese filling to coagulate and the tortilla wrapping to ever-so-slightly harden.
  • Guacamole: fresh, ripe avocado meat was blended with chunks of tomato and dotted with cilantro, among other ingredients. 
  • Spanish rice: moist, chock full of random tomato clumps, dense, and filled with a rich saffron/tomato/cumin flavor, this is the best Spanish rice that I've had in NYC, to date.  I ate the entire 'ice cream scoop' serving.
  • 'Califas' Chile Relleno: this is the first time, in the history of my 7.5 years of living in NYC, that I have ordered a 'chile relleno' and received one made with an Anaheim not a poblano pepper.  Gracias a dios!  The pepper was stuffed with gooey, melted white cheese, encased in a cripsy egg batter, and topped with a creamy tomato sauce, the latter of which I found to be an overkill - maybe even an afterthought.  Upon my return, I will make a note to order my relleno sans crema.  Aside from that, Florencia's chile relleno truly hit the spot.

Conclusion: for the first time, in the history of my 7.5 years of living in NYC, I *finally* feel like I've found myself a 'home' at a restaurant.  I think I realized this when, upon reading the cocktail list, I noticed that one of the margaritas, the Homie-rita, comes with a collectable Homie doll (...a line of cholo/a figurines that I used to collect at home, as they were available in the 25-cent machine at grocery stores.  From Yankee territory, you can purchase Homies online.).  Yep, that basically sealed the deal.  Initially.  And then came that solid margarita, followed by those handmade tortilla chips and that amazing salsa, the beef taco, Spanish rice, chile relleno, and, last but not least, the down home, friendly, laid back service.  What a winner. 

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

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