Community Food and Juice has dominated Sunday morning indulgences for too long. It’s time to diversify your dining portfolio, and Bwog is here to help! In our Brunch Chronicles, we will take our time and gladly overeat at the neighborhood’s newest dining destinations. To begin, Bwog’s No. 1 bruncher Brian Wagner visits Cascabel Taqueria. Want to join Brian on his next outing? You could be Rob Brydon to his Steeve Coogan!
Chipotle and Taqueria y Fonda have divided many, yet most would agree that neither are ideal brunching spots. Regardless of how you feel about the fare, Taqueria is small, crowded, and dark, and Chipotle is soulless, if at least well-lit. But now there’s Cascabel Taqueria, replacing Thai venue Lime Leaf on 108th and Broadway.
Aside from boasting one of Bwog’s new favorite Morningside logos, the layout of the restaurant is one of the neighborhood’s best for kicking back and enjoying a nice sunny day. You have the option of outdoor patio seating, or counter seats that let you feel the breeze thanks to a removed wall and a bright, spacious interior. There’s an upbeat atmosphere, aided by a full bar with a couple of TVs and a nice drink selection, making it a pleasant place to sit down and hang out with friends, family, a date, or even by yourself—Bwog won’t judge.
If you believe the menu, Cascabel is a casual taqueria offering “fresh, handcrafted fare, inspired by the markets of Mexico.” This gives off an inital Chipotle-esque vibe, though the offerings are far more extensive and less in-your-face. As it should, Cascabel boasts an impressive variety of tacos, each with unique toppings. Chicken tacos come topped with green onion and avocado, while the steak tacos arrive at your table bearing “crispy onions,” which are like miniature onion rings and add a fun crunch to your meal. Tacos can also feature fish, pork, and veal tongue, and come 2 for $8.50, which isn’t exactly a steal, but also isn’t bad for sit-down fare at a New York eatery. They do the job just as well as Taqueria’s giant burrito, while giving you the option of diversity. Additionally, you can add a third taco during lunch hours bringing the cost to $11.75, but stomaching three would be a feat.
The main attraction on the menu is obviously the tacos, but Cascabel also offers a fine variety of authentic Mexican dishes. Depending on the time of day, you can order traditional Mexican breakfast, lunch, or dinner platters. Your faithful reviewers gobbled down a delightful plate of Chilaquiles during their morning meal. All entrées are delivered on a metal tray, which adds to the modern, hip, and slightly sterile feel of the place. This was reflected in their soundtrack, which featured the inoffensive likes of Feist, Passion Pit, The xx, and Phoenix.
Since you’ll likely pay around $10 for your main course, Bwog recommends skipping the pricey appetizers (though they are tasty—their zingy guacamole, the true measure of the worth of any Mexican restaurant, did not disappoint), and unless you’re dying for that horchata, the drinks are nothing to die for. However, there’s little excuse for passing up the churros, which come in a bag of three little D-battery-sized pastries for a measly $1 and are a great way to end a meal.
The verdict: If you’re looking for a place to sit down and enjoy a tasty Mexican meal in a relaxing atmosphere, look no further. The food is fresh and inspired, and the prices are mostly reasonable. On a nice day, it’s not hard to imagine that it’s the California sun’s rays you’re soaking up, but don’t expect the magic to last long once the year starts heading for cold weather. If you’re in a hurry and simply aspire to scarf down a burrito without expending much time or money, there’s really no reason to venture past Chipotle, and we honestly don’t think that Cascabel is going to convince a lot of Columbians to do so. But the place is highly brunchable, and so by our criteria, it’s certainly worth a try.
PS: In between researching and write-up, Serious Eats offered their opinion. They took issues with the tacos but passed an overall similar judgment.