Manhattan is packed with some many outstanding dining and bar options, often times just outside your front door, that some people rarely explore areas outside of the city. Regrettably, Queens has fallen into this category for me. However, given recent visits to Astoria and Long Island City, that is all about to change.
While there are many spots in Queens that I plan to write about, Casa Enrique in Long Island City gets top billing. This family run Mexican restaurant could easily stand alone on the merits of their food, however their friendly staff, neighborhood-feel, and excellent cocktails takes this place to a whole 'nother level.
I learned of this spot by speaking to two locals at a nearby bar. They live in the neighborhood and said that Casa Enrique was their favorite place. So, off we went to check it out. We luckily got there before the crowd arrived and got seats at the bar. Soon there after, I was approached by a friendly gentleman who struck up a conversation. As it turns out, it was the owner, Luis Aguilar, who runs the front of the house. Within seconds, I felt as if I was talking to an old friend. He wanted to learn more about my group and went on to explained the concept of the restaurant, their food, and the fact that his brother Cosme was the chef. This guy knows how to make you feel welcomed.
The cocktails, specifically the margaritas, are outstanding. As was the food. The chicken mole is truly out of this world. As was the guacamole and the sinfully delicious pastel tres leches (pictured below). Cosme's food is based on traditional Chiapas dishes his mother made for them when they were kids. In fact, their mother was instrumental in developing the menu and the dishes for the restaurant. In September of 2014, the restaurant was awarded a well-deserved Michelin star.
As the night went on, many customers streamed in hoping to get a table or a seat at the bar. So many of them stopped by and hugged Luis and his brother. This place is truly a local gem and a neighborhood favorite. As for me, I will certainly cross the East River time and time again to talk with my friend Luis and explore more of Cosme's delicious Chiapas influenced dishes.
Luis also owns and runs the nearby Cafe Henri which I'm told is outstanding. Add it to my list!