El Centro

Restaurants , Mexican Hell's Kitchen
  • 5 out of 5 stars
(1 user review)
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El Centro

A restaurant owner sends a certain message when he crafts chandeliers out of Corona bottles and paints the walls green, yellow and orange. The message is “let’s have a fiesta” at El Centro, an upbeat Mexican restaurant in the western netherworld of midtown near Hell’s Kitchen. Owner John Dempsey moved Vynl Diner three and a half blocks south to make room for this eatery, which features traditional Mexican fare and a few specialty dishes, like posole (a white hominy stew) and chilaquiles (a homemade corn-tortilla casserole), native to southern Mexico, where executive chef Jorge Pareja was born and raised. To start the party right, indulge in one of the frozen margaritas, available in various flavors including guava and raspberry. Other cocktails play with sangria or one of the eight premium tequilas offered in blanco, reposado and añejo forms (teetotalers can suck down a few Jarritos sodas). The menu’s tried-and-true offerings—tacos, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas and so on—are all solid: We especially liked a quesadilla with fat chunks of shrimp and melted Monterey Jack cheese, and a tostada appetizer with black beans, lettuce, tomato, sour cream and thick, juicy slices of grilled skirt steak. The chicken fajitas came with plenty of chicken, sautéed peppers and onions, but oddly, only one tortilla (they ponied up more when we asked about it). The space is somewhat cramped and the music is loud—all of which is a blessing or a curse depending on your mood. Reservations aren’t taken either, so be prepared for a wait.

Venue name: El Centro
Contact:
Address: 824 Ninth Ave
New York

Cross street: at 54th St
Opening hours: Mon, Tue, Sun 5–11pm; Wed–Sat 5pm–midnight
Transport: Subway: C, E to 50th St
Price: Average main course: $12. AmEx, MC, V
Do you own this business?

Average User Rating

5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:0
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
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Meredith R
tastemaker

I really cannot say enough good things about El Centro. It’s my go to spicy marg spot in New York, and I have spent many an evening with girlfriends ‘neath the cactus. Though the cactus light is no longer part of this staple, the strong drinks and good eats keep us coming back regardless of season. I recommend ordering a round (or three) of skinny spicy margs and then getting a steak salad, a shrimp salad, chicken fajitas and quesadillas for the table. Maybe nachos if you're feeling crazy. 

Insider secret: The small margarita and the large margarita are the same size. They recently changed the glassware, but we’ve tested volume of the liquid. Don’t pay extra for the large! 

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