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Casa Mezcal

Restaurants, Mexican Lower East Side
3 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
(1user review)
Photograph: Courtesy Casa Mezcal
Photograph: Courtesy Casa Mezcal

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Opened in 2010, Casa Mezcal was a part of the first wave of restaurants that helped re-shape Mexican cuisine in New York, introducing the city to authentic antojitos and tantalizing tlayudas. The brainchild of artist Guillermo Olguin and restaurant vet Ignacio Carbadillo, the almost six-year-old Orchard Street restaurant remains a solid homage to the Mexican state of Oaxaca, showcasing the region's art, cuisine and culture. 

The street-level bar and restaurant that first welcomes diners is as tightly crammed as any narrow LES tenement-turned-restaurant, but Olguin and Carbadillo craftily use their limited space to exhibit a large collection of traditional Mexican arts and crafts. Indigenous sculpture vies with a bountiful selection of mezcals for space in the brightly painted jadeite bar. Even the ceiling is a canvas for colorful displays of the intricate cut paper art known as papel picado. While the overall effect is attractive, the restaurant's larger second floor art space and dining room is a much more comfortable space to sit back and take in the scene and cuisine. 

Casa Mezcal is not shy about presenting Oaxaca faithfully and authentically. In addition to the usual chicken and beef, you can also top your order with chapulines, those crunchy grasshoppers that are an important source of protein in the Oaxacan diet. Although served atop an uncharacteristically inartful heap of mixed greens, the chapulqueso ($15) is still an easy introduction to entomophagy. The slight shrimp-like flavor of the grasshoppers, combined with the crispy pop of their exoskeletons, is an excellent contrast to soft strings of melted provolone. For those less inclined to experiment with their entradas, guacamole ($7.50-$12) is a safer choice. A side pairing of red and green salsa helps to tame the kitchen's generous hand with the salt—the spicy red salsa is especially delicious with a subtle orange sweetness tempering the chile heat. 

Of all the dishes on the menu, the restaurant's mole de pollo Oaxaqueño ($23) is the standout winner. Based on a family recipe featuring over 32 ingredients, the complex mole sauce is a soulful expression of Oaxaca's terroir, with chiles, raisins, seeds and chocolate coming together in an earthy and spicy blend. The soft corn-perfumed tortillas on the side are bursting with summer sweetness and prime examples of how even simple food can be superlative. Given this attention to detail, it's surprising that the chorizo in the botana Oaxaquena ($28), a Oaxacan mixed grill, is so disappointingly stringy and bland. Dessert is a similar miss with the tres leches cake ($11) bearing the unmistakable staleness of dairy that's sat in the fridge too long.

It's much better to end on a high note with a mezcal cocktail featuring Olguin and Carbadillo's own Los Amantes brand of premium mezcal. Better yet, descend into the restaurant's subterranean bar, Botanic Lab, for an entire evening of flashy mixology. Casa Mezcal's kitchen may need a little fine-tuning to reach the top, but thankfully, the party's going strong at the bottom. 




Address: 86 Orchard St between Broome & Grand
New York
Cross street: between Broome and Grand Sts
Transport: Subway: B, D to Grand St; F to Delancey St; J, Z, M to Delancey–Essex Sts
Price: Average main course: $16. AmEx, MC, V
Opening hours: Sun–Tue, 12pm–10:30pm; Wed-Thu–12pm-11pm; Fri-Sat 12pm-12am
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Users say (1)

5 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:0
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:1
2 people listening

Terrible experience, don't recommend - terrible host service. My wife and I were there on 7/7/18 @ 8:30pm, the restaurant doesn't take reservations for parties of 2 so we decided to walk in and put our trust in the host. We were met by two hosts, both equally unprofessional and rude, we were greeted with blank stares and half smiles, after a few seconds of awkwardness she grabbed two menus and had us do an about face out of the main dinning area and onto the sidewalk. Worth mentioning, the restaurant was 3/4's full, there were several open tables on the main floor facing the main bar, we asked if we could be seated at one of them but were told, "sorry those are reserved", but wait you don't take reservations for couples, so how could that be? The host reassured us that "upstairs" was just as nice -WARNING! If you are offered seating upstairs walk away, just walk away, upstairs is horrible, it smells like mildew and wet old carpet and it's totally separated from the main restaurant, you will find yourself in a quiet smelly room, zero ambiance feeling like what just happened, where am I? We told the host we preferred to wait downstairs at the bar for an open table and proceeded back down to the main area, she was clearly upset at out decision, when we got downstairs the other host immediately stopped us from proceeding to the bar and she said it was full, but there were actually two open seats at the bar but were again "reserved", we should have walked out at this point but didn't. They finally offered us the worst table in the restaurant, the one right by the front door, we took it and gave it a shot. Shortly after we sat down, we noticed two separate couples without reservations enter the restaurant and were immediately seated where we had requested only 5 minutes prior and were told no! Slap in the face, to make matters worse, those two couples were served their drinks first and we were given spotty service, food was OK, just OK, service was terrible and the hosts were unprofessional lacking experience. We wont return or recommend to our friends. 

One of the most authentic Mexican restaurants I have ever found outside Mexico. Great food, great mezcal and great music. The decor is incredible. 

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