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.

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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Feasting at Fish N Ting

I haven’t spent a whole lot of time in Eastchester. Not having a car/ hating driving/hating  buses makes a bit difficult for me to get there, but there are definitely some gems up there. I was recently introduced to one – Fish N’ Ting. Located on bustling Boston Road, it’s easy to zoom right past it, but that would be a huge mistake.

The first thing you should do is request to sit outside. There’s a beautiful deck that’s enclosed during the winter and has heaters so you get the best of both worlds.

I ordered the rasta pasta with shrimp that was a massive portion and a henny colada. Usually I would side eye any place that has henny coladas, but they were very good. And very strong. I also had some of the rum punch, which was also delicious. My friends ordered the special which was a whole red snapper, which was amazing. I know I need to return soon to have one all to myself instead of just a bite. We also had absolutely no room for dessert, so I definitely need to come back and treat myself.

You can check them out on Yelp or Instagram.

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New Year’s Eve Brunch at Acri Cafe

New Year’s Eve has always been a very important day for me. For longer than I’d like to admit, I thought that New Year’s Eve was an indication of how your year would go, so, if you had really crappy or blah NYE your upcoming year would follow suit. Thankfully, I’ve grown out of that for the most part (that’s a lot of pressure to put on one day!) but it’s still one of my favorite holidays to celebrate (maybe it’s all that food and drink I love so much…)

Because I knew I’d be spending the night with my friends, I made sure to schedule time to hang out with my mother and sister for brunch. I’ve been dying to try out the brunch at Acri Cafe for the longest, so we drove over and were so pleasantly surprised.

Acri Cafe is THE definition of a hidden gem. Located on Commerce Ave. in an unassuming building by the UFT and DMV, inside lies a vast, welcoming space to gather with friends and family. As soon as you enter, you can’t miss the large wood fire oven, which adds a cozy vibe to the restaurant.

The staff was friendly and attentive. Though our food came out quickly, we got to munch on some delicious fresh bread with olive oil while we waited, to hold us over while waiting for our orders.

The brunch menu featured items including eggs benedict, the Acri burger (topped with goat cheese and mushrooms), and churrasco steak and eggs. One of the best features of Acri Cafe’s brunch is the $10  2 hour unlimited drinks, which include brunch staples such as mimosas. I, unfortunately, could not partake because I was nursing a mild hangover and of course had to prepare for NYE festivities. This just means I’ll have to return soon…for research purposes, of course.

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Brunch at Bronx Ale House

It was crazy hot today, you guys. My friends and I played our 5th annual kickball game in Van Cortlandt Park and I thought I was going to melt. 😦 Luckily, I knew that Bronx Ale House was not too far and we headed there to recharge. I had no concept of time, so I didn’t realize it was still brunch time – much to my delight.

My friend and I shared the smoked brisket hash and the braised pork. The brisket came with eggs and was shredded with potatoes and vegetables. The braised pork also came with eggs, cheddar toast and potatoes.

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