Friday, October 3, 2008


It is a good thing that Macondo did not exist during the days of the original Martignetti Liquors. The Latin American street food served within this restaurant or at the easily accessible bar window out front could have gotten myself and many others into some serious late-night trouble! Not only is Macondo located directly next to the infamous former outpost, but the food really is delicious and reasonably priced.

At three months old, Macondo has an eclectic setting, providing many options for diners. The front
part of the restaurant offers an open window with a counter and several stools - a great choice if you are in the mood for a quick bite and a drink. The bar wraps around into the restaurant where the outdoor diners will soon flock as the cold air has officially set in. The long cafeteria-style tables in the middle of the restaurant make this is a great place to come with a group. And, yet in the back, there is the option of smaller tables - still very casual. While the overall attitude is very relaxed, the setting and decor actually create a trendier vibe. This provides a nice balance if you can't quite decide what you are in the mood for - the overall experience will, no doubt, end up deciding for you.

Since last week's visit was a celebratory evening, I decided to start off the meal with their signat
ure cocktail which also happened to be the oddest drink on the menu. The Aguacate cocktail is made up of a combination of honey, agave nectar, midori, cointreau, lime juice,tequila, AND avocado! And while I do not normally order frozen drinks, I did not regret my decision - the list of ingredients alone was unbelievable. The avocado added just enough flavor to separate this cocktail from a typical margarita. Sipping our exotic cocktails, we intensely studied the varied menu which is broken out into several sections - salads, small plates to share, ceviches, empanadas, arepas, tacos, cocas (flatbreads), boquadillos (sandwiches), rellenos (mini croquettes), and sides - phew! We decided it was best to cover all grounds - nearly hitting up each and every category.

I really appreciated that everything was brought out as it was ready - providing a constant flow of delicious food. At the same time, I was impressed with how different, in both presentation and taste, each dish was from the next. As first-timers, we surprised ourselves with an almost flawless order - polishing off nearly every item on the table. The absolute winner of the night was the Buenos Aires Cocos - grilled skirt steak with arugala, jalapenos, red onions, tetilla, cabrales cheese and chimichurri sauce. I had never thought about a Latin American form of pizza - but this did the trick - and I may now have a new category of types of pizza I crave. A more traditional dish, the lamb barbacoa tacos prepared with tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, and queso fresco in mini flour tortillas was another one of my favorites. The flavors were exceptional and the lamb was perfectly pink.

We also ordered several smaller plates that should not be overlooked. The front runner in this category was the ceviche - sliced salmon and avocado with soy ginger sauce. Through this dish, the chefs are able to pull off Asian flavors while maintaining fresh, authentic ingredients. We also loved the chorizo and shrimp rellenos with pablano aoli. Unlike many croquettes, there was not too much breading and fried exterior - really highlighting the ingredients inside. And finally, I cannot leave out the Brazilian style meatballs with guava sauce and tetilla cheese. These were tiny, but full of flavor.

I really could write about each and every dish that we ordered, but I do want to leave something to be desired!
As I left Macondo last week, I was excited to know that I now have a reason to return to this part of town - an area I had always loved. At the same time, I was convinced that my late night escapades on Houston and Allen had come to a close, but it would be safe to return when in need of Latin-American street food. However, it was only a few nights later over the weekend that I found myself at White Rabbit, a new favorite bar, and discovered it is just one block away from Macondo. I have a feeling that Houston and Allen are back in my life this year. I guess it's only a matter of time before I frequent both in the same night!

157 E. Houston St.
New York, NY 10002
Phone: (212) 473-9900

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