You might walk right by El Portal and miss it, since its entrance is a few steps below ground on Elizabeth- a street known more for its boutique shops than its culinary offerings. Small and cozy, this Mexican restaurant is tucked away from tumultuous SoHo and its roaming tourists. Secluded doesn’t mean tranquil though: it can get loud late at night when loyal patrons (a favorite of mexicanos in the fashion business, among others) get nostalgic and raise their tequila glasses while singing rancheras. An intimate, joyful setting is just one of the many pleasant aspects of El Portal. Servings are generous; come with an empty stomach and try the Tampiqueñas (steak with enchiladas) or the Quesadillas de Queso de Cabra (goat cheese, avocado and jalapeños). Don’t forget to sing along to El Rey with a Sangria (comes in a cool small pitcher that serves as a glass!) or a Watermelon Margarita (all natural!) to complete the feast. Our friend Sandra from Pistolera adds: “I highly recommend their Tamarindo margaritas! Their only drawback is that they’re closed on Sundays.”
Café El Portal is located on 174 Elizabeth St. between Spring and Kenmare Sts. Take the 6 train to Lafayette.