La Esquina is hands down one of the most exclusive restaurants in New York. Which is why they have three sections: the Taqueria, the Brasserie and the Cafe. After being turned town as a walk in at the Brasserie (at 6 PM no less), I headed over to the Cafe. The cafe is a smaller option to the Brasserie and a sit down option to the Taqueria. Unfortunetly the Brasserie and the Cafe do not share the same menu nor do they share the same kitchen (yes there will be an update when I go to the Brasserie). The Cafe is by walk ins only and can be difficult to get a table since it is so small. The menu isn’t too big but contains enough to keep one interested. Of course you have your tacos, enchaladas and quesadillas. The Spanish fare served up here kind of has an American twist on things. The Carne Enchilada contains sliced pineapple and the guacamole served with each entree isn’t exactly guacamole but rather a watered town avocado based spicy sauce (La Esquina calls it “Salsa Verde), but it tastes good none the less! Patrons expecting Tex-Mex will be disappointed as you won’t find chicken quesadillas here but rather Quesadilla De Huitlacoche. The tacos are pretty good if not original and “unexpected”. The Carne Enchilada contained pork which was seasoned well, pineapple slices, and salsa verde. Portions seem small but are challenging to finish once the half way point of your meal is reached. The menu isn’t expensive, two tacos are $10 and most main courses are $14-$18. Of course you go to La Esquina for the Brasserie (or the Spanish Dungeon Taco Stand as I like to call it), but for lunch or simply when you can’t get in to the Brasserie, the Cafe at La Esquina is a good option!
Brasserie: Last nigh I returned to that exclusive, oh-so secretive Mexican dungeon brasserie La Esquina owned by Serge Becker. After falling victim to La Esquina’s door policy once before as a walk in, I had greater success this time with a party of 2 on a Sunday at 6 PM. Behind the door labeled “No Admittance, Employees Only”, down the stairs and through the kitchen lies a swank yet casual brasserie/speak-easy with religious mosaics and brass prison like bars. The atmosphere on that Sunday was very low-key, mostly families and friends were there but on Thursdays-Saturdays I can see La Esquina almost doubling as a nightclub especially since it has its own DJ stand and turntables. The service is very nice and down to earth and so is the Mexican fare it serves. The cooking is a modern twist on traditional Mexican food ranging from taquitos to rotisserie chickens. The Tinga de Pollo tostados were very flavorful if not a bit spicy. The La Esquina Mole Negro (half a chicken with rice and sauteed beans) was generously portioned and very tasty. The mole sauce went well with everything from the chicken to the rice and the sauteed green beans were excellent. La Esquina works well both as a lounge, bar and restaurant which is something quite rare in Manhattan (STK is a prime example that works perfectly as a lounge but not as a restaurant). The food is great and not expensive at all, though getting in will be a big problem for most patrons as getting reservations are almost as difficult as getting a reservation to the Minetta Tavern!