This popular neighbourhood eatery has a huge selection of soups, rice and noodle dishes. Overjoyed that they had my beloved Bo Kho (spicy beef brisket soup) on the menu inspired my full confidence in the kitchen; we ordered crispy noodles with seafood ($12 for a huge serving) and curried squid on rice ($7.50). Both were fresh and firm, with enough marine protein and Asian carbs to keep you going for a full day. Wine, Tsing Tao, Heineken and Beer 33 are served, as well as salted lemon soda and Vietnamese ice coffee, all for between $3.50 and $4.50. Service is quick and friendly, and food can arrive ridiculously fast. Be prepared to wait a while for a table in the evening.
Subway: 86 St.
The tiny upstairs restaurant above the even smaller bar area is cosy and warm, aglow with red light and decorated with a large ceiling-mounted tarantula. Indeed, Mayahuel is the fertility goddess of agave alcohol and libations should certainly be poured in this sacred space.
The food is merely good, and not too dear at all: most starters are under a tenner while mains are $14-$18, with a creamy saffron paella to share at $28. The Elote (corn-on-the-cob covered with crema agria, cotija cheese and chile de arbol) was great to share and the quinoa and avocado salad looks like a winner for the summer. Flautas, tacos and ceviches are all available, and the Tres Leches for dessert was a firm, muscular piece of coconutty milk-soaked cake. But it’s all about the drinks here: the cocktails list is succinct and impressive, with all the emphasis on agave. It won Best New Cocktail Bar in the World at Tales of the Cocktail in 2010, and we can see why: the Dijahbone (Sotol, duck fat infused Grand Marnier, carrot juice, lime and cumin) was rich and smoky, while I Love Lamp (tequila, rum, banana, pineapple, lime and bitters) was a heady hit of a tropical beach. Cerveza cocktails are tempting too; the Fade to Black (mezcal, rum, ramazzotti, whole egg, xocolatl mole bitters topped with Negra Modelo) was one that everyone wanted to try. They’re all $14 so you’ll need to watch your bill as it’s all too easy to run up a large one. Service is slow but friendly, and bookings are not taken so you’ll have to turn up early.
Subway: 1/2/3 Av, Astor Place