1538 Second Ave (80th St)
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 717-7800
Hours: Dinner Sunday - Thursday 5:00pm - 12:00am Friday - Saturday 5:00pm - 1:00am Lunch Monday - Friday 11:30am - 5:00pm
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Chef: Jeffrey Forrest
Area: East 80s
Entree Price: $10-15
When Cascabel first opened, it was to rave reviews from locals who wondered whether this was the answer to where one could find Mexican food that was affordable but more upscale than a taco truck. I was reluctant to believe the hype until I ate there myself, so I visited with a friend one late spring evening.
The first thing Cascabel has going for it is its outdoor seating and open, airy interior. There’s just something about eating at a table on the sidewalk next to a bright green and blue awning that evokes summer. While the restaurant is usually crowded in nice weather, we didn’t have to wait too long before we were seated and perusing the menu. However, the complimentary chips I’ve come to expect at Mexican restaurants were nowhere to be seen. Maybe that’s a small point, but it felt like something was missing. The table did feature several flavorful house salsas to complement the food.
Cascabel’s menu includes the obligatory appetizers like guacamole, queso fundito, and quesadillas (around $6-7), as well as a few larger plates for dinner, such as a half rotisserie chicken ($12.50), but the main draw is the array of tacos; it’s a taqueria, after all. My friend and I tried the carnitas and carne asada. A serving ($8.50) comes with two tacos—no mixing and matching allowed—so those with heartier appetites may not be satisfied with a single order (at lunch you can get 3 tacos for $11.75, which is closer to the right amount for a meal).
Both of our tacos were tasty, though nothing incredibly special. The meat was seasoned well, and the food didn’t take too long to arrive. But the best part of the meal? The tequila snow cones for dessert. At $4 for a serving the size of a dixie cup, these were blatantly overpriced, but there’s no debating how refreshing they were. We originally asked to have the snow cones to-go and were told we weren’t allowed to take them away from the restaurant (New York public drinking rules and all), but it was just as nice enjoying them at our table. My icy mango treat was gone in less than three minutes.
Overall, Cascabel tries to be trendier than it really is, and it’s a little pricey for the portions, but if you’re in the neighborhood and craving tacos, go with the hype and stop by. Especially if you can sit outside and have a tequila snow cone.
Review By: Chelsee Pengal