Calle Ocho

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87 Very Good

The Upper West Side’s answer to a Latin-inspired party, for 20 years and counting.

45 W. 81st St., New York, NY, 10024

212-873-5025

http://calleochonyc.com

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The lowdown

Calle Ocho has been on the Upper West Side since 1998. The main dining room is windowless, but the owners have brightened what would otherwise be a dour space with a slew of vibrant paintings and citrusy bright colors. The food is festive, too: a raucous mingling of Latin cuisines with that party mood prevailing in particular at brunch. Meals start with pao de queijo, Brazil’s sensationally gooey and stretchy bread of cheese baked into yuca flour. The menu draws from various Latin cuisines. There are six types of ceviche and appetizers like airy sweet-corn empanadas with goat cheese and arepas with the Cuban pulled-beef dish ropa vieja. Entrées tend to be oversize (two to three are more than enough for four diners), and while the vaca frita tastes a shade too sweet, the juicy-juicy “Cuban style” steak-frites, dressed with a little bit of chimichurri, has aged very well. Cocktails are easy drinking, evidenced by the Brazilian classic caipirinha and the eight styles of sangria served. And if mojitos have gone out of fashion elsewhere, the ones here will remind you why it was such a hip drink back in the days of the Cosmo. And no one will judge you for drinking them.

Chris Crowley

What you need to know

Recommended DishesCuban-style steak-frites; paella.

DrinksFull Bar