Casual Mexican restaurant El Mitote sits smack in the heart of our regular Upper West Side stomping grounds, a few blocks up from Glenwood's Grand Tier and, thus, also right near the neighborhood's three movie theaters, as well as everything Lincoln Center-y. And the El Mitote menu is totally appealing for a quick bite, specializing as it does in tortas, those hot, pressed Mexican sandwiches which we generally love, but also including a few kinds of quesadillas and taquitos and such.
And yet, even though El Mitote opened last fall, and we've passed it dozens of times while hungry (usually on the way to get a few pre-movie food at nearby Francesco's), this week marked the first night we actually entered the heavily decor-ed, usually (and sadly) semi-empty space. And you know what? We're really glad we did.
The Atmosphere at El Mitote
El Mitote is owned by the same folks behind Upper West Side standbys Cafe Frida, Cafe Ronda, and Rigoletto Pizzeria, none of which, we admit, we've ever tried (maybe Ronda, once, years ago?), though friends claim that Rigoletto's pies are better than Francesco's. The ambiance at El Mitote is a bit forced, as if it's trying to be a party spot–it takes its name from a lively, communal dance practiced by the Aztecs to lift spirits–with its low lighting and loud (and quite bad) pop fiesta music. For obvious financial reasons, the servers also push the margaritas, but the seating, mostly backless stools around high tables, or hard wooden cubes near the window, isn't nearly comfy enough for a lengthy, seal-the-deal third date, or to kick back and get silly with a crowd of friends.
El Mitote's Mexican Food Checks Out
Really, El Mitote works best as a quick-bite spot. If it were, say, right on the beach somewhere, you'd eat eat here three times a week. Because while not spectacular by any means, this is definitely solid, satisfying under-$10 Mexican. We thoroughly enjoyed our torta of pork carnitas, for example, served with guacamole, a smear of refried beans, a pile of crunchy lettuce, and some sort of "crema". The meat won't win any Most Juicy trophies, but that's what the hot sauce on your table is for. And the home-made roll, the birote, has the right ratio of chewiness and crust. We also wolfed down the Chorizo Quesadilla, which looks more like a trio of mini-tacos than your standard, pie-shaped dish, but delivers all the right oily/cheesy/salty/porky notes. Not bad at all. El Mitote has officially joined our regular Upper West Side rotation.
More Information on El Mitote
El Mitote is located on Columbus Avenue between 70th and 71st Streets, and is open every day from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Although there doesn't seem to be an official El Mitote website, nor a complete, updated menu, you can get the basic idea here.