"Why don't you go and buy yourself a Nook?" My mom said, in response to me complaining about how and where to kill 2-hours. Typically, I get out of work at 5pm and, almost every single night, I either have a meeting/event or a dinner that I have to attend. Usually at 7pm. In a part of town that is no where near my apartment. "Come on, Mom," I quipped, "reading is like men; more often than not, you're disappointed. Plus, where would I sit down and read this Nook, anyways? Coffee shops are too loud and distracting."
After one too many of these 2+ hour waiting periods turned in to boredom-induced shopping binges, I decided that I needed a new hobby. And a less expensive one, at that...
It was right around this past fall when my love/obsession for the margarita went in to overdrive. So much so, that I soon declared "searching for the city's best margarita" as my newfound hobby. I also hoped that, since I conducted much of my research solo (not too many of my friends get out of work as early as I do), perhaps I could simultaneously meet a young suitor...or 3!
Months later, after much trial/error and no suitor worth writing home about, I had a venue in nearly every neighborhood that I frequented for, what I had discovered to be, that particular area's best margarita:
- Hells Kitchen/Midtown West/Theater District: Toloache
- Lower East Side: Barrio Chino, Taqueria Lower East Side
- Upper East Side: Toloache 82 they know me here, by name
- West Village: Agave, Diablo Royale
To me, margaritas are like drinkable art: They photograph well and come in a variety of different colors and textures (if you so choose). And how many other beverages can you name that offer sweet, sour, and salty all in one sip?
After work last Friday, I had 2-hours to kill before the Whole Foods Market New Taste of the UWS. Not being particularly fond of or familiar with the Upper West Side, I had no clue where to get my margarita on after trekking across town through Central Park. I mean, surely, the latter would take me almost an hour from Midtown East. Then what? 1-hour down, 1-hour to go. But where to?
And then I remembered Cafe Frida, a relatively authentic Mexican restaurant, conveniently located a block away from my 7pm event...
When I finally arrived at Cafe Frida, it was just about 6pm - a.k.a. prime "happy hour" time. There was not a vacant seat or standing room in the entire bar, but the hostess was kind enough to allow me to sit at a two-top in the front of the dining room.
The cocktail and tequila list was impressive. Ultimately, I chose the "Skinny Paloma Flaca" margarita, which contained 100% Agave Azul Tequila, pink grapfruit and lime juices, agave nectar, and a sea salt rim.
And, yes, the "Skinny Paloma Flaca" margarita was every bit as delicious as it looks, above. It was tangy, had the perfect sweet/savory balance, and went down as smooth as water.
I officially declare Cafe Frida to hold the title of "Best Margaritas on the UWS!
On Saturday at noon, I met three of my fellow New York Mexican Food Lovers at Taqueria y Fonda La Mexicana for our monthly Meetup. Oh, what a coincidence it was to be back on the UWS after having spent an entire evening there the night before!
As Selena sang in the background, a cook prepared a variety of meats and griddled tortillas on the hot flat-top behind the counter. The smells were pleasantly intoxicating, as was the music, which reminded me of my teen years in Texas.
While Taqueria is small (containing approximately 6 tables), its space is warm and comfortable. Casual as it may be, guests are still served by a waiter. Meals here begin with bottomless house-made tostados and a trio of some of the most delicious salsas that I've sampled in NYC, to date.
After introducing ourselves to one another, which was quickly followed by some Mexican food chatter, we perused the menu and ordered individual beverages and entrees.
I began with a glass of horchata, which is my go-to Mexican thirst quencher. I was pleased to find that it was topped with freshly-ground nutmeg and contained the perfect amount of ice - not too much, not too little. The beverage retained its consistency and sweet flavor, from first sip to last.
As I typically do on my first time at any Mexican restaurant, I ordered a plate of cheese enchiladas and a single beef taco. On this particular occasion, I requested that my enchiladas be topped with red mole sauce.
When the plate arrived, I was a bit puzzled by the plethora of Romaine lettuce leaves. Sure, they added color and contrast, but the sheer amount was completely unnecessary. I moved the entire "salad" aside.
The enchiladas, themselves, were tasty, although I found the interior cheese too dense and stringy; it was likely mozzarella. I thoroughly enjoyed the rich, intense, and subtly sweet mole, a sauce which I rarely choose. The beans and the rice, especially, were good.
Shredded beef, finished with a loosely-mixed pico de gallo, was served atop two griddled corn tortillas. While the flavors were spot on - especially when smothered with one of the three salsas - much of the beef was gristly.
So, would I return to Taqueria? Sure, but only if I was in the neighborhood. While affordable and tasty, I did not find it to be destination-worthy.
Until we eat again,
The Lunch Belle