Farmers’ Market & Wellness Wednesdays at NYBG Start June 12

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Dinner & Drinks with a View at Zona de Cuba

With the opening of Zona de Cuba coinciding with my birthday week, I decided to add it on the the week’s festivities. The much hyped rooftop bar and restaurant is the first of its kind here in the Bronx in that it is fully on the rooftop (as opposed to say, Pine, where the restaurant is on the lower level and there is a bar on the upper level). When I found the entrance (hint: it’s NOT on the Concourse, but on the other side of the building), there was a long line of people waiting to get in. The entrance isn’t super flashy or anything, but you can tell it’s upscale and they are serious about that dress code because a guy was definitely turned away.

A friend was already waiting upstairs for us and said the place wasn’t really crowded, so I’m not sure why the line took so long (they also didn’t fill the elevator up as much as it could have, without being too packed. There was only one elevator in use.). There was a line for people with reservations, but when we had called to make them the day before, the line was busy. The woman at the front said they would be revamping the reservation process soon. (Update! They have updated their website to allow reservations online.) The whole entry process could definitely be streamlined.

Once we finally made it upstairs, we loved the decor. Whoever designed this place deserves all the applause. There are comfortable couches (definitely a must) in the interior dining area, surrounded by an assortment of lush greenery, and chandeliers adorning the ceilings. The outside area offers up surprisingly gorgeous views of Harlem amid brightly colored couches and flags from various Latin American countries.

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My friend who had arrived before us had yet to receive her drink, after waiting over half an hour. The waitress who dropped it off, turned and walked away without acknowledging me or my other friend, so we had to flag someone else down who was as attentive as she could be given how hectic things seemed to be for the servers. She had mentioned that there was a back up at the interior bar and ended up taking our drink ticket to the bar outside. (I’m not sure why this was, there appeared to be only one bartender outside, while there seemed to be 4 inside.) My drink, the te picó  el burro de Tito was not my favorite. The flavors tasted watered down and overall wasn’t a strong drink, which was disappointing for a $15 cocktail. My friends did like their drinks, though – the tamarindo con tu Henny and the guava mojito.

Our food, however, did come out at a decent time. I ordered the como pollo con grano, which was essentially a fancy arroz con pollo. The portion size was huge, I ended up having leftovers for like two days afterward.

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Later in the evening, a live band started to play and people began to dance. The music was very loud throughout our visit, so Friday night is probably not the time to have any deep conversations here.

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Overall, it’s a gorgeous venue and I hope they’re able to work out some of the kinks to make it a really great place to hang out.

Visiting The Coffee Break Company

Last week, I got the chance to visit Throggs Neck’s newest addition – The Coffee Break Company.

Located in the spot where Brew Coffee House once was, The Coffee Break Company is a joint endeavor by owners Bruce “Blue” Rivera and Brian Martinez who have given the space a total revamp. My favorite feature was the clock walls – a collection of vintage and modern clocks that line the wall during your very own “coffee break.” Another unique feature are the custom tables in the center of the coffeeshop that are made out of doors filled in with coffee beans. Another feature I thought was pretty cool was the jars of coffee beans on the wall behind the counter, which featured the top ten coffee distributors around the world.

Serving up La Colombe coffee, lattes, and tea the coffeeshop also makes all of its desserts in house. I got to try a pumpkin pie bite and a coconut cupcake. Both were so delicious. First of all, I’ve never had a pumpkin pie bite before, but I could definitely eat a 100 of them in one sitting; it’s a perfect fall snack. Second, as a person who doesn’t even really like coconut, that cupcake was fantastic. The icing was light, the cake itself was light as well, so you really got to taste the flavors instead of just straight sugar.

Though still in its soft opening stage, The Coffee Break has a number of events in the pipeline. This Friday, Oct 19, they’ll be hosting a paint and sip event. On Halloween, kids will be invited to help the coffeeshop “dress up” as a barn and around Christmas, there are plans for a cookie decorating event.

While the grand opening isn’t until November, you can keep up with the latest by following them on Instagram or Facebook.

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Pizza, Pizza

When it comes to pizza, I guess you’d say I’m a bit of a purist. I rarely ever get any toppings and if I do, it’s mushrooms. (Obv. seasonings are a must. Pass the garlic powder, oregano, and red pepper flakes.)  How exciting. But, on a recent trip to Kingsbridge Social Club, I was challenged to step out of my comfort zone. Okay, I’m lying, it was not challenging at all. There were honestly so many delicious options that it was hard to pick just one.

My friend and I opted to sit outside in their patio area. It’s only a few tables, but a cute space nonetheless. She ordered the brussel sprouts as an appetizer and they were fantastic. I’m not particularly drawn to brussel sprouts when I see them on a menu, but I’m really glad she ordered them because they delicious. They were slightly charred, which gave them a slight crunch. Do yourself a favor and try them.

