As Mexican cuisine gets more and more haute, it’s refreshing to find Zarela as warm, friendly and, above all, delicious as it was when it introduced New Yorkers to “real Mexican food” over twenty years ago. Folk-art decor, tissue-paper cutouts and a knowledgeable, attentive staff create a festive yet relaxed vibe that complements such dishes as chile relleno stuffed with “poor man’s picadillo” —an expert combo of flavor and punch; sweetly sticky plantains served with Oaxacan mole; or one of the city’s best cochinito pibil, Yucatán slow-cooked pork marinated with achiote and oranges. Daily specials, like a meaty grilled octopus spiked with jalapeño and garlic, point to an assured hand in the kitchen; thank goodness some things never change.
953 Second Ave
|Cross street:||between 50th and 51st Sts|
|Opening hours:||Mon–Thu noon–3pm, 5–11pm; Fri noon–3pm, 5–11:30pm; Sat 5–11:30pm; Sun 5–10pm|
|Transport:||Subway: E, V to Lexington Ave–53rd St; 6 to 51st St|
|Price:||Average main course: $18; $42 prix-fixe dinner; $29.95 prix-fixe lunch. AmEx, DC, MC, V|