Picking a birthday dinner spot is always tough. There are just too many conditions—has to be "special," food must match scene, can't be too expensive (since, presumably, you're paying for the guest of honor). Faced with the task—and still high on last week's trip to La Esquina—I decided we'd celebrate my best friend's birthday at yet another Serge Becker restaurant, Super Linda. It ended up being pretty close to perfect.
Nightlife impresario Matt Abramcyk and chef John Martinez (both, most recently, of Tiny's) and restaurateur Richard Ampudia (Bar Bruno, Café Habana) are also behind Super Linda, which roughly translates to "gorgeous." And indeed it is. Paper lanterns, tufted purple banquettes, and painted floors decorate the bi-level space while the retro bar, done up in green, yellow, and red tiles, looks like it belongs in a 1950's soda fountain. Big windows and high ceilings create the bright and airy feel of an upscale cantina somewhere in Panama or Costa Rica. Basically, Super Linda transports you...either back in time or to Central America. Or to a horse race, if you can get into the basement lounge, El Jockey.
The menu hews Latin, with ceviches, small plates, and a "from our grill" section. There's an extensive selection of South American beers but we decided to toast the birthday girl with a round of mango and Thai chili margaritas. So good, sweet and spicy. For food, we started by splitting the shrimp balls, the tostada do esquites, and the hearts of palm salad. All delicious. The shrimp balls, a pescatarian take on meatballs, swam in a tomato sauce spiked with chile de árbol and cilantro while the salad (frisée, avocado, citrus, hazelnuts) was a peppery, fruity, nutty pile of goodness. The tostadas were the favorite, though. Topped with sweet corn, lime mayo and cotija cheese, they had a nice, bright taste.
Next, we got the red and green snapper, the scallops, and sides of black beans, braised kale, and fried Brussels sprouts. The snapper was perfectly cooked—silky, flaky, and juicy. It came with tortillas and pico de gallo for DIY fish tacos but, smothered in red and green mole, the snapper was flavorful enough to eat on its own. Or with a few of the accompanying crispy, paprika-dusted French fries. The scallops, on the other hand, lacked depth. The roasted chile vinaigrette did little to bolster the cauliflower almond purée and the grilled mushrooms were kind of bland. The sides made the meal, though. The black beans tasted almost liquoricey, the kale was expertly seasoned, and the Brussels sprouts, mixed with red peppers, sautéed onions, and slivered almonds, were unreal.
My only real complaint about Super Linda is that our service was pretty lacking. The hostess had an attitude and our waitress was, for the most part, completely indifferent. But that's been my experience at all of Serge Becker's restaurants, especially at Miss Lily's, so I went in with low expectations anyway. Other than that, our experience was nothing short of great. The place was buzzy, the food was above average, and the prices were fair. All in all, a super spot for a birthday dinner.