Sun-Mon, 11:30am-10:30pm; Tue-Sat, 11:30am-11:30pm
1, A, B, C, D at 59th St.-Columbus Circle
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
50th St. to 72nd St., Seventh Ave. to 12th Ave.
Nothing dilutes a brand faster than expansion, but this stunning sibling of the East Side original ups the successful formula’s ante by offering the same take on Mexican-cantina cooking in an eye-popping space designed by David Rockwell. On entering, you’re face to face with a 30-foot-tall water wall decked with miniature stone cliff-divers in mid-flight. The rest of the two-level space is brighter and more airy than the First Avenue location, with red and pink woven chairs, a yellow-checked floor, and bold-striped booths. The menu, featuring guac prepared tableside, to-die-for short ribs, and tacos de conchinita pibil (pork seasoned with achiote), is far more sophisticated than the average neighborhood Mexi-joint. Most of the meat and fish dishes are grilled or slow-roasted and done up with complex sauces like blackberry-chipotle or chile–pineapple–passion fruit. Other highlights include the 100 tequilas available and a few great desserts—especially the tres leches cake.Margaritas
The bartenders and waiters relentlessly push the “special” frozen pomegranate margarita, perhaps because it’s premade. Savvy cocktailers shouldn’t take the bait. The Paloma (tequila and grapefruit soda) and the Michelada (a beer-based cocktail with lime juice, Tabasco, and salt) complement the cuisine perfectly, as does the Tradicional margarita, made fresh.Recommended Dishes
Guacamole en molcajete, $14; flautas de pollo, $9