5 hours ago
Friday, March 16, 2012
Yet another hipster restaurant has become the new in spot in my beloved city.
Here we have La Esquina, the Corner Deli, once a dive counter deli in a lonely neighborhood in 1952. When I was younger living in NYC, I wouldn't be caught dead in this place (and my mother wouldn't let me go in there either!).
That dive corner counter place still stands, but is now a trendy taqueria and Mexican restaurant that caters to the late night hipsters that have moved into this cool neighborhood now known as Nolita (North of Little Italy). I am too old for all this change.
First of all, I want to warn you, this place is harder to get into than Harvard.
I swear I tried to call them for a whole week at all times of the day to get that coveted reservation, only to be answered by a nice recorded Spanish accent that says "we are deeply sorry, but we are so busy, please call back at another time". Truthfully, I felt that if this was the way it was going to be, then why do I want to go here?
But I was intrigued, so I kept calling, like an obsessed stalker. By sheer luck, I got thru and got a 6 pm (very early for New Yorkers, but works for me) res for the next evening. I felt like I had won the lottery.
There are 3 dimensions and levels to La Esquina (The Corner), so make sure you are going to the right place.
There is the sort of gross counter (that hasn't changed since 1952) to order the BEST most fabulous tacos and tostadas eaten along side guys wearing wool hats w/ long beards.....then there is the pretty "cafe" with a separate entrance next door, where we stopped in to relax before our reservation and tried some great margheritas and check out the vibe.
The third level is the downstairs sex club atmosphere restaurant (that's the hard to get into spot).
The "cafe" is on a walk-in basis, and very nice and casual. (This is your best option if you want to try the great food instead of trying to score a reservation downstairs, they use the same kitchen).
Now the drama begins.
Our drinks are finished and I am feeling good. We go back to the taqueria to stand in a line (I am getting a bit aggravated at all the effort just to dine here) and a doorman/bouncer takes your name and calls downstairs on a walkie talkie to make sure you are really Brad Pitt & Angelina, like you say you are. (This is a casual Mexican restaurant, not a Beverly Hills private club!). You are ushered thru an ugly NO ADMITTANCE heavy metal door, down the stairs thru the busy kitchen (very cool) and to the excellent bar and gorgeous special place. We are finally here. I am happy.
Then the second hostess escorts you to a nice table w/ cool artwork and interesting lighting, but I am still nervous, I remember I am still in the basement of a 19th century building. Look around for EXIT signs (that's my mother talking).
Everything we tried was delicious and fresh. This reminded me of California Mexican food, no chimichangas or burritos here. Everything is fresh and bright w/ lots of seafood, nothing fried and piled with melted cheese. The ceviche and bistec tacos were amazing. The service was friendly and the cost was down right cheap.
So, if you are visiting the city and feel like trying to get into this hipster tourist spot, then I recommend you start calling them NOW. It was a cool experience (even though it sounds like I am complaining, I am just too old and tired for this much fun).
106 Kenmare St.