I’ve finally done it. I’ve finally packed up my winter clothing and supplies and made my seasonal trek to my rental cube at Manhattan Mini Storage. Summer is finally here, and with it the opening of Cantina Rooftop, Hell’s Kitchen’s newest Mexican restaurant and rooftop lounge.
I wore my finest summer threads to the opening event last week, hosted by Cantina Rooftop’s General Manager Richie Cardona, to celebrate Cinco de Mayo – and celebrate we did! Located above Stage 48, which was in the 1950s a horse stable, the building has been completely remodeled complete with a state-of-the-art sound, lighting and video system. It’s a pretty awesome place.
Cantina Rooftop the newest offering of nightlife industry veteran Pedro Zamora, with an innovative modern Mexican menu designed by Executive Chef Gonzalo Colin (of Frankie & Johnnie’s, Robert), a Mexico City native who spent a year traveling to dozens of cities across Mexico to bring the best flavors and dishes home to New York City.
We started the evening off with two flavorful watermelon margaritas, which we followed with a Tegroni and spicy Michelada. With our palates sufficiently wet, we then started feasting on the various dishes set out for everyone to sample. The Camarones Locos were indeed crazy, crazy good, as were the Elote de Mercados (“Street Style” char-grilled corn on the cob for the non-Spanish speaking Gringos), but my favorite was their delicious Empanadas. I couldn’t stop eating them – that is until I saw the homemade Guacamole.
My girlfriend is half Puerto Rican and half black. Yeah, she’s tough. And she knows her guac. Cantina was serving up some serious avocado. They have three types — Cantina, El Diablo, and La Doña. I like it spicy, but the El Diablo ruined me. Of course that was my girlfriend’s favorite. You can see my problem when she cooks, as her definition of spicy and mine are like a bit, how shall we say, different? I loved both the tropical La Doña and Cantina, which helped put out the fire in my mouth. So did the tequila tasting by Clase Azul, which also warmed my belly.
To end our evening we went to the bar to get another specialty cocktail made by noted mixologist Jay Silverman. The Cuarenta y Ocho was quite refreshing, made with Ocho Plata tequila, St. Germaine, lime, passion fruit puree, and red Fresno chilies, as was the Gran Mirador, made from Tamarindo, vanilla infused Casa Noble Reposado, lime, Agave nectar, and lemon salt.
We retired with our drinks to the outdoor patio to recline in an ulta-cozy couch to enjoy the DJ while watching the beautiful sunset. A true hidden gem in the Mecca of diverse restaurants in Madhattan, I’m sure it will shine brightly.
About Cantina Rooftop
Just steps away from the Hudson River, with stunning skyline views of Midtown Manhattan, Cantina Rooftop is open year-round, rain or shine, made possible by a retractable rooftop and abundant space heaters during cooler months. Intimate yet accommodating, the open-air venue features a 20-seat bar and lounge and an 80-person outdoor dining area with a secondary bar, surrounded by lush greenery, banquettes, and communal and individual tables.In addition to signature guacamole, salsas, and stone-ground Nixtamal tortillas freshly made in-house by La Señora del Comal (the lady of the griddle), the restaurant will offer such house specials as barbacoa de carnero (maguey-braised lamb shank, consommé with guajillo sauce and comal corn tortillas), pollo campestre (chicken in Grandma’s Mole Negro served with green rice), and grilled Black Angus (arrachera steak with roasted potatoes, poblano peppers and charred asparagus).Along with a variety of tacos, tostaditas, and ceviches, the menu also spotlights antojitos (“little cravings”), creative small plates such as enchiladitas poblanos (pulled chicken, Grandma’s Mole Negro and queso fresco), camarones locos (tequila fire Gulf shrimp, Mexican chile and spicy salt), and frijoles borrachos (braised Berkshire pork belly, hoja santa, mezcal and Negra Modelo lager). Side dishes, such as Mexican street corn and fresh tortillas made on the rooftop in view of guests, are also must-tries.
With bottle service available, the rooftop lounge also features regular Happy Hour specials including $5 beer, $6 margaritas, and $7 tacos. Under the direction of Consulting Mixologist Jay Silverman (Agave, Mojave), Cantina Rooftop’s offers a drink menu of imaginative and refreshing cocktails, with a focus on margaritas, and a unique tequila and mezcal list, including the hard-to-find Clase Azul Tequila. Signature cocktails include the Cantina Margarita, made with Fidencio Mezcal, fresh lemon juice, agave nectar and Tajin spice rum; and the Tequila Sunset, with Tromba Blanco tequila, mango puree, lime juice, cava, and Aperol.