El Parador Café

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78 Solid

The city’s oldest continuously running Mexican restaurant has brought the heat since 1959.

325 E. 34th St., New York, NY, 10016

212-679-6812

http://elparadorcafe.com

Reserve on OpenTable

Known For

The lowdown

El Parador’s Mexico is gracious, old world, and restrained, with décor to match, like a tiled bar with arched recesses, whitewashed walls, and snug booths for cozy, intimate meals. Lighting is dim, with patterns thrown onto the ceiling by perforated rustic metal lanterns. A well-chosen soundtrack gives the place an Acapulco-circa-1959 feel — the year El Parador opened. The character of the cooking is evident from the first salsa-dunked chip; the latter, served warm, has a welcome gravelly texture; the former, a spicy purée with unexpected cinnamon tones. An ancient lava-stone molcajete — mortar and pestle — is used to prepare the unctuous, chunky guacamole. Typical plates like quesadillas and enchiladas satisfy, as do daily specials. Bouillabaisse Veracruzana looks like a Flemish still life, with lobster nestled among other shellfish in a vermilion-hued, charred-tomato broth. The complex sauce on the chicken mole leads with the chocolate and chilies among its two dozen ingredients, served from a weathered cast-iron pot that keeps the balance of the meat stewing as you dine. A wine list heavy on Spanish vintages tempts — as does the encyclopedic selection of tequilas.

What you need to know

Recommended DishesGuacamole; shrimp quesadilla; mole poblano; bouillabaisse Veracruzana.

DrinksFull Bar

Noise LevelCivilized