The Upper East Side is not all that bad. I’m in no way shape or form ever going to be a convert, but I’m slowly becoming accepting. That’s progress.
I met my friends at Carl Schurz Park (I googled the name) on 86th and East End. It’s right on the river with plenty of benches and space for laying out. Watching all of the sailboats ride past gives the feeling that you are not in Manhattan, but rather in some beach town.
Our stomachs and need for sangria began to get the best of us. Thanks to modern technology, I Yelped “Sangria” in the area. Lots of red thumbnails popped up along 2nd Avenue, so we decided to just venture down the main street, lined with construction for this mysterious 2nd Avenue subway which I still don’t believe actually exists and will open never.
We eventually ended up at Cascabel Taqueria. Their slogan is “Eat, Drink, Love Tacos.” With a saying like that, I didn’t think we could go wrong. For a group of six, there was not room outside, so we just decided to give up on our quest for outdoor seating and went inside. The place is homey and extremely eclectic at the same time. The diner style red and silver chairs, long tables and open windows gave off a very confused, but fun vibe. The exposed brick walls had random figurines of wrestlers in it, cute handmade ceramic tiles and lots of wrestling masks on the wall (I think that was the theme, I didn’t really get it).
Our original plan and quest for sangria completely changed when we looked at the margarita list. The flavors were unlike any traditional or even funky margarita. I decided to order the Watermelon Basil flavor, while Rachel went for the Pomegranate-Hibiscus and Kim had the Cucumber-Cilantro. We were able to pass them around the table getting a taste of each one.
This was definitely one of the most refreshing drinks I have enjoyed in a long time. Full pieces of watermelon would come up my straw giving bursts of summer. The fresh basil was the perfect addition to make this drink slightly more unique. I loved it. By the end, I found myself fork in hand, digging through the ice to eat up all of the watermelon pieces. Drink and dessert.
We started off the meal with guac, of course.
First off, the chips were so cool. The big pieces broke apart to the perfect chip size, creating the most ideal chip to guac ratio. I don’t know why anyone else hasn’t thought of this. Plus, they replenished us with fresh out of the fryer chips when our tray was empty without us having to ask. Now that’s service. The guac had the perfect kick of spice and huge chunks of avocado. It felt as if the guac was made to order. It was delicious.
We decided to order tacos for dinner. You can’t mix and match two tacos, so Rachel and I decided to each order and swap one taco. That’s what friends are for. We decided to order the Carne Asada and Carnita Tacos.
Holy Taco. I understand why they “Love Tacos,” they are amazing at making them. The flavor profiles had everything necessary; crunch, sweetness, meat, cream and wrapped up in two layers of corn tortilla. These were delicious and so fresh. They literally melted in your mouth with the flavors building on top of each other.
On the table, they have house made sauces, which elevated the flavor of the tacos.
The combination of the Tomatillo and Roasted Tomato sauce on the tacos was my absolute favorite. The steak was cooked to perfection and the sweet creme contrasted by the crunchy onions made the most ideal bites. I love the bit of crunch each of the tacos had. The crispy rice was perfect on the pork butt. The Carnita taco was a bit dry, but with the addition of the tomatillo sauce, it was just right.
Best of all, the meal was relatively inexpensive. Two great tacos for $8.50 was perfect. The staff was wonderful and the meal was delicious. The best part was at the end, we were each handed a little bag. I opened it up and inside was the perfect bite of a churro.
Something just perfectly sweet to end the meal. We paid our bill, I said good-bye to my friends, put my over sized headphones on and made the long trek crosstown, through the park to the Upper West Side. On a nice day like today, the Upper East Side isn’t so bad. Especially for great tacos, even better Margaritas and great friends, new and old, it was a wonderful Saturday.
Cascabel Taqueria – 1538 2nd Avenue – New York, NY
Location: Upper East Side
Perfect For: Big Groups, Authentic Dining, Quick Bite, Drinks, Cheap Eats
Reservations: Not Accepted
Favorite Dishes: Guacamole, Carnitas Taco, Carne Asada Taco, Watermelon Margarita