Billed as a “Mexican Eataly,” Cafe El Presidente has been packed since day one. After opening La Brisa in Montauk last summer, the team behind NoLita hotspot Tacombi shifted its sights back to Manhattan with this new Flatiron outpost. Though the new location falls short with the Mexican market concept, the standout food and refreshing cocktails make it an ideal spot for summer.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Cafe El Presidente stands out for the coffee and juice bar that takes center stage just left of the entrance. After serving coffee and pastries in the morning, the juice bar transitions into lunch and dinner mode, where it serves as the foundation for a surprisingly inventive cocktail program. Bartenders prepare light, summery cocktails that range from classic margaritas to a refreshingly simple and not too sweet “spiked sandia,” made with only tequila and fresh watermelon juice.
Unlike many Mexican restaurants, the Tacombi restaurants stay true to their roots with taco and appetizer based menus. Cafe El Presidente is no different. That being said, this is a restaurant where it is best to order a range of dishes to share. A large group is almost a necessity, as the menu is full of winners and it is tempting to order at least one of every item.
After beginning with an order of the guacamole, move on to the ceviche or signature esquites – grilled corn served in a cup with cotija cheese and chipotle mayo – or go straight for the tacos. Served four to an order, the “Tacos del Presidente” can function as an entree, but are much better for sharing. Garnished with thinly sliced pineapple, onions and cilantro, the El Pastor De Madison has everything that one could want in a taco: thinly sliced pork with a hint of smoke, sweetness from the pineapple and a refreshing tanginess from onion and cilantro. As for the “Tacos Especiales,” the Sonoran Shrimp is an outstanding rendition of the classic shrimp taco. Seared fresh shrimp are topped with a homemade garlic mojo and served on substantial flour tortillas that have a slight chewiness. In the absence of dietary restrictions, at least one of these stellar tacos should be required at every table.
Despite waits that rival those at the nearby Shake Shack, Cafe El Presidente lives up to hype on the power of its food alone. Add in the refreshing cocktails and a fun, relaxed setting and you have a spot that provides a much needed refuge from the heat and mayhem of summer in New York.
Location: 30 W 24th St (bet 5th and Ave of the Americas)
Hours of Operation: Daily 11am to 1am