Photo Credits: Francisco Outon
When we learned last month that Flatiron is getting a 6,500 sq foot Mexican food emporium, we were both excited and nervous. The project, helmed by Tacombi owner Dario Wolos and described as a Mexican version of Eataly, sounded ambitious. If they got it right, it could be a major addition to a bourgeoning scene of NYC restaurants elevating authentic Mexican street food. On the other hand, there was also potential for it be an overpriced version of the eats you can get in Sunset Park.
This week, we got a sneak peek of what Cafe El Presidente will have to offer when it opens to the general public next Monday, and we’re happy to report that the Tacombi team’s hard work has paid off. From the painstaking decoration — including details like hand-painted signs, azulejo tiling, and a vintage, Veracruz-style coffee bar — to the deftly executed menu, Cafe El Presidente has got a good thing going.
The giant, warehouse-like space houses a juice bar, a coffee bar (which will serve cocktails at night), a market where you can buy specialty ingredients and products imported from Mexico, an open-kitchen taqueria called Tacos Madison, and a tortillería, churning out both corn and flour variants made of beetroot, calabaza, nopal, and yuca.
A basement floor, to open in July, will house a marisquería and special events space.
With a team of D.F. taco snobs in tow, I sampled extensively from a menu that Wolos told us is still being tweaked. Stand outs included:
- The totopos & guacamole (these are actually the best totopos I’ve ever tried; our table devoured several plates — a testament to the power of crunch and salt);
- The Yucatan-style Montauk fluke ceviche;
- The swiss chard and huitlacoche quesadilla (which came in a freshly-made blue corn tortilla); and
- The tacos al pastor, which is one of the trickiest tacos to get right. The connoisseurs at the table rated it a 5/10 by Mexico standards, but an 8/10 by New York standards. The complicated and subjective algorithm that defines Mexico vs New York standards will have to be addressed in another post.
The informal but carefully curated space will make it the perfect go-to for after work happy hours, weekend brunches, and lunch breaks. Plus, according to Wolos (who politely declined to be photographed but is very tall and dashing — just sayin’), the taquería will host a rotating roster of prominent taqueros, including a cochinita expert from Mérida. So there’s lots to look forward to this summer!
Cafe El Presidente opens Monday at 30 W. 24th St. between Fifth and Sixth avenues.