106 Kenmare Street between Lafayette and Cleveland Place
about $18 for one, with one drink, without tip
I celebrated my 2005 birthday in the basement of La Esquina. My guests and I had to walk through the door marked with an Employees Only sticker, down the stairs and past the kitchen to get to the dungeon-like setting of the restaurant. I had to reserve a table for thirteen pretty quickly with my credit card because the word had just gotten out about this “secret place.” I ended up throwing my party a day after Vogue Magazine did theirs.
Nowadays, I usually end up in their corner spot, called The Corner, for a quick taco or grilled corn on the cob. Whether it’s hot out or not, The Corner always has pretty people standing outside. But the cafe around the block is a much better place for a sit-down meal. The nopales, or cactus, salad is refreshing with tomato salsa and parmesan shavings. I also like their fish tacos. A chunk of grilled fish comes in a skewer on a bed of lettuce, tomato, onions and radishes with green salsa wrapped in warm tortilla.
My only gripe is that their tacos cost $8 for two. I’d eat more often here if I didn’t have to contribute to their rent, but alas, feeling like you’re a part of the cool crowd of New York City comes at a high price. For a more down-to-earth Mexican experience, check out my Searching for a Good Taco food project, but if you want to be seen and heard, La Esquina is still one of those places.