Tag Archive | Cuban Food

Cocina Del Sur: A South American Grill Specializing in Healthy Indulgence!

Eat What Makes You Happy Signage
All Photos By Gail

As we become increasingly health conscious when it comes to dining out, the concept of fast food that can be prepared on-demand from fresh ingredients has been popularized by chains like Chipotle, and Moe’s, among others. It’s no accident that these restaurants feature southwestern flavors, because — let’s face it — Mexican food is awesome, and the variety of preferred-ingredient combinations is almost endless. Who misses a Burger when you can do a Burrito Bowl dozens of different ways? What’s really fun and exciting for a foodie like me is to see the Chipotle model emulated to expand beyond Mexican into tasty Mediterranean and Latin cuisines. Recently, I was invited to visit Cocina Del Sur, a midtown fast-casual restaurant specializing in Latin dining that is both healthy and indulgent. Let’s check it out!

Store View from Front Door

Aside from the food, the Latin flare extends to the music and decor of the restaurant, which customers seem to enjoy.

Menu Interior

Open since 2016, owner Ronny Abenhaim draws on his South American roots to create Cocina Del Sur’s simple menu of fresh and vibrantly flavorful ingredients. Ronny explains, “although Cocina Del Sur has a bit of every country in South America, it has a heavy Colombian influence since that’s were I grew up. You can find many of my childhood favorite dishes and ingredients on the menu.”

Diners can custom-build a meal from two basic starter options: a Plate, which includes your choice of two side dishes and a sauce for $10.95; or a Salad or Bowl, which includes a base of Lettuce, Rice or Quinoa, plus three additional ingredients and one sauce for $8.95. A selection of seven different proteins, with choices like grilled organic chicken, organic tofu, and grass-fed hangar steak can be added to your meal for a nominal extra charge ($1.00 to $4.50). All meats are brined and marinated overnight to be extra flavorful and tender.

Front Counter Ordering

If this seems confusing at all, the staff is very friendly (on my visit I met Kevin and Daisy, who are both really nice and excited to be working with Ronny at Cocina Del Sur), and they will be happy to explain how ordering works or to answer any questions about how the food is prepared.

Sauces
Customize your level of spice with a choice of sauces that include Green Chimichurri, Pico Del Gallo, House BBQ, Tomatillo (with little Avocado in it), Chili Pepper, Mango Salsa, or the House Dressing.

Chicken and Rice Plate
Pictured: Bowl with Cilantro Rice and topped with Organic Grilled Chicken, Roasted Corn, Black Beans, Fried Onions and Sliced Avocado. Amazingly Delicious!

On my visit, I brought along my foodie friend Anne and we had fun customizing our meals from so many delicious options. I chose the Bowl option (pictured above) with a base of cilantro rice, with roasted corn, black beans, crispy fried onions as my ingredients, and garden-fresh pico de gallo as my sauce (total $8.95). I then added the organic grilled Chicken ($1.00) and a sliced half ($2.00), which brought my total to just $11.95 for  a huge, healthy and delicious meal!

Steak and Rice

Anne also chose a bowl with cilantro rice, roasted corn (which is cut from the cob after roasting in-house), caramelized onions and black beans, adding sliced, grass-fed hanger steak to her meal for an additional $3.00, bringing her total to $11.95 as well. If you dine regularly at Chipotle, Chop’t or Sweet Green you can see that Cocina Del Sur’s prices are very competitive.

Trio of Salsas

Anne chose the Green Chmichurri sauce, which goes so well with hanger steak, and they gave us an extra Pico De Gallo to share! You can see how fresh it is. “The sauces are what takes you to a certain country in South America,” Ronny explains. “What sauce you add to your meal is kind of what decides ‘which ride you will take.’ For this reason, everything is made from scratch, chopped and prepped in house; since our lunch hours are very busy, nothing stays on the shelves for long and everything feels very fresh. We don’t own freezers or microwaves and we don’t allow cans in our kitchen. We use seasonal and quality ingredients to get better flavor and keep the menu healthy.”

