After hearing about a new taqueria opening on the Upper West Side, Cascabel Taqueria, from @MyUpperWest earlier in the week, the Mrs. and I stuck it on the calendar for a weekend brunch date. Here's how I saw it...
A few things before I get started, that may or may not be related:
The only thing we knew about Cascabel Taqueria was a post from MyUpperWest
We know good Mexican food (stops in San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Jose, San Francisco, Santa Rosa)
We did not make reservations (I don't know if they are needed)
I was mugged earlier in the day in Central Park by a pack of dogs (my belief in the goodness of mankind was taken from me - this will come in to play later)
Now, on with the show...
Good, good, good. Really good. I like everything about it. The outside appearance is heavy with soft green and blue colors, and there is a lot of space for outside seating. The front windows open up to make it seem like a really big place. The flowers are a nice touch. The location is really easy to find - on the North South West corner of Broadway at 108th. There's a nice-sized, square sign above the restaurant, which makes it visible when you come out of the subway.
The inside is very cozy and open (see front windows, above). As you walk in, the bar is straight ahead, with the main dining area to the left. The bar is inviting and while the dining tables are a little close together, it adds a bit of liveliness to the place. (So close are the tables, that we were able to live through an awkward conversation with our table neighbors.) The place is clean. As in, we've-just-opened-so-there's-no-excuse-to-be-anything-but-clean clean. A big TV over the bar was showing the Women's World Cup (USA v. Colombia). Lots of different types of seating - ie, tables for two, tables for four, bar stool tables, outside seating, etc.
The Mexican wrestling masks reminded me of El Carmen in Los Angeles.
I can see this place being really busy, and really fun. I can also picture myself sitting at the bar watching the Copa America tournament. Me likey.
The menu had a lot of interesting things on it. As someone who does not eat red meat, I was excited to see all the pork, chicken, and veggie listings.
I went with the Chorizo Tacos (2): The tacos were good. The chorizo was cooked well - a little crunchy and really tasty. There were too many onions for my liking (I do like onions) and the paprika made the taste of chorizo really stand out.
I added the Tomatillo sauce to one taco and the Roasted Tomatillo sauce to the other. I liked them both - they both added a distinct flavor to the tacos.
While it seemed like a lot of chorizo, I wasn't stuffed after finishing them and I didn't feel like I needed anything else. I would definitely order the tacos again.
The Mrs. ordered the Sopa de Tortilla, and it was really tasty. Lots of flavor and wasn't skimpy on any of the ingredients. It was on the spicy side - good for me but a little too spicy for her. We didn't know what to do with the giant dried pepper but we ended up taking the soup home with us and heating it up later. We split up the pepper and dropped some of the seedlings into the soup and it gave kind of a sweet flavor to it, and offset the spiciness.
I didn't order this, but I would. I think the Mrs. will likely try something a little less spicy (maybe even ask if the spice knob can be turned down a bit on the soup).
I ordered the Brooklyn-based Kelso beer. Yes, I should have gone with a Mexican beer but the only one I saw on the board was Negra Modelo (and I'm just not that into you). The Kelso was great - refreshing and really, really smooth. I hadn't tried this before and am super glad I did.
The Mrs. had a virgin pomegranate margarita. Really good as well.
The plates are trays, which is kinda cool. The water pitcher is cute and the margarita comes in an old style glass jar / mug. All rustic-feeling.
There is a cup of an overwhelming amount of silverware on the table. This bothered me for some reason. I mean, it's a table for two and space is a premium. Why not just put two spoons / forks / knives out and if we need more, we'll ask.
That's me being picky. The presentation was great.
Ok, here comes the "painful"* part. The service was choppy, at best. It's a new restaurant, yes, so you give them the benefit of the doubt. But I found out later they do have another spot on the Upper East Side, so maybe they should know better.
And know how I know they have an UES location? There is nothing on the menu or the website (as of Sunday @ 12:00PM) or the receipt (!!) that mentions their new UWS location. Odd, me thinks.
(By the way, this is where the dog mugging / faith in mankind may come into play.)
My tacos came out immediately. Lightning fast. Before our drinks even arrived on the table. After about five minutes of waiting, we had to ask about the Mrs.' order. I don't think it was sent to the kitchen.
There was no explanation of the soup's gigantic pepper (we heard another table asking about this, too).
There was no offer to explain what drinks were available, or at the very least, where we could find a list of available drinks. I got up and walked over to the bar to look at the tap handles to see what was offered. Later I saw the drink menu was up on a blackboard behind us (above the mirror in the picture above).
Our table neighbors asked three times for sauce (I'm not sure they ever got it) and one of their orders came out wrong. Another lady sent back her food, although I'm not sure why (sounded like some sort of confusion).
As the Mrs. said: "There are way too many people working here, and they don't know what their role is". Lots of staff focused on the place, not on making patrons feel welcome.
Hey, it's a new place, and there are going to be hiccups. I just thought you could have a little fun with it: "Welcome to our new home. I'd like to emphasize the word 'new'".
The prices were fine. If there was one thing to gripe about, it was the full charge for a margarita when it was a virgin. I'm pretty sure booze isn't free.
Here's our bill (I swear we ate on the UWS, even though the receipt shows the UES address):
Overall, it was good. We will definitely go back - the hiccups were easily explained by the not-even-open-for-24-hours-yet paradigm.
Cascabel Taqueria 2799 Broadway (@108th) New York, NY 10025 www.nyctacos.com