210 East 3rd Street between Avenue B and C
$158 for 4, with drinks, with tip
One of my favorite things about eating with friends? Sharing food. One of my least? Wasting food. So I was taken aback when I read the footnote on the Cafe Cortadito menu that a fee would be tacked on if main courses are split between guests. I’m not exactly sure as to why they would stop diners from sharing a dish because each one is ample for more than one. It probably made sense when they were still waiting for their liquor license, but now that you can order a pitcher of champagne sangria and a few glasses of red wine, sharing a ropa vieja with a bottle of Cab between friends just makes more sense to me.
Chef Ricardo Arias is Salvadorian, and his wife, Patricia Valencia, is from Ecuador, but you wouldn’t know any of that when you taste the Cuban-inspired food. The meat dishes were delicious; the skirt steak was well-seasoned and I couldn’t stop eating the chimichurri salsa. The oxtail braised in tomatoes and red wine reminded me of a good family meal. I didn’t finish my dish but I ate as much as I can that I had heartburn for the rest of the night. Of course, I could have skipped the maduros, or the sweet plantains, but I couldn’t help myself from ordering something else besides meat. By the end of the night, I was pining for fresh and green vegetables with a shot of whisky to push everything down.
I’m not a big fan of paying a lot of money for Latin food because I grew up in Washington Heights in New York City and was surrounded by very affordable home-cooked meals from the Caribbean and Central America. Besides, most of the Cuban restaurants I’ve tried were not even good enough to warrant a review. Cafe Cortadito changed all that: the food is simply tasty even if I couldn’t share all of it.
Read about my 2003 trip to Cuba