Cauliflower Tacos Cienfuegos NYC

Eat, drink and be merry…and that’s exactly what we did at Cienfuegos! I hosted my first Cocktails Before Love NYC meet up this week and oh what an awesome time we had.

Three fellow foodies and I, joined by our very own Food Before Love founder Casandra, met at Cienfuegos, located in Manhattan’s East Village. This hidden gem of a restaurant serves up specialty rum cocktails and its famous punch bowls which are paired with Latin inspired small plates.

Ciengfuegos NYC
Courtesy of Cienfuegos

First off, the ambiance and decor was on point. Upon entering you ascend a long flight of stairs and once at the top, you feel like you’ve  been transported into someone’s chic Cuban apartment. Cool blues, ivory and pastel colors, plush furnishings and distressed, wrought iron gates create an intimate, but well spaced atmosphere. On our particular visit we were treated to live music playing urban Latin jazz. After chatting for a bit about ourselves and well, you know, our love of food, we learned that we all had a few favorites in common. We all lust after mac and cheese and we all live for seafood! After that we got right down to it; what should we order??

Guacamole Cienfuegos NYC

Cienfuegos recently revamped their menu to vegan, however we were all excited to try some of the delicious sounding options. Our server, Josh, helped us select some flavorful dishes that we all shared – guacamole with fried plantain chips, cauliflower tacos, black beans and coconut rice and yucca fries with a sweet corn purée sauce – and everything was tasty and the ingredients fresh. Half of us were on the fence about the corn dipping sauce that accompanied the yucca fries though – it tasted familiar, but hmmm we couldn’t quite figure it out. Josh informed us that it was made with corn and almond milk. I actually thought the fries were great on their own, no sauce needed! Overall, we enjoyed our light bites and it kind of slipped my mind that we were eating vegan – except maybe when it came to the cauliflower tacos. Yes, they were good – with spiced, chunks of cauliflower covered in sweet mango salsa, but the carnivore in me couldn’t help but miss a nice dose of marinated ground beef!

Cauliflower Tacos Cienfuegos NYC

On to the cocktails! We gladly took advantage of happy hour, which features a choice between two specialty cocktails for $7 and two half priced sharable rum punch bowls which vary daily. We each started with a round of Cuba Libres and daiquiris on the rocks. We all agreed that these were smooth going down, while still very potent…perfect!

Cocktails Before Love Meet up

For our punch bowl, the MVP of the evening, we  went with the Intro to Awesome – and the name of this drink couldn’t have been more befitting! We were scooping out the bottom of the bowl to make sure we got every drop. Yes, it was that good! The bowls are available in three different sizes, accommodating small parties of two or larger groups like ours. In addition, there is an extensive menu of individual cocktails to satisfy a variety of palates. Containing extra dry rum and Aperol mixed with cucumber, lime, soda and salt, the Intro to Awesome was very well-balanced between sweet and bitter and was so refreshing to enjoy amongst good company on a lovely NYC summer evening!

I can’t wait to return to Cienfuegos and indulge in more of the food and drink choices. Trust me;  if you haven’t checked it out yet, please gather up your crew and go!


The Chef burger Korzo

The last best burger I had was at Korzo. Buried away in Brooklyn. I first learned of this decadence in our Facebook Group. Wanting to give it go, I went by with a friend to see why this was featured on the Chew. I’ve since been back for our monthly bite at nite series where we each indulged in a different burger and enjoyed a few appetizers as well. We made early reservations on both occasions which is really important because Korzo gets packed. The front of the restaurant has plenty of room to maintain the crowd but everyone is trying to get a seat at the tables in the back. Each table is adorned with condiments, including beets which I mistook for BBQ sauce. Luckily for me, we realized this before I poured it all over my fries or burger.

Korzo Chef Burger

We chose the pierogie’s, fried cheese platter and mussels to start and share. This was the perfect idea and helped us keep the bill under $50 for each guest, with drinks. On my initial visit, we also tried dessert which was overwhelmingly delicious. They served us a fried dough plate topped with whipped cream and fruits. Korzo is the place for any glutton.

The Chef burger Korzo

The burger I had both times with no regrets was the chef burger, cooked medium. The burger consist of a dry aged ground steak blend, with Monterey jack, smoked bacon, spicy Hungarian peppers and cognac spiked berry gastrique. The art of the burgers at Korzo is that they deep fry it a Hungarian dough. Instead of being met with a heavy burger bun, you’re biting into a soft, semi-sweet dough that holds all the juices inside. There’s just the right amount of room to squeeze your condiments in and the heat of the peppers stands out immediately. They make about 4 other burgers in this style but the chef burger is my favorite so far. I’ve had a chance to bite two others on the menu and they still don’t compare. If you’re looking for an amazing NYC Burger then Korzo needs to be the next place you go.

Toloache Tacos

Thanks to NYC Restaurant Week, I had the chance to dine at Toloache, which specializes in Mexican food. I was beyond disappointed about the wait to get a table, but even more excited as to why everyone was trying to get a table at this establishment.

Tolache hosts diners downstairs, as well as, on the second level which wasn’t as loud or as packed. Cocktails are always the right way to start an evening and having dinner at Toloache would be no different. I ordered a Strawberry and Watermelon Cocktail. It blew my socks off! Perfectly blended cocktails is obviously something Tolache specializes in.

