Las Catrinas: Make it your resolution to frequent this outstanding Mexican restaurant
January’s pick of the month goes to Las Catrinas Mexican Bar and Eatery. Even though it’s cold outside, it’s fire over there. This restaurant has it all, and it’s the kind of place that you bring the out-of-town friends that you want to impress.
Located just off the subway on Broadway, Las Catrinas is easily accessible for everyone. One of the owners, Lukas Szydlowski, puts finishing touches on newly placed décor with a keen attention to detail. In fact, Szydlowski has been a part of opening several restaurants in the highly competitive food haven that is Astoria. He explained, “We wanted to do a very laid-back chill vibe, a stay-cation kind of place that matches the style of Tulum.”
Every drink at Las Catrinas is practically a work of art. You’re definitely going to want to order one (or maybe several) of their signature margaritas. Then it’s time to branch out into their must-try specialty drink list, because, no matter who you are, there’s something on there that you will be guaranteed to enjoy. “We try to be a little different,” Szydlowski said. So, with the season in mind, Las Catrinas serves some fantastic options. Warm drinks include non-alcoholic hot cider, mulled wine, or delicious Mexican hot chocolate, all of which will help raise your body temperature on ice-cold winter nights. Finally, ask for a coquito, a Puerto Rican take on eggnog. It’s the perfect combination of coconut cream, rum, and spices, served with a candy cane and a toasted marshmallow. The coquito is so popular that Las Catrinas bottles it, so remember to get one to go before the night ends.
Each item on Las Catrinas’ surprisingly large menu is created with the freshest ingredients and meticulous attention to presentation. If you’re in a group, split a machete: a 24- inch homemade corn tortilla that’s shaped like the famous blade and is filled with up to three meats, Oaxaca cheese, cotija cheese, cilantro, onions, and sides of pico de gallo, salsa verde, and sour cream. For the most tender meat you’ve probably ever tasted, order the tacos de birria especial, which is three tacos stuffed with birria meat and served over the bone with consommé for dipping. Chef Luis Ramos explained, “Birria meat is short rib meat cooked for several hours in spices and herb-infused sauce. These tacos are more fun.” They certainly are. Eating them is an elevated experience. Finally, if you decide you need a bit of seafood, get the levanta muerto, a soup that includes a tasty mix of mussels, shrimp, and calamari in a spicy red broth.
Dessert at Las Catrinas is so good it’s practically mandatory. Order a donas de ricotta for you and your date, which is five balls of fried dough served warm with a heaping scoop of ice cream in the middle. Or, if you’re more refined and playing hard-to-get, order the rompope panna cotta. Even better, order them both.
Las Catrinas is themed for the Mexican Day of the Dead. Their logo is a skull, which is just freaking cool. The interior of Las Catrinas is very much alive, however, with dance music, and visual detail. In fact, the design of the restaurant feels impeccable. Every sightline in the place leaves you looking at something interesting: an intricate hanging fixture, the rear-lit bar, the open kitchen, or your fellow hip and attractive Astorians looking to unwind.
It’s clear that Szydlowski and his co-owners understand the crowd at Las Catrinas; they’ve spent most of their lives right here in Astoria. He reflected, “I moved here sixteen years ago. We fell in love with Astoria, and I don’t see myself living or working anywhere else.”
32-02 Broadway / Phone: 917.745.0969 / lascatrinasnyc.com / Yelp 4.1