La Kueva Rocks On In Queens

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Rock en español with a side of pollo a la brasa anyone? Now you can come for lunch, dinner, drinks, and rock en español to La Kueva (The Cave) – the House of Latin Rock. Previously located on Steinway Street in Astoria, this legendary spot amongst Spanish rockers since 1999 reopened on September 2004 on Queens Blvd. in Sunnyside.

Plastic bats and gargoyles no longer furnish this cave. Now called La Kueva 2.0 – Latin Rock Café, it has revamped its image with white globe light fixtures hanging from the ceiling. It’s a little brighter, with a wide open space for the round tables where people can sit and eat, and of course there’s also room for a stage and small dance floor in the back. The place is a bit sleeker than the grungier, darker, narrower original version of La Kueva. It is also now more easily accessible by train and car, with parking across the street.

“It’s still under construction – there’s still a lot to do, but the bar we made exactly the same – so people still feel at home”, says owner Jesús Giraldo. “Now people can bring their families during the day to eat – their mom, their aunts, uncles…something you couldn’t do in the other one. Now kids 15 years old, or so, can finally come in, when before they couldn’t.”

Posters of Juanes, Shakira, and Maná are just a few of the details on the dark wood paneled walls that help make the customers – most of whom are recent or second generation immigrants from Central and South America – feel at home.

“We wanted to reinvent ourselves, make ourselves more modern, while maintaining the same style of music,” says Giraldo.

Now that the place serves food from the owner’s native Colombia, it’s even more of an attraction for its customers. The Nuevo Latino menu offers specialties such as Plato Cartagena de Indias – camarones, y scallops en una salsa cremosa de ajo y cilantro, servido con arroz y tostones, and Bandeja Viejo Caldascarne asada, chicharron, arroz, frijoles, yuca frita y un huevo frito, just to name a few. All entrées, except for burger and sandwich dishes are served with their exceptional tangy house salad.

“The original idea of La Kueva was to be a pub, but the people like to dance,” says the owner. Other Latin music genres such as bachata, and the newly popular reggaeton, have been attempting to sneak into the cave, but it’s trying to stay exclusive to rock.

“Some of the DJs don’t listen, some think you can only dance to merengue and salsa, but we want to maintain rock – at least 70% rock, and 25% tropical. We want to keep live bands, we still have open mike on Thursday nights, and we’re thinking of starting karaoke on Sundays,” says Giraldo.

The regulars are what made La Kueva, La Kueva. “There are even some that used to come way in the beginning, have gotten divorced, and have now come back,” laughs Giraldo. The same house band, Los Discípulos de Jesús (the Disciples of Jesus) still plays at La Kueva 2.0 when they can get the group together. They usually play every other Friday or Saturday night, alternating.

The lead singer, Zack Valladares, a long-haired native of Ecuador, says “The people that work here – I consider them family- the waitstaff, security guards, the owner…and there are new people that keep on coming. It’s a nice feeling to meet new people…La Kueva is the biggest place for Spanish Rock in N.Y. right now…”

According to the new lease, the place should last at least another 10 years, a big leap from the five years given at the original place.

When some of the patrons were asked how long they thought the new locale would last, “Forever,” and “I hope it will last a long time,” were the common responses.

For more information on upcoming events at La Kueva 2.0, check out their website: