174 Elizabeth St, New York, NY | Directions 1001240.721033 -73.994809
Mon-Sat, noon-11:30pm; Sun, closed
Neighborhoods: NoLita, Downtown
Fantastic ambience, Extremely Poor Service – On the surface Café El Portal is perfect, the quaint location on Elizabeth St. and cute décor. Once you look past the surface and meet the staff, the quaint location and cute décor seems to be the only thing nice about it.
I don't care how good the food is, I would never want to spend my money at a place that employs such unaccommodating people. I was so turned off by the staff (including manager) behavior that I couldn't even enjoy my food.
Bottom line, if you are not a "people person" then maybe working/managing a restaurant just isn't the right profession for you.
**The staff's attitude seems to be a repetitive issue on these reviews.
An unassuming Nolita nook serves inexpensive Mexican to neighborhood regulars. – Black-and-white portraits adorn the walls of this subterranean spot where swank is low on the priority list, but gracious service and tasty food are high. Seated at the bar, or at a table with friends, it's possible to forget the small space while chomping on generous portions of chicken quesadillas, prefaced by fresh guacamole and chips. For ultimate satisfaction, branch from the classics and try a house specialty, like the chiles rellenos, a whole poblano pepper stuffed with meat and cheese, or the mole de pollo Oaxaqueno, a chocolate-infused chicken dish whose sauce is a closely kept family secret. No matter your selection, the bill won't prompt you to consider refinancing the mortgage.
I'm stunned by all these glowing reviews – Those who deride the service are right on. As we walk in we see a sign advertising happy hour 4-7. We were seated at 6:45. There was one other table of customers and two tables of staff eating yet it took so long for a waitress to take our order that when I ask her what beers where in the happy hour she said it was over. I explained we had been sitting there for 15 minutes but she wouldn't budge. so ridiculous that i went with a diet coke out of spite! And then it took forever to get the bill and our change.
As for the food. It was okay but I've been to mexican places in Texas and California and you can't compare this one to them. Its solid for New York, pretty much on par with the average place here and that is all. I'd like everyone who thinks $16 chicken mole is a bargain to take a trip to East LA! And the chicken was boney and fatty and pretty much the same quality you would get in cheap mexican. My girlfriend had a chile relleno special which I must commend. Tasty sauce, cooked nicely, but something about the seafood inside tasted funky.
The salsa verde was great but the actual chips SUCKED. not a fan of the red salsa and never a fan of paying for chips to begin with. I guess this place plays well to the "I have no problem paying double digits for guacomole and chips" crowd but I was not impressed.
great food, bad service... – This restaurant holds a love / hate relationship with me. On many occasions it has taken me forever to get the simplest things, i.e. getting my drink, an extra napkin, the check... etc. It's one thing if the restaurant is packed and we cant flag our waiter/waitress down, but even when its practically empty, the service is still terrible. There have been times when other tables whom have seated down after i sat down receive their food, my friends & i would have to 'remind' them that we are waiting for our drink (shouldn't that be the first thing you do after taking our order?) Half the time they're doing other things and never paying attention to the customers, but I can give it to them that they are generally nice (never have i encountered a rude wait staff). You would think that they're working on tips... Granted that service is a ZERO, i must confess that their food is amazing (their guacamole is unbelievable)! which is why i keep going back. Service stinks, but hey, their food makes up for it.
Best Mexican. Get there before 8! – I absolutely adore this place. I love the atmosphere, food, drinks and price. The pitchers of margaritas are a great value (get the cucumber margarita!) And the shrimp and fish tacos are delish. It's a small place, so get there before 8 on a Friday or Saturday night. You will continue to come back to this place and will not be disappointed.
Good specials, great margaritas – My husband and I were able to scoot our way into the very packed and teensy restaurant. The table was small and I felt like I was constantly getting elbowed by other diners. Aside from the body jarring, the food was delicious. I had a special which was a pepper, filled with rice, raisins, meat, and other goodies, smothered in a nut sauce--sounds dreadful or too-too, but it was surprisingly light. My husband was happy with his carnitas and kept raving about the margarita. Wine list had some nice choices. Our server was very nice. Kind of a hectic night, not sure if this is the usual. Definitely felt like a local destination, a few hipsters, one family, some older couples, and a few models talking about their day's work and agents. I'd love to go back and I'm hoping that next time I'll get a seat with more space.
Viva Mexico! – Coming from a Mexican background, I have to say that this was one of the most authentic and best Mexican meals I have had in New York. There were even some ladies making tamales in the corner!!
fantastic first impression – A friend suggested the place and he was dead on; the ceviche (seafood stew) was incredible-- and I usually don't like soups/stews. It's a small restaurant but the decor is great, makes for an intimate setting. The food is priced reasonably, it's the drinks that can be expensive but they are great, especiallly the margaritas! Great great great food, topped off with friendly service.
User review by allanshapiro – Great Mexican Food that is reasonable and well prepared. Their Margaritas are top notch and I love the shrimp tacos.
Quality Food in a Great Hood – Portal is one of my favorite restaurants in the neighborhood. First off, it's not expensive. Secondly, the food is quality. Most folks like the Fish Tacos, Shrimp Tacos, Enchiladas and the chips and Pico de Gallo. I personally recommend the Chicken Chilaquilles. Dining in is a very mellow and relaxing experience, which I always enjoy. The Sangria and Margaritas are excellent. Finally, the staff is very friendly and helpful. Buen Provecho!
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