Cafe De La Esquina


225 Wythe Avenue
(between 4th St & 3rd St)
Brooklyn, NY 11211
view map

Cuisine: Mexican
Our Rating: ★ ★ ★
Price: $16 – $19
Cards: All Major
Booze: Full Bar
Hours: Sun-Thu, noon-midnight; Fri-Sat, noon-1am
Subway: L to Bedford Ave.
Delivery: Yes
Time Out New York says:

Nolita’s Mexican hot spot brings its tacos and tortas to this 1950s Williamsburg diner. Like the Manhattan original, this outpost is divided into distinct areas, including a takeout taqueria in front, an outdoor garden and a classic diner with brown booths. Retire to the candlelit backroom, featuring dark wood tables and mirrors painted with Mexican-style murals, for chef Akhtar Nawab’s menu of more-refined plates, like chile de árbol—braised-brisket taquitos with pickled cabbage and guajillo chili. You’ll also find the outfit’s signature dishes, including fish tacos, chicken tortilla soup, and grilled corn with lime mayo, chili and cotija cheese. Drinkers can choose from a selection of 100 sipping tequilas and mescals, such as Don Julio 1800 Coleccion, Del Maguey Pechuga and Casa Noble Crystal.

NY Times says

It is almost too easy to get into the back room at Café de la Esquina, the Williamsburg offshoot of La Esquina in SoHo. There is no bouncer or grim goddess hostess wielding a clipboard of doom, no descent by a mislabeled door, down a horror-film stairwell, through corridors and a steaming kitchen, into a hipper-than-thou netherworld. Sure, the front room is a bit of a fake-out. You first enter a chrome-walled diner from the ’50s, restored so thoroughly — Venetian blinds, red booths, Formica, linoleum — it feels like a stage set.
Ask for the back room, and you’ll be escorted around the diner counter to a gothic nook of silver light bulbs and painted mirrors. Tequila bottles are stashed in wooden cubbies behind chicken wire. It is a bachelor’s notion of sexy. Unlike in SoHo, the menu is the same wherever you sit. (There is also a takeout counter, mostly for tacos. It is cheaper, which in the end may make you happier.)

La Esquina, which opened in 2005, has always been known more for its scene than its food. Then last year the owners hired the chef Akhtar Nawab, of Craftbar and Elettaria. He oversees both La Esquina locations. Mr. Nawab is of Indian descent and grew up in Kentucky. But his cochinita pibil — slow-braised achiote-marinated pork, served in two frustratingly petite taquitos ($9) — tastes as if he’s been cooking it all his life. Layered into a quesadilla, the corn fungus huitlacoche functions like civet in perfume: heady, repellent, irresistible ($11).

Exclusive (thus far) to the Williamsburg location are Mr. Nawab’s guisados (stews), including albóndigas, meatballs in a red mole of near-mystical depth ($18). (Life really is better in Brooklyn.) It is presented, charmingly, in a tiffin lunchbox, with sopes in one tier, rice and calabaza squash in another. There are lazy gestures, like the miniature crab-and-mango tostadas ($12) from a previous culinary regime. You can forgive a lot after a few margaritas ($12). It is all fun and games until the bill arrives. The price of admission is steep, after all.