1542 2nd Ave (80/81 st), Upper East Side
Simply stated, I really want to like Cascabel, there’s nothing really wrong with it, but I just can’t seem to put my finger on why I wasn’t happier there… Cascabel is a little storefront taco place on 2nd Ave that opened a few months ago. The food is good, the signature tacos are quite flavorful and tasty. We tried two standard ones: the camaron and the carnitas. Both the shrimp and the pork were cooked well and the tacos were well-dressed with high quality versions of the standard taco fillings. We tried the rich cheese slathered corn on the cob, and the quinoa and beans – an upscale, healthier version of the standard rice & beans. The fresh squeezed lime aqua fresca was delicious and refreshing. So the food isn’t the problem here. It’s not cheap ($7.50 for 2 tacos), but certainly a good value for the neighborhood. The patron orders at the counter, and the food is delivered at the table, and drinks are refreshed by a server, all of whom are helpful. I even really liked the decor of the Mexican wrestlers, which provided a unique Mexican vibe. The seating was one problem, because it’s a tiny place with only a few tables, so I felt a little cramped and rushed, plus people waiting for tables are standing over you. But I guess overall, I think my main gripe is that it’s just too contrived. It’s not authentic. It’s just a little too well-executed for a “taco stand”. But I guess it’s an Upper East Side version, so while it isn’t my favorite, I’m sure most people in the area will love it. And if my arm is twisted, I’m sure I’d return for a few tacos and cervezas.