Toloache Cocktail

You know the saying “When in Rome”.  I ordered the Tacos, admittedly having high expectations. The tacos came out on a tortilla with the right amount of kick, although it lacked other flavors to really “wow” the table.

Toloache Tacos

The true prize of the evening was the entree. Toloache outdid themselves with the Entrana which was a seven chile rubbed skirt steak served with a Brussel Sprout-queso Fresco Salad. By far the best brussel sprouts I have ever had, tasted like bacon. I believe they even out did the skirt steak. I would go back just for this dish which left me talking about Toloache for days to follow.

Toloache Entrana

To end the night, I went out of my comfort zone and tried to the Tres Leche. I felt it was a little too moist for my liking. I know Tres Leche can be a hit or miss dish so I was completely open to how this could have played out. Personally not a fan but the decorative sauce was a winner I wished I could have had with chocolate.

Toloache Tres leches

Empanada Mama Guacamole

If you haven’t been to Empanada Mama, you’ve truly been chilling under a rock.  What most people don’t know is that their downtown location was closed and relocated into a bigger location on Allen street. Recently, the west side location burned down and a lot of Empanada Mama regulars were heart broken.

Although, we’ll miss stumbling in after parties on our way home, I hope that many will begin to call the new location home. After all, the place is huge and still gives you the same great tasting food we all come to love.

Empanada Mama is open 24 hours a day and normally has Happy Hour until 4am. So how could you not have this spot on your radar at all times?

The new location has a main entrance and communal like seating area. Beyond the wall that divides them is your traditional seating area. There is also a bar. Something the other locations lacked. And when margarita happy hour is happening, you get one.

Empanada Mama Margarita

The real gem at the new place is that they now have a back room for private parties. Can you say next birthday at Empanada Mama?

I was hungry just thinking about it. So I grabbed some of their Guacamole and Chips before I dug into some of my favorites.

Empanada Mama Guacamole

The Guac comes in all levels of heat with an endless amount of chips that never gets too low.  Too hot for you? Well more than likely it is probably still Happy Hour, so go ahead and order #AnotherOne.

What sets Empanada Mama apart for making these bad boys at home, are the fillings. They have everything from Cheeseburger, to the Brazil, to Tuna Jalepeno. It can’t get more creative than that. And for a place that has something for everyone, they are in a position to win.

If you are not a fan of Empanadas, there is also full entree’s, desserts and more. However, if you want to take my advice, go with the Shredded Chicken!

Empanada Mama Basket

Bodega Negra Tacos

If secret restaurants intrigue you but haven’t made the true speakeasy plunge yet, it’s time for Bodega Negra. 

Literally tucked away at the Dream Hotel, Bodega Negra, makes for an intimate atmosphere with a fun staff. Choosing to eat in the outside cafe left room for my next visit to be a date night on the inside of the restaurant. Not wanting to keep the noise level at a minimum for a dinner full of black girl magic – it was perfect that they were able to accommodate us.

Bodega Negra Fresca Hermosa

The drinks are pretty pricey here, reaching the $16 mark but it was really worth it. I ordered the Fresca Hermosa twice with no regrets. I have an affinity for a great cocktail and that was the least of my worries at Bodega Negra. 

Bodega Negra Oxtail Empandas

As an entree, I requested the braised oxtail empanadas, green rice and plantains topped with cheese. The empanadas with it’s thick crust and warm center was more than enough to share. My favorite was the plantains with the cotija cheese which was the perfect pairing to the sweetness I’m use to. But if you’re into spicy, the green rice will win you over. 

Bodega Negra Maduros

Bodega Negra Green Rice

There ended up being a fair share of guacamole at the table and a few more than filling carne tacos too.

All in all, I’m looking forward to my next visit.

Bodega Negra Tacos

Download our FREE NYC Pocket Guide

Do you often find yourself questioning where you should dine this weekend? Or maybe you’re tired of the same NYC restaurants. This NYC pocket guide takes you to 10 Food Before Love Favorites that will change how you eat. It’s perfect if you’re visiting NYC and are tired of relying on yelp. Let your tastebuds have a party. .

Cocktails at Dream Hotel

A few weeks before I was able to dine at Cherry, I had the opportunity to visit their sister location, Cherry Izakaya .  Being in the up and coming area of Williamsburg, I was surprised to find Cherry at Dream Hotel. Although, both locations give off different vibes and this one was just plain sexy. I was lucky enough to bring a date because this is exactly the kind of place you should bring one, too. It’s also perfect for a very important business meeting as Cherry is intimate and upscale.

Tuna Tart at Dream Hotel

Though I wasn’t too crazy about the Tuna Tart, the almond shrimp and sushi were delicious.

Almond Shrimp at Dream Hotel

I could order the almond shrimp for days and there was plenty of sushi to go around.

Sushi at Cherry in Dream Hotel

The Cherry Bomb Cocktail also peeked my interest and complimented most of the meal. You will feel relaxed during your entire experience here as the staff is equally accommodating as the menu is satisfying.

Cocktails at Dream Hotel

The real pleasure here was the Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake, which was plain decadence. I live for desserts and they sure know how do chocolate cakes the right way. So if you’re staying at the Dream Hotel, or just in the area, check out Cherry for dinner. You won’t be disappointed.

Dessert at Dream Hotel