CASCABEL TAQUERIA (UES) | 1538 2nd Ave. (corner of. 80th St.) | 212.717.8226 | www.nyctacos.com | | | |
SOME OF MY FAVORITE RESTAURANTS are so good that they never need a reason to get me to become a regular and frequent patron. What also inspires a "revisit" is an all-you-can-drink special, and this past Sunday, my local fave Mexican, Cascabel Taqueria started offering "Bottomless Brunch Cocktail" service with brunch, and my sometimes PHUDE commingler, Danny, and his apprentice photographer son, Mike, decided to join me for this libationary inauguration.
Neither Danny nor son have ever had the food here. For some reason they had thus far been stubborn to my recommendation thus far, but I knew they offer of bottomless cocktails would make a new offer irresistible. Unbeknownst to them, they were in for an even greater culinary treat.
But first, they had to get situated and comfortable, inside the restaurant, this day this time, due to all the outdoor tables being already taken by eager and hungry customers. Cascabel's interior is still the comfy, roomy, and vibrantly referential to the culture of Mexican wrestling.
One of the better weathered afternoons of the whole summer, yet still warm, the three of us couldn't wait to dive into some drinks. Both Danny and Mike order the anything-but-conventional Bloody Mary (house mixologist Scott's version contained fresh cilantro and other unique flavors but still heartily spicy) while I ordered tall drink of pretty called a La Lola, which contained cava (light Spanish wine), grapefruit juice, and aperol (an Campari-like Italian apertif).
My La Lola was fruity, bright, and crisp, cut nicely by the tart of the grapefruit juice and the ever-so-slight bitterness of the aperol. Both Danny and Mike enjoyed the depth of flavor and front- and back-of-tongue heat of their Bloody Marys. All drinks went down so happily and quickly that we were on our second round by the time we were ready to order actual food.
Having already enjoyed a great many meals from Cascabel, I have only had brunch once, enjoying a beautiful meal of Al Horno Con Chorizo. Even more psyched, then, was I to try some new (for me) items, as well as get feedback from my two dining partners. Danny zeroed in on the Mexican french toast (with bananas, bacon, ancho chili maple syrup(, Mike decided on the huevos reveultos en salsa verde (scrambled eggs, pico de gallo, salsa verde, queso fresco, tortillas, plus chorizo), and I looked forward to devouring the masa pancakes y huevos (with sunny-side up egg, whipped epozote goat cheese, bacon, agave syrup).
The food showed up hot and quickly at what I remember to be the beginning of our third round.
Danny cleaned his silver tray, greatly impressed with his light and flavorful French toast, as well as the perfectly crispy bacon, the fresh bananas, and a syrup with an unconventional "kick". Mike, carefully taking photos as I was, got to eventually enjoy his homey scrambled eggs, with the spicy chorizo, fresh piquant sauces, and balanced queso fresco, all layered into warmly toasted tortillas and making tasty hand-fed bites.
My masa pancakes were a complete and all-around success as well. The masa in the pancakes brought me nostalgically back to the cornmeal "Johnny cakes" I enjoyed in my youth when in the South. And as a sunny-side up egg with a silky, warm, runny yolk easily makes any dish better, the whipped, herbed goat cheese added a light layer of richness with no added heaviness, and the agave syrup provided a hint of "florality" with its plant-based properties, while that same crispy, salty, bacon provided harmonious contrasts in both taste and texture.
Although both my brunch partners completely finished their dishes, I couldn't let them end the meal without trying their first Cascabel tacos. They protested they were happily full, but I insisted, and ordered one order of the pollo chicken tacos, with slow-roasted Amish chicken, avocado, green onions, and chicken chicharron (fried chicken skin).
Flavorful, nicely-seasoned, juicy strips of chicken are kicked up by bright green onions, enriched by smooth avocado, and made just plain fun with the addition of the half-handful of crispy chicken bits. Another hit with my friends, the new Cascabel patrons, though they only had room left for half a taco each (yes, leaving two halves for me!). And as we wrapped up with our last round—Danny had switched to the La Lola as I had switched to their excellent and bold sangria—Danny and Mike wondered how they hadn't made Cascabel a regular stop...until now, that is.
We already have a standing reunion set for next Sunday. Just maybe next time we'll get to do some great people watching from one of the outside tables.
Bun Apple Tea!