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Now, to the pizza. I ordered The Wrecking Ball , which is topped with mozzarella, onions, garlic, and basil and served atop a large, tomato sauce can for an added touch. The crust had that excellent charred taste from the wood fire oven and all of the ingredients tasted so fresh. The crust was thin with the perfect balance between being appropriately crispy, but still soft enough that you can eat the crust and not worry about chipping a tooth.

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Paired with a chilled glass of wine, it was the perfect way to spend one of the last days of summer.

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Birthday Dinner at La Masa

After the crazy year I’ve had, when my birthday rolled around two weeks ago, I wanted everything to be really chill. What better way to celebrate than a laid back dinner at La Masa in Morris Park?

While I had gotten a taste of their food about a year ago at an event at Bronx Coworking Space, I had yet to actually visit in person.

With cute, modern decor with pops of red throughout the restaurant, La Masa has a vibrant and relaxed atmosphere, which is perfect for catching up with friends and family.

Our server was really friendly and provided us with some really great recommendations for drinks and entrees. [I ordered the sangria which was really refreshing and strong!]

First of all, everything on their menu sounds amazing, it was really hard to decide. Their empanada selection is crazy, with over 15 to choose from, they have savory and sweet selections as well as vegan and gluten free options. I tried the bacon mac and cheese, beef , and cilantro lime chicken. All of them were good, but the ground beef was my favorite. Can’t go wrong with a classic. I did get to try some of the Husband’s apple pie empanada and it was also really good. (I feel like there’s an innuendo lurking somewhere there. Oh well.)

For my main course, I got the mahi mahi a la parilla because I can’t think of another place in the Bronx that serves mahi mahi! (If you do, please let me know in the comments!) Both my sister and Husband ordered the bandeja paisa, which is this behemoth of a meal including steak, chicharron, chorizo, maduros, rice, beans, an arepa, salad, and a fried egg. So I picked off of my sister’s plate when I was finished with my own.

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It was a great way to wrap up my birthday and I can’t wait to return and try more empanadas.

 

Tacos & Margaritas at Cocina Chente

I don’t know about you all, but probably 75% of the pages I follow on Instagram are just restaurants I want to try out someday. Cocina Chente in Riverdale is no exception. Bright colors, a hanging bicycle, a cute outdoor eating area, and of course gorgeous (and tasty) food – these are the things Instagram foodies dream of.  My friend and I decided to check it out on one of the few and far between nice weather days we’ve been having.

The first thing I noticed was the decor – someone put a lot of thought into all of the little details here and it absolutely pays off. The ambience is fun and lively, with a million conversations going on at once (in a good way. Have you ever been to a quiet restaurant? It’s weird.)

It was super packed, but we were able to get a table pretty quickly. I ordered the carnitas tacos and my friend opted for the tequila-lime salmon. I wanted to try the chili tacos, but they don’t allow mixing and matching, so I’ll give them a try next time. Both were really good, but I think I liked the salmon even more than the tacos. Of course, we kept the margaritas flowing all night.

Their brunch menu also looks super legit so hopefully I’ll get try it out soon.

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Dinner at Da Franco & Tony

A while back on Instagram (like maybe a year ago-ish), I shared a picture of my go-to dish at Da Franco & Tony Ristorante – garganelli alla norma. On my most recent trip there a couple weeks ago, I realized that I never posted about this amazing restaurant here on the blog, so here we go.

A coworker had actually recommended this hidden gem, so when my friends and I needed a place that was close to work, we decided to check it out.

The. Customer. Service! This place hands down, has the best customer service I’ve ever experienced at a restaurant. From the moment you enter, you’re greeted and seated immediately.

Every time I’ve been, they have an impressive list of daily specials and of course I love that they’re super knowledgable about their wine.

They have a pretty extensive menu and there’s definitely something for everyone. Despite all of the amazing specials and delicious, as previously mentioned, I always go for the garganelli alla norma, a pasta dish with fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, and eggplant. I had it the first time we came here and I’ve had it every time since. One day I promise I’ll order something else, but in the mean time…

I’m one of these people that never orders dessert (I know…like, I’m just full…) but somehow, I always end up splitting dessert with one of my friends here. The thing is, they bring out a tray with all of the desserts, and it gets us every time. Last time, I went with the creme brûlée cheesecake, which I’ve never seen anywhere else. While it didn’t have the exact crunch of creme brûlée, it was still really good.

Honestly, this place is perfect for any occasion and is the exact sort of local gem that got me started with this whole blogging thing in the first place. So do yourself a favor and head over asap.

 

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