Among the recent recipients of the coveted Michelin star in New York, Casa Enrique is a deliciously unpretentious spot to get your interior Mexican fix in Long Island City without breaking the budget. The average dinner for two here, with 2 or 3 drinks each, an appetizer, entrees and sides is under $100. That’s a steal by New York standards, and especially by Michelin star-winner standards.
Like a hipster, I’ll just go ahead and say it. We’ve been coming here long before it was a Michelin star winner. It’s just nice to know that other folks agree with me – it is seriously good. Also amazing is their sister restaurant, Café Henri, a French bistro just across the street from the 7 train stop on Vernon-Jackson.
A friendly host or hostess greets you as you walk in and, after you indicate whether you’d like a table inside or outside, you’re whisked to your table. The minimalist décor – white on white, concrete floors, votives and a small vase of understated flowers on each table, is refreshing.
The drinks at Casa Enrique are delicious. Try the Michelada or the Aguachile Margarita if you like spice. If not, there are a ton of fruit-flavored margs and mojitos to choose from.
The service is excellent.
Service here has always been good, but I think maybe the receipt of the star has encouraged the staff to up their game. There just seem to be more servers in general now. That being said, the service is fantastic and friendly, not in-your-face and you’re not stuck craning your neck, looking for someone – anyone – to ask for what you need.
PRO-TIP #1: Eat at the Bar if there’s a long wait to be seated.
The actual restaurant space is pretty small, so if it’s crowded, you could face a longer wait time than expected. Ways around this are being willing to sit outside if it’s cold out (the back patio is covered and heated, but not 70*, so you’d keep a light jacket on or sweater) or, sit inside if it’s a gorgeous day (the outside tables will fill up first, then) or, finally, to sit at the bar and eat. Or, you could just make a reservation and avoid all of that!
You can order the full menu at the bar and the bartender really knows what he’s doing.
Pro-Tip #2: ASK ABOUT THE SPECIALS.
Make sure to ask for the drink specials (there are usually two of them, and they usually have a delicious fruity margarita on special), as well as the food specials if the server doesn’t automatically inform you of them. A common item in the rotation is the steak tacos, where the steak is marinated in tequila. They’re delicious. We were lucky enough to go on a night where one of the specials was an Aguachile (kind of like a ceviche?if I had to describe it) with octopus and shrimp. It was sublime. The octopus was perfectly cooked – firm, yet not chewy, and perfectly spiced.
Pro-Tip #3: Get the Guacamole. Medium’s not too spicy.
The fresh made-to-order guacamole is always suggested and we always oblige. You pick between mild, medium and hot, and for us, Medium is where it’s at. A salsa trio is brought to the table to accompany the fresh guacamole and fresh, house-made totopos de maíz (tortilla chips). The tomatillo salsa (mild) is to die for and the spicy habañero (hot) gets you your spice fix.
What to order?
The menu has a great selection of shareable bites, as well as hearty entrées if you tiene mucho hambre. Personal favorites are the Tacos al Pastor with a side of rice and beans (the combo – a side of rice and a side of beans is way too much food), the Enchiladas de Pollo con Salsa Verde, and the Pozole de Mi Tía (not pictured). Their mole is off the hook – chocolatey, spiced but not spicey goodness. Good news for those who are averse to chicken with bones – the chicken enchiladas also come in a version with mole instead of the salsa verde.
My only complaint? The tacos come in pairs, and you have to order two of the same in each order. Capitalize on a group dining by ordering different kinds and swapping with your table-mates.
Pro-Tip #4: Leave room for Tres Leches.
You had better leave room for dessert, although it’ll be hard to, with all the delicious savory bites to choose from. If you find that extra stomach real estate, get the Pastel de Tres Leches and thank me later.
Casa Enrique is amazing Mexican food without the pretentious NYC crowd and accompanying pricetag, and I hope you think so, too. Maybe I’ll see you there?
How to get to Casa Enrique:
Hop the 7 train from Manhattan one stop into Queens (three stops from Times Square) and get off at Vernon-Jackson Blvd. It’s about a 2 minute walk from the station, at:
5-48 49th Ave. Long Island City
Been to Casa Enrique and want to share what you think about it with me and my readers? Leave a comment!