Dulce Vida Cafe; Authentic Colombian Restaurant in New York City

Exterior view of Dulce Vida Cafe and Bakery, Lexington Avenue restaurant serving up Colombian food in Manhattan

Dulce Vida Cafe and Bakery, Lexington Avenue restaurant, is the type of place that you'd probably hurry past a hundred times without much more than a glance or two in the window. Inside, the mishmash of table-clothed dining to your right, huge food photos plastered to your left (are those coffee beans?), combined with the Comic Sans-ish signage… it's all more confusing than intriguing. But, you've got things to do, so you'll maybe investigate later.

Unless you or someone you love is of Colombian heritage, that is. Then all it would take is one glance at the menu, or a quick peek into the display case of baked goods and desserts, to lure you in. That's because Dulce Vida Cafe is one of the only dedicated Colombian food restaurants in all of Manhattan, serving up familiar favorites to a house of happy ex-pats. And non ex-pats, like us, who happen to love Latin food. 

Dulce Vida empanadas are fried, moist, generously stuffed, and slightly sweet from the cornmeal shell

Dulce Vida Cafe's Empanadas

We finally made it to Dulce Vida Cafe the other night for the first time, tipped off by one of those "Neighborhood Joint" columns earlier this year in The New York Times, and had a great time sampling as many of the Colombian dishes as we could handle at 5:30 in the evening. We started with a trio of mini empanadas which, while obviously not exclusively Colombian, are nonetheless too tempting to resist. Our Dulce Vida empanadas were fried, nicely moist, generously stuffed, and slightly sweet from the cornmeal shell. The cheese was probably the winner here, but the chicken and beef were also solid starter snacks, especially when dipped in the fiery green sauce they brought us in a little bowl. In fact, that green sauce went really well with our other dishes as well. Also necessary at Dulce Vida Cafe: the salt and pepper, helpfully supplied without asking, diner-style. 

 From the "Sopas Colombianas" section of the Dulce Vida menu is the Ajiaco. A stew-like meal consisting of potatoes, shredded chicken, capers, a dollop of cream, avocado and a mound of white rice.

Dulce Vida Cafe's Authentic Colombian Food

Anyway, after self-seasoning with the above we definitely enjoyed our choice from the "Sopas Colombianas" section of the Dulce Vida menu, the Ajiaco. This was an almost stew-like concoction of potatoes, shredded chicken, capers and a dollop of cream, which, after adding in the half avocado and a mound of white rice, made for a comforting, hearty dish. Also hearty (and also needing previously suggested seasoning) was our Cazuela de Frijoles, a casserole of red beans, sweet platanos, avocado, and "chopped chicharron", which wasn't the crackling fried pig skin we were expecting–more like large, difficult-to-navigate hunks of skin, meat, fat, bone–but, once we figured it out, was good nonetheless. Dulce Vida Bakery usually serves one of our all-time favorite desserts, Tres Leches cake, but were sold out on this night. Maybe next time–or a guava paste goodie? or some flan, quizas? All of which should be paired with a cup of their first-rate Columbian coffee.

Dulce Vida illuminated display case filled with Columbian desserts and goodies, all which should be paired with their Columbian coffee

Dulce Vida Cafe and Bakery

The Dulce Vida Colombian Cafe and Bakery is located on Upper East Side between 82nd and 83rd Streets, just a few blocks from Glenwood's Cambridge apartments. This Lexington Avenue restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on weekdays, from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 on Saturdays, and from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 on Sundays. For more information and a look at the complete Dulce Vida menu, visit them online

Seating area of Dulce Vida is packed with patrons talking and enjoying their Columbian food.

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