Tue-Sat, noon-11pm; Sun, noon-10pm; Mon, closed
F at Second Ave.; F, J, M, Z at Delancey St.-Essex St.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Few foods exert as tantalizing a pull on the Underground Gourmet’s voracious appetite as rice and beans. Throw in a vinegary avocado salad and some fried plantains and you’ve got the ideal U.G. meal: tasty, filling, and cheap. So it’s no wonder our interest was piqued by the quiet arrival of Café Cortadito, a Cuban-inspired oasis just off Avenue B, where a platter of dried black beans sitting in the window drew us in like a flashing Krispy Kreme hot doughnuts sign. Cortadito occupies that sparsely populated middle ground between Latin lunch counter and the full-blown quasi-formal service and stylized tropical vibe of Victor’s Cafe, where, not coincidentally, Cortadito’s mom-and-pop owners used to work. Cortadito, like Victor’s, is old school—less Nuevo Latino than vieja Havana, down to traditional dishes like the vaca frita and the obligatory (and delicious) Cuban sandwich. But the place has the unpretentious, hospitable aura of a home kitchen, with the chef toiling away behind the counter and his wife greeting guests and taking orders. Ceiling fans whirl overhead, and a flat-screen TV tuned most often to the ball game hangs opposite a wall mural depicting a café not unlike Cortadito itself, apart from such louche, pre-Bloombergian touches as brazenly lit cigarettes and a trespassing pit bull. Chef Ricardo Arias comes from El Salvador, and his wife, Patricia Valencia, is Ecuadoran, but you won’t find pupusas or seviche on the gently priced menu. You will find red meat, and lots of it. The various beefy dishes are tangily marinated and nicely grilled, served on wavy white platters with a neat mound of white rice and a cup of soupy black beans.Note
An equally tiny back room accommodates groups.Ideal Meal
Avocado salad, $10.95; churrasco, $20.95; arroz con leche, $8