June 23, 2017

RESTAURANTS: Cinco de Mayo

In 1983, a restaurant called Cinco de Mayo opens on West Broadway in SoHo. One of several restaurants in the vanguard of a Mexican food craze sweeping the city at the time, it's credited with nothing less than "unleashing the first salvo in the great guacamole invasion of Manhattan."

An instant hit, it opens a same-named spin-off in Tudor City in 1986, set in the restaurant space in No. 45 that previously housed The Terrace.
1987 advertisement. 
The restaurant's first major review comes from food critic Gael Greene in New York magazine. She likes its location in "mysterious, remote" Tudor City, but is unimpressed by the decor. "Not much thought has been wasted on the setting," she writes, "a "cactus here and there and whimsical splashes of yellow and kelly green paint." As for the food, "first-rate guacamole," "winning nachos," and "heavenly black-bean soup" are offset by "unexceptional margaritas" and "soggy ceviche."  Overall, the offerings are "mostly delicious," especially the "sugar-dusted walnut cookies that arrive with the check."

Then New York Times critic Bryan Miller weighs in. Unlike Gael Greene, he likes the "serape-like" color scheme and the mood, "convivial yet restrained, befitting this genteel residential enclave." As for the food, the "peppy guacamole" and "invigoratingly authentic sauces" make up for "some preparations that need more fine tuning." Ultimately, he awards this "ambitious and serious spot" one star, adding that "it doesn't win every battle, but in the long run it should prevail."

Sadly, it doesn't prevail for long and closes in 1991, after a five-year run.

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