3219 Broadway (at 126th Street)

Average entrée, roughly $8

Si te gusta la comida barata y rica, y si puedes entender estas palabras, el restaurante de tus sueños está situado cerca de la universidad.

You don’t need to comprehend that sentence to appreciate Floridita, the large celery-green restaurant in south Manhattanville. It has all the elements of a consciously homey eatery like Denny’s, but it’s actually possible to eat there without feeling queasy—really, you’d be hard-pressed not to enjoy yourself.

Floridita, which draws its primary culinary influences from Dominican- and Cuban-style cooking, is one of the most instantly appealing restaurants within a fifteen-block radius. Its buttery interior (complete with wide windows and skylight) entices casual passersby, its super-low price range glues them to their chairs, and its unpretentious offerings keep them coming back for more.

Though it’s painfully clichéd to say so, I’ll go ahead: while the literal distance between Floridita and Columbia is very short, the metaphorical distance is immense. And, of course, that’s part of its appeal.

On the Saturday morning that I took the brief stroll to 126th Street, the Floridita crowd was in full gustatory swing, enjoying gobs of American breakfast foods and Dominican dishes alike. Old men in straw hats and overalls hobbled in to sit at the counter as a crowd of businesspeople speaking rapid Spanish bustled in to a conference-style table towards the back, briskly whipping out their laptops and plugging them into the wall. Blue-collar breakfasters stuffed themselves with cheap instant-energy as a girl behind the counter pressed fresh greasy bread in a foil-covered contraption and chatted up the customers.

Presiding over the same counter was a rooster lawn ornament and several cheerful palm trees. Latin music played softly in the background. While the restaurant is officially bilingual, it helps to have un poco español at your disposal, although—like at Denny’s— pointing out your selection on the menu works too.

Although our first waitress raised an eyebrow when one of my friends ordered only French toast ($4), the platter containing three big hunks that arrived widened our eyes. Low prices are fundamental at Floridita. The prices took a sharp upswing when it came to mariscos (seafood), with an arroz con langosta—lobster and yellow rice—that costs $23. But, shellfish being what it is, that’s probably a good sign.

The menu offers daily lunch and dinner specials. But, if Friday’s dinner special, bacalao guisado (codfish stew), doesn’t sound appetizing, have a $3 cheeseburger.

In sum, go now, before it becomes the weekend afternoon-breakfast hangout. Just think: You’ll be free to discuss last night’s conquest in privacy, and you won’t have to worry about running into the object of your discussion while waiting for John Jay mystery meat. Or, take advantage of Floridita’s hours (they’re open daily from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.) and go for dinner. It will be interesting to see if the metaphorical distance stays the same as, in the coming years, the literal distance gets ever smaller.

Katie Reedy