I found an unusual restaurant in this neighborhood the other day. So far I’ve eaten there twice and recommend it to you without equivocation.
That is, as long as you’re not daunted by items like Cow’s Foot Soup on the menu. I see something like that and think, “Now this is my kind of place!” Not that I’m looking for a nice comforting bowl of Cow’s Foot Soup, but it does my heart good to know that it’s there.
So here’s a little info about the place. Specializing in Cuban and Dominican cuisine, it is called Calidad Latina. Prices are very reasonable as I’ll detail later. The cozy little restaurant is located at 132 Ninth Avenue, between 18th and 19th Streets, open Monday through Saturday from 11 A.M. til 11 P.M. and Sundays from 1 – 10:30 P.M.
The first time I was there I was in the mood for soup, and I saw some lovely bowls of it being passed out, so I ordered the soup of the day, which was Beef Tripe. I didn’t recognize any particular bits of tripe, but the soup was hearty and had a big chunk of what I think was chicken in it. It was on a bone, hacked up a bit, but looking as if it had originally been what is known as a “Drumette,” that little drumstick-looking part of the wing. There was a big potato-looking vegetable, too starchy and gummy to be a potato, likely yucca (or manioc), which served the role of potato. There were three or four generous chunks of plantain as well. A large, soul-filling bowl cost me only $6.95, and there was a tray of delicious garlic-toasted bread slices to go with it.
The second visit I was ready for a real meal. Before, I had seen the orders of fish being placed on other tables, accompanied by neatly mounded red-colored rice known as “yellow” rice, and bowls of beans – red or black – being served with it. I noted that the special of the day on the takeout menu was cod, for $9.95, so I had decided on that. It turns out that the takeout menu gives lunch specials, and cod is not on the dinner menu, so, no problem, I ordered Flounder in Lemon Sauce and was not disappointed. I even sprang for a glass of white wine. The whole meal, fish, rice, beans, wine, and the lovely garlic toasts again – and a tip – only set me back $25. And it was excellent.
The atmosphere of the little place is very pleasant. My waiter, a handsome man, dark and Latinate, could be the owner; he was that solicitous. Yet he was never obtrusive. He had a ready smile and seemed to like his work. He had his eye on his tables, and he pleased us all. It just seems like a place that is run by a family, for a family, and I felt like one of them after just two visits. I’d like to take someone there, but -- just in case I can’t do that this trip -- let me send you, on your next visit to New York.