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Revisited: dinner at Cafe Frida

  • Restaurant  Cafe Frida
  • Cuisine  Mexican
  • Location  368 Columbus Avenue (between 77th & 78th Streets), Manhattan
  • Phone  212-712-2929
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  bi-level space, warm, smart casual, Mexican decor
  • Attire  casual
  • Ideal for  small group dining, 1x1, child-friendly, dine at the bar, happy hour
  • Price  moderate
  • Cafe Frida Mexican (Columbus Ave.) on Urbanspoon

It had been years since the last time I had actually *eaten* (not just boozed) at Cafe Frida.  So, when Aneesa suggested that we meet there for dinner last night, I could hardly wait to rekindle my taste buds with, what I recall being, legit Mexican food.

In true Lunch Belle fashion, I arrived at CF (Cafe Frida) ridiculously early.  As in 45-minutes early.  What?  I didn't think Aneesa would be late.  So, I did what I always do everyday after work in this situation, and ponied myself up to the bar...

Sure enough, I was in the midst of 'happy hour.'  But, unfortunately, I'm just too big of a snob to order anything off of that said menu.  Think:  Frozen margaritas made with Rose's Lime Juice and sour mix, and Mexican beer.  And we all know how much I despise beer, no matter what its country of origin.  So, I shelled out $12 per high-quality margarita like a damn sucker.  But, I enjoyed every last sip.  So there.

Before Aneesa arrived, the hostess allowed me to snag a two-top in the restaurant's bright, front dining patio.  And be seated!  Incomplete party, and all. 

When I plopped down in my chair, our would-be server approached.  "Can I have a bowl of chips and salsa, please?"  He informed me that the "salsa" only came as a trio (CF has 9 different salsas to choose from!).  Um, OK.  "So, basically what you're saying is that your 'chips and salsa' is not free?"  To this, he nodded.  Sigh.  "Thanks, but I'll just wait here for my friend."  Sigh, again.  

Twenty minutes and two margaritas later, Aneesa walked through the door.

After greeting and briefly catching up with one another, we began to peruse the menu.  "OK, girl, we need to start with something.  Guac?  Chips and salsas?"  Aneesa chose the latter and, with the help of our server, we narrowed 9 salsas down to 3:

  • Chiltepin (middle, per photo, below):  Roasted tomato, onion, chile chiltepin, orange juice
  • Salsa verde (left, per photo, below):  Roasted tomatillo, chile serrano, garlic, onion, cilantro
  • Guajillo (right, per photo, below):  Roasted tomatillo, guajilla de pulla

Of the trio, my favorite was the 'chiltepin,' hands down.  It was smoky, robust, perfectly seasoned (with salt), and had a mild kick.  The 'guajillo' came in second place, and the bland 'salsa verde' came in last. 

OK, I'm sorry, but $10 for a 'trio of salsa?'  Give me a goddamn break.  We could have ordered guac for $1 more!  Seriously, I feel violated and nauseous just typing this!!

Cheese enchiladas with mole sauce  Three lightly-fried corn tortillas were stuffed with a generous amount of gooey, melted Chihuahua cheese - tightly rolled like a burrito - then finished with just the right amount of smoky, homemade mole sauce (by "right amount," I mean a lot).  Fresh, white onion "rings" crowned the dish. 

Aside from the fact that the mole was a tad bit on the oily side, I LOVED these enchiladas!  It's been as long as I can remember that a restaurant has actually used Chihuahua cheese in their enchiladas and nailed the shit out of their mole sauce.  Seriously, most of the versions that my fellow El Pasoans and I have had in NYC are a repulsive joke.  But CF does it right!

Given the pricey salsa, you can imagine how shocked I was to learn that my meal *actually* came with "a side of your choice."

Caserola de arroz  Just when I thought my meal couldn't get any better, I took my first bite of the 'caserola de arroz' (...for all of you gringos out there, that means "rice casserole").  Bound by, what I believed to be, sour cream and Monterey Jack, the "ice cream scoop" of creamy, white rice was studded with small nibs of onion, corn, and julienned green squash. 

From the potent, perfectly-crafted margaritas to the delicious eats, CF scored a home run!  OK, well, almost.  I found the price of the 'salsa trio' to be absolutely ridiculous and offensive, given its Barbie doll portion size.  And, while I wish that higher quality margaritas were offered on the happy hour menu, at least CF has a happy hour!  Regardless of my complaints, I will definitely return time and again for many more rounds of eats and drinks.  Until then...


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle 

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