157 E Houston St (Allen & Eldridge)
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 473-9900
Hours: Everyday 5PM - 12AM
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Cuisine: Latin America
2nd Cuisine: Tapas/Small Plates
Area: East Village
The vibe skews young, the beat is strong and the food is fresh, well-crafted and delicious. Macondo is only steps from the Sunshine Cinema on Houston Street so it's a perfect spot for a pre-movie drink or an after- flick meal although happy hour and late night also get a big play. The restaurant styles itself "taperia Latina" which boils down to meaning street food with class. The menu draws on all parts of the Spanish-speaking world such as arepas from Venezuela, cocas from Barcelona, empanadas from Colombia, tacos from Mexico and features a Brazilian Juice Bar with freshly-squeezed extracts.
Sangria, available by glass or pitcher, can be had with a red, white or rose wine base and contains lots of fresh, cut-up fruit cubes. Salmon cerviche featured very fresh soy-bathed fish, cherry tomatoes and red onion and both looked and tasted terrific. Next to us perched on high chairs on a common table seating six (three per side), a sleek couple enjoyed the hongas and chorizo cocas with caramelized onions and Tetilla cheese on house-made flatbread while drinking a bottle of Cava. Empanadas come two to a plate and can also be ordered by the bucket for 4, 8 or 16 pieces. The empanadas have creative, flavorful insides and, best of all, the outside, though fried, isn't greasy or heavy. I found no trace of green olive in the "organic" chicken filling but lapped up my portion nonetheless. Other takes on empanada fillings include ground meat, tuna and a veggie version. The camerones tacos were presented as three small flat corn tacos to wrap around the shrimp; when rolled, they're messy but this isn't a starchy type place so who cares? Potatoes bravas, that standard tapas classic, is made with "spicy chili sauce" and they aren't kidding about the spice level.
Jalapenos are used liberally here in numerous food and drink items like the Baracoa with passion fruit juice, vodka, lime juice and ginger and they make a decent version of key classics including mojitos and piscos. Wines and beers are on offer as well as all the usual liquors. My companion ordered vodka and was given a choice of Grey Goose or two other top shelf brands, making the final bill on the high side. However, you can get out of Macondo reasonably if you keep your bar order limited and down only one or two dishes.
Late night the empanadas are available as are burgers including one of lamb and a beef version with chimichuri sauce. You could do a lot worse than by ordering the slightly greasy but tasty Cuban sandwich. Brunch, a concept unknown in the real Latin world, brings burgers, eggs Benedict, polenta with chorizo and that all time South-of-the-border favorite, blueberry pancakes.
The wait staff is as young as the clientele but not totally up to the job. Drinks took a good ten minutes to arrive which was odd because we were seated very close to the bar where the bartender didn't seem all that busy. Work out any menu questions by yourself as answers aren't very helpful.
Macondo is open Monday -Thurday from 5 PM to midnight but stays up until 2 AM Fridays and Saturdays. It's a happening place with better food than you might think.
Review By: Mari Gold