Confession: I’ve lived in NYC for nearly five years, but before last weekend I had never been to the Bronx. As in, not once. Not that I have anything against the borough, it’s just that when you live, work and (mostly) hang out in Brooklyn, getting to 237th street can feel like a transatlantic trip.
But that is precisely the journey I made last Sunday, all in the name of the only thing that can persuade me to ride the subway for an hour and a half: food. Tin Marin, a Spanish meets Caribbean tapas spot that is just a year old, sent us an invitation to check out “the only restaurant in Riverdale where diverse crowds dine to the beats of Soda Stereo, Bomba Stereo, Natalia Lafourcade, Jorge Drexler, Joe Arroyo, and Ruben Blades, among others.” I was intrigued. So with my uptown spirit guides Joel Moya and Danny Baez in tow, I trekked approximately 400,000 blocks north to see what Tin Marin was all about.
With its exposed brick walls, an extensive backlit bar emitting a warm glow, and the somewhat cavernous feel of the space, this restaurant feels best suited for a romantic dinner date. But that didn’t stop a busy crowd of families from streaming in late Sunday afternoon for brunch and sangrias (Tin Marin offers a range of flavors: mango, guava, papaya, passionfruit, and strawberry).
A quick scan of the menu revealed many of the usual dishes you see at Spanish tapas restaurants – croquetas, gambas al ajillo, jamon serrano, aceitunas – which were by and large competently executed, with only a few misses. (The shrimp in the gambas al ajillo, for example, came swimming in a goopy sauce reminiscent of Papa John’s Pizza garlic dipping sauce).
Where the menu really shines, however, is in the Caribbean fusion dishes created by Tin Marin’s Dominican proprietors. The Maduro y Jaiva, a pile of sweet plantains smothered in fresh crab meat, mozzarella cheese, and a garlicky green aioli, was a perfect blend of sweet and savory. It was so good we ordered it twice, and I ate most of both dishes. We washed everything down with a series of sangria flavors (first passionfruit, followed by guava), which were refreshing, not too sweet, and packed a sneaky punch that had my head swimming by the time we made it down to Apt 78 for Que lo Que. Although, to be fair, I am a known lightweight…just look at that wine glow Joel and I had going by the end:
On weekends, Tin Marin brings in a range of live music. Until recently, it has been mostly flamenco musicians or pop rock cover bands, but General Manager Felix Abarca has bigger ambitions for fostering the Riverdale music scene. He hopes to bring in more latin alternative performers, and expose Riverdale’s largely white, affluent community to the thriving latin underground scene. This Sunday the restaurant will host Alvaros, and Sunday, May 25th Dulces Pesadillas will be performing.
To keep abreast of the music lineups, and food & happy hour specials offered by Tin Marin, check out their facebook page here, and if you find yourself uptown, stop by to whet your whistle in good company.