Sweet Plantains

We also ordered a side of Sweet Plantains ($3.50) to share. These plump plantains were fried up just the way we like them: sweet, moist and tender and just slightly caramelized on the outside. Perfect!

Juices Sign

If you want to add a healthy beverage to your meal, why not try one of Cocina Del Sur’s fresh juices, which are a specialty that Ronny wanted to have on the menu, as they are made with exotic fruits imported  from South America. “Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil are right on the equator line,” Ronny explained, “so the climate is perfect for all the delicious, exotic  fruits in the world. Growing up, I would have breakfast and lunch accompanied always by a different juice freshly made in the blender minutes before. I can’t always find Passion fruit, Guanabana, Honeydew, Watermelon, Mango, Blackberry, Nispero, Lulo, Tamarind here in the US, so the fresh juices is the only category on the menu where we are always looking for ways to bring these beautiful fruit flavors from South America.”

Blackberry Juice

I tried the Blackberry Juice, made with a Colombian Blackberry which is a bit different in color and flavor from the Blackberry in the states. Ronny described it as being “like a combination of a raspberry and a blackberry,” which is flash frozen at its peak ripeness, then vacuum sealed and sent to the restaurant. The juice was sweet and light and very refreshing. All juices are $5.50 and come in a bottle for grab-and-go-convenience.

Hallway

Our order was ready in about ten minutes and we sat at one of the small tables in front to dig in to our Latin feasts! Everything in the bowl was bursting with fresh flavor! The rice was fluffy, the black beans tender from hours of slow-cooking, and the corn had that just-picked sweetness with a subtle roasted flavor, while the crispy texture of the fried onions added such a perfect compliment to the other flavors. The very generous portion of creamy avocado was perfectly ripe as well. Most importantly, the chicken was grilled to perfection, moist and tender.

Steak and Rice

Anne also loved her meal and noted that the hanger steak was perfectly cooked: seared on the outside and just a little pink in the center. If you’ve eaten food that is so good, you wish you could eat the plate, that is how I felt about my meal at Cocina Del Sur. Eating their health but undeniably indulgent food made me feel comforted and happy, but also excited about a return visit! “Our customers tell us how fresh and flavorful the food is at Del Sur,”says Ronny. “In Midtown, it’s hard to find good food at a decent price, and served quickly, so we can offer a freshly-made, healthy meal for around $15 dollars in under 15 minutes. And our menu is so flexible, you can visit us 30 days in a row and have a different meal every day!” Asked what he enjoys most about operating Cocina Del Sur, Ronny didn’t hesitate, “I get to do what I love, and I get to feed a lot of people each day and remind them that it is food that makes them happy!”

Catering Sign

Cocina Del Sur can also cater your Holiday party! Contact them at the email address or phone number shown above to get all the details!

Cocina Del Sur is Located at 40 West 38th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues) in NYC. Hours are from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM Monday through Friday (Closed Weekends). Connect with them online at Del Sur Dot Com and Follow them on Instagram at @delsurnyc! You can order from them on Seamless as well!

Pick Up Here Sign

Wall Paper Design

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Gail and Geoffrey’s Excellent Gay Pride Adventure!


Wonder Woman Costume from Met Superheroes Exhibit

This weekend was Gay Pride here in NYC, and Geoffrey and I celebrated by having a ridiculously fun Sunday adventure that will heretofore be known as “The Gayest Day Ever.” Just because it sounds more fun that way!

First, I picked up Geoffrey at his apartment and we traveled uptown by train and bus (experiencing excellent Mass Transit Karma) to 5th Avenue and 82nd street, arriving at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Unless you have ADD, you might recall that I have already blogged about The Met at least three times in the past week, because it is so awesome. Our first stop at the Met was to hit the roof garden for my second viewing in three days of the Jeff Koons sculpture exhibit, Koons on the Roof.


Giant Balloon Dog and Me

We spent a few hours in the museum until we became comatose from over-exposure to too much rad art. I highly recommend the Superhero Costume exhibit, which was just insane.


Spidey!

Geoffrey took some great pictures, even though you weren’t supposed to, and he kept getting yelled at. Go Geoffrey, you wild Rebel, you!


