4 Ways to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo 2016 on One New York City Block
If you’re looking for a little more than just the traditional “Mexican American” taco and margarita combo this year, try making a stop at not one, but four of the restaurants owned by the Pepe Group on New York City's West Fourth Street. Each pays homage to a different region, from Barcelona to Mexico.
“We feel that competition is healthy, even when it is amongst ourselves,” said Jimmy Sanz Jr., who has since taken over his father’s small empire. “By offering four different concepts we are able to specialize in the diverse interests of our customer base. Every concept is different and enjoys a different personality.”
Tio Pepe was the first on the West 4th Street scene in 1970, when Jimmy Sanz Sr. first fell in love with the property and bought it up. Forty-six years later, the restaurant still offers Spanish cuisine in a traditional restaurant setting, rooting its recipes in traditional Spanish recipes while continuing to evolve based on food trends springing up in other authentic Spanish kitchens. All of the Tapas selections are delicious, so don’t miss out on the Prince Edward mussels with garlic, olive oil, white wine and parsley; traditional toasted bread with Navarra tomatoes and garlic (amazingly, the bread doesn’t get soggy); Spanish octopus sautéed with garlic, paprika, and sea salt; or shrimp sautéed with garlic, olive oil, and white wine. The Coca Ibérica is also not to be missed, it’s a savory Spanish flatbread made with Serrano ham, manchego cheese, asparagus, and baby arugala.
The tapas offered at next-door’s Las Ramblas are similar, adding additional authentic dishes to the mix like roasted meatballs with garlic, manchego cheese, and lemon-oregano dressing; a classic Spanish omelet with alioli; Spanish peppers stuffed with morcilla, saffron rice, and manchego cheese; and grilled head-on-prawns with cava vinegar, ginger, and basil. The eatery is modeled after Barcelona tapas bar, serving 28 Spanish wines by the glass and craft beer to go with their small bites.
If it’s authentic Mexican tacos you’re truly after, walk three paces over to Burrito Loco, which offers south-of-the-border cuisine served over the sounds of mariachi music, set against a backdrop of stained glass windows, and decorated with antique photos. Try the Carnitas Michocacanas, baked pork chunks marinated with citrus, fine herbs, and served with tomatillo sauce and tortillas on the side; and any variety, of its burritos made with ground beef, steak, chicken, or shrimp, served with mole sauce, tomatillo, queso fresco, and a side of rice and beans. From 4-7 p.m. every day (except Saturday), margaritas, wines by the glass, sangria, and piña coladas are just five bucks a pop.
Finally, downstairs is the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Taco Shop, where traditional masks hang from the ceiling, upbeat music swells against the walls, and beautifully presented and inexpensively priced tacos await. Authentic Mexican ingredients and a touch of post-Mexico culinary fusion give diners a true Mexico City taquería experience. Enjoy short rib, baja fish, slow cooked pork, and fresh guacamole, for a total steal! Take advantage of their happy hour special, where you can land 3 tacos and a margarita or beer for $12, Monday through Friday from 3-7 p.m.
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Disclosure: We were invited in for a couple of tastings.