Lalito

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70 Totally Fine

A Cali-Latin spot on Bayard Street that’s known for its vegan chicharrónes and its Jennifer Lopez–themed restroom.

104 Bayard St., New York, NY, 10013

646-998-3408

https://lalitonyc.com/

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Known For

The lowdown

If Instagram were a restaurant, it would be Lalito. When it opened — as Lalo — in 2016, this small cafe wooed the kind of downtown-creative set that immediately creates buzz. Founding chef Gerardo Gonzalez has left, but Kia Damon’s current menu maintains the original range of influences — Mexico, California, a bit of Damon’s Florida background — to create food that’s best described as “pan-tropical.” Alas, for as bright and easy-going as it all seems, actual execution has always been something of a problem at this restaurant. If you happen to drop in for lunch on a busy day, as we recently did, you may see a new bartender get admonished and shooed away from drink-making so a veteran staffer can help everyone get out of the weeds; you may wait 20 minutes for someone to take your order; you will have to remind someone, some time later, which food it was you actually ordered (an excellent, simple salad of ripe papaya and avocado with lime dressing; a fish taco in a disappointingly plain flour tortilla). Still, the restaurant’s commitment to diversity in staffing is laudable, and even when you encounter missteps that bum you out, the vibe is so sunny that you end up rooting for everyone anyway. (The solid list of tropical drinks and interesting wines doesn’t hurt, either.)

What you need to know

Recommended DishesCarnitas; vegan chicharrónes; vegan Caesar; papaya & avocado

DrinksFull Bar

Noise LevelBring earplugs!