Geoffrey and Sacred Heart


Jeff Koons’ Coloring Book Sculpture

After we tired of looking at art we went back down town to dine at our very favorite Cuban restaurant, Havana Chelsea, or Chelsea Havana. Whatever it’s called, the food is beyond delicious! We stuffed our faces with fried chicken cutlets, red beans, yellow rice and fried plantains – pausing occasionally to grunt at each other – until we could barely waddle back out on to the street to mingle with the happy gays celebrating their pride! Yay!


According2G.com

But we were not done yet! Next on the agenda of rad fun was my friend Larry’s birthday party! Larry is a record producer and developer of Reality TV programming who I’ve known for about five years. (Trivia: Larry also lives in the same building as John Waters.) Except for there being way too much reggae on the mix CD, Larry’s party was very fun and gay, but Geoffrey and I were so full of Cuban food that we could barely lift our glasses of over-strong Vodka and Cranberry juice and we snuck out after about two hours. What a fun day!

Happy Gay Pride everybody!


Mystique Costume from X Men Movies


Catwoman Costume from Batman Movie

A Few Things That Kept Me From Blowing My Brains Out Last Week

This Week Sucks

Last Week was certainly quite far from being the best week of my very long life. Between the stress of my father being on death’s door out in California, the thundering re-occurrence of my chronic jaw pain and the continually-evolving myriad of daily problems afflicting Worley gig.com, resulting apparently from
1. Moving host servers
and
2. Updating to the latest version of WordPress (Recommendation: Avoid if possible)
It occurred to me off and on during the week how awesome it would be to just go to sleep and never wake up. But of course, I had trouble sleeping as well, compounded by having to get up at 6 AM for my day job. Also, I lost two and a half hours of my life that I’ll never get back watching a completely terrible movie, The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford (I should have guessed from the overlong, pretentious title that it would suck ass). It was just a shitty week in general.
Fortunately, I was distracted from shuffling off this moral coil by a few of life’s simple pleasures.

Tracy and I spent an evening polishing off a bottle of wine and a large bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos. And that was fun.

Seeing Dethklok at the Nokia Theater and having a table upstairs so I didn’t get killed by all the moshing idiots.

Drinking a “Balloon Dog” Martini while enjoying the Jeff Koons sculptures and stellar views of Central Park from the roof of The Met.

Eating a steak with my friend Christine.

Spending a couple of hours on the phone with my BFF Sue always readjusts my perspective.

This new CD by LA metal band Blacklist Union, Breakin’ Bread with the Devil, really takes me back to the good old days of lost weekends and dressing up like Nikki Sixx for Halloween!

I enjoyed spending Saturday cleaning The Chickpad.

The sun is out at the moment, and my plan for today includes picking up Geoffrey, heading back uptown to the Met to see the Superhero exhibit, getting delicious Cuban food for dinner and then going to my friend Larry’s birthday party. I don’t think you could ask for a better day than that.

Cheap and Awesome Cuban Food Returns to Chelsea!

CUBAN FOOD ROCKS

“Oh, oh, I love it so…”

When Havana Chelsea closed last summer for “remodeling,” Geoffrey and I mourned and pouted for months that our favorite Cuban food diner/dive was lost to us forever. During our extended grieving process, we dined several times at the also-good-and-considerably-more-gay-friendly Cuba Cafe just a few blocks up the street, but the trade-off in ambiance/gayness/liquor license versus super low cost/actual taste of the food just didn’t cut it. We were ever so saddened.

But fortunately Geoffrey lives in the neighborhood and he, being ever vigilant, reported to me just last month that our former favorite haunt for cheap eats had finally reopened as Casa Havana. Yay! Last night we made our first return visit and let me just say right now that “IT’S BAAAAACK!!” Although the place is reportedly under a completely new ownership, the food is just a great if not better, the prices went up maybe $1 per dish, and the service…well, the service is as ass-bitingly bad as ever. But for two complete meals coming in at under $30, with tax and tip, I can seriously live with shitty service.

Casa Havana is located on 8th Avenue between 19th and 20th streets, on the East side of the Avenue.

Ropa Vieja!