L-R: Luis & Noor (Owners of Cítrico), Me, Kortnee, Erica, Jason
This Monday, July 24th, was and always is, a special day. For one, it is my birthday, and secondly, it is #NationalTequilaDay. Last year I brought in year 30 with a huge brunch courtesy of Patron, and for this year, I brought in 31 with some close friends, and the team at Cítrico.
Cítrico is a fresh Mexican restaurant & bar in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, opened in 2014. Owners (and married couple) Luis & Noor modeled the menu off of some of Luis’s family recipes, as well as the cuisine of the southern states of Mexico. As the topic of conversation was tequila, I spoke to Noor about margarita alternatives that Cítrico offers, as well as testing a few out with the help of my girls Kortnee and Erica.
Salsa Platter. Photo courtesy of Cítrico
To help soak up the drinks, we started with the salsa platter, which included house-made tortilla chips, pico de gallo, guajillo salsa, salsa de arbol, and tomatillo salsa. In addition, we snacked on chicharrines, not to be confused with pork chicharrones, which is made from a flour base and has a similar consistency to Funions.
Our feature cocktails were the following:
Citrico Tropical: Tequila (or mezcal); pineapple and mango
Tlaxcalita Bella: Tequila, cranberry juice, lime and fresh mint
Guerrero: Espadin mezcal, tequila, hibiscus, lime, orange and agave
Dive into our live session, and see how we rated the cocktails and snacks in the video below!
For those of you that have been checking out the blog on the regular, you know that we are huge fans of Mexican cuisine here at A Life In the Day of Andrea, so much so that we take opportunities to try out new spots on the fly. The evening before I jetted off to Belize, my homeland and neighbor to Mexico, I was invited to try the eats at La Gringa Taqueria in BK.
The full menu consisting of burritos, salads, quesadillas, and tacos
Located on 800 Grand St., steps away from the L-train stop at Grand St, La Gringa is a quaint taqueria that serves up Cali-Mex fare with a twist of the Caribbean; all plates come with fried plantain in the mix. Being a lover of all things plantain, I thought this was a cool little addition to a burrito or taco. I was quite hungry when I arrived, and scanned the menu for the plate I imagined would be most filling. I was advised by Mitch, who was preparing my food, to try the quesadilla with chicken, with a side of guacamole and chips.
My meal: A chicken quesadilla (rolled) with a side of chips and guacamole
I found it interesting that the the quesadilla came rolled instead of served flat in quarters. I guess when it is served this way, it is easier to eat while on the run. My quesadilla was stuffed with cheese, chicken, fried plantain, pico de gallo, sour cream, and picante pepper, made from my favorite, habanero. The guac was smooth with chunks of tomato, which I like. Not pictured was my favorite Mexican soda, Jarritos in the Tamarind flavor.
As I did not expect the pepper to be that hot, I failed in my soda pairing as it made the pepper spicier! I know for next time not to be so bold, or to pair my meal with water instead. The plantain mellowed out my otherwise super spicy meal.
Commissioned “La Gringa” graffiti in the back patio
I was informed after my meal that the restaurant had a back patio, so I took a walk to check out the space. In my short walk, my eyes were treated to lots of hand-painted murals in the hallway, and all throughout the patio area. This piece above is what you see above the doorway, looking back into the restaurant.
Aztec-inspired mural in the back patio
The patio is spacious, but I spared my photo of it as it was quite rainy on the evening that I visited. There is ample space to sit and eat, and chill back to play table tennis as well. The image above is of one of my favorite murals, which appears to be in the likeness of an Aztec deity. The colors are so vibrant and brighten up the space in a lovely way.
La Gringa is definitely for those that like to experience Mexican eats in a cool colorful space. As it is Cali-Mex, the flavors are bit milder, and all options are offered in Veggie, Chicken, Grilled Tilapia, and Beef. I would definitely recommend you stop in if you are in the area!
Growing up in a family with a background in entertainment, and following that in many aspects of his life currently, being a partner in an increasingly popular Mexican restaurant in New York City’s East Village neighborhood may not have been the expected route for Frank Billini.
We stopped by La Lucha to chat with our friend Frank, to get the lowdown on the story behind the eatery, and what we can expect in the not-too-distant future.
Tell us about the story behind La Lucha, and the wrestling theme of the restaurant.
My dad was a wrestler, and from the age of eight years old he used to lie to his family to be in this wrestling league. He really loved it and was really good at it. He used to fight older people. Imagine being 8 and fighting 13-year olds?
He recently got re-married, and we opened La Lucha in 2008. His wife is from Mexico City, so she has this very rich Mexican culture, and this appetite for Mexican food that didn’t exist in New York [at the time]. For her, there is a flavor that she is expecting when it comes to Mexican food, so we really tried to touch that and keep it semi-traditional, and cool…it’s just a reintroduction to Mexican food.
What are some plates that set La Lucha apart from its counterparts?
Honestly, I don’t think there is a plate that separates us from other restaurants. I think what makes us different is the experience when you come to our restaurant. We want to create intangible experiences where people can come here and be like, “Wow! I don’t remember where this sh*t was located…I was really drunk, whatever, but I remember that they brought that ring when they brought the check. That was magical for me. I took a photo, and I remember that.”
We have some very good vegetable options, that’s something we are trying to highlight more now along with gluten-free options, because people are becoming more health-conscious. I think there is no other Mexican restaurant with as many vegetable tacos as we have. Like the Hibiscus Taco; amazing.
What are some of your favorite plates on the menu?
I really enjoy our signature tacos. They come in threes; it kind of feels like I am up-selling you, but I’m not. A lot of those tacos are mixtures of other tacos on the menu. We have a vegetable signature taco on the menu, which is poblano peppers mixed with mushroom; the Huracán. That one is really good, but my favorite has to be the El Santo, or the Mil Máscaras. The Mil Máscaras, I love to talk about because it has bacon. I love bacon, and it has bits of bacon, not big strips. You have an option of chicken or steak, and it is mixed with roasted poblano peppers, corn, onions; it’s delicious. And then we put the queso chihuahua on top; it is one of my favorites. The El Santo is the meat-lovers taco. It has our red salsa mixed with salted steak that we cure ourselves, it also has chicarron; it’s really a delicious taco man, I’ve never tasted anything like that before.
Tell us about the future of La Lucha, and your newest food truck output in the works in Brooklyn.
We just got a trailer, it’s an extended trailer and we put a banner on it. We are still getting equipment, but by summer it will be up and running. It will be called “La Lucha”, but we may give it a nickname. We are working with some artists right now so we can do something that doesn’t feel too corporate. We want it to feel artsy, like the aesthetic of Brooklyn. I want it to feel “real”. You know what I mean?
As La Lucha prepares to open their mobile output this summer, be sure to stop by their brick and mortar location in the East Village for delicious, no nonsense Mexican food!
147 Avenue A ( Between 9th & 10th Street)
New York, New York 10009