In New York City, it's exceedingly difficult to open and maintain a successful restaurant. The number of restaurants that close their doors within five, ten, or fifteen years of opening marks the majority of New York City dining establishments, scaring many people from venturing into this competitive industry. Only a few restaurants who make the twenty-year mark still thrive. However, some restaurants truly withstand the test of time. Victor's Cafe celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this month, proving its apptitude for hospitality, great service, and authentic Cuban cuisine that has evolved with New Yorkers' tastes.
Founded by Cuban immigrant Victor Del Corral with the help of his wife, Eloina Ruiz de Ugarrio, in 1963, Victor's Cafe quickly became a New York classic. The original location uptown on Columbus Avenue and 71st Street drew a loyal local and celebrity clientele such as Barbara Streisand, Celia Cruz, John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
In 1980, the restaurant relocated to its current home on 52nd Street, where it continues to capture the hearts of New Yorkers, theater-goers, and household names like Barbara Walters, Jennifer Lopez, and Beyoncé.
Victor’s Café's motto, "The Evolution of Cuban Cuisine" defines its menu. Classics as well as modern creations are fresh and flavorful, whisking you straight to a sunny day in Havana while you snack on a plate of freshly fried plaintain chips underneath the restaurant's sunny skylight and its colorfully muraled walls.
You can't visit Victor's without tasting one of their signature dishes: Ceviche de Pargo layers fresh pieces of Florida Red Snapper atop small cubes of mango, avocado, and red onion in a citrus marinade ($16). The dish is fresh and fragrent, sweet with a hint of spice, and ideal to start off any meal.
Victor's also offers a variety of samplers for newcomers or frequent guests to indulge in various Cuban delicacies. The 1492 Aperitivo Cubano, a platter loaded with a yuca shrimp rolls with idiazabal cheese, bartolito (a sweet plantain, black bean, and pork fritter), smoked ham croquettes, and more serves at least two people and provides a comprehensive sampling of Cuban flavors ($29).
The Taste of Cuba ($49) is Victor's three-course prix fix and features a tri-entree feast with Ropa Vieja (Victor’s house specialty of slow braised and pulled skirt steak with garlic, tomato, onion served in a crispy plaintain cup), Lechon Asado (roasted suckling pig with yuca), and Camarones Enchilados (pink shrimp in a creole sauce). All dishes are served with rice and Victor's famous black beans, which are not to be passed up, their enchanting flavors part of a famous family recipe.
Enjoy your meal with a signature mojito, served with a bundle of fresh mint and a sugar cane, and toast to another 50 years at Victor's!