Happy Hour with Pig
The food at Yuca Bar, at the corner of Avenue A and East 7th Street, is OK. Not bad, not memorable, just OK. I wouldn't recommend the place based on food alone, but Yuca Bar has other plusses that make it worth consideration, not the least of which is the extended happy hour, where Mojitos, Caipirinhas and Margaritas are $5 until 8 PM, both at the bar and at the tables. And these drinks are full force, nothing watered-down about them. I had a Mojito and a Caipirinha. They tasted good. They felt good.
The dinner, a couple of weeks ago, was one in my extended series of annual birthday celebrations. This one was on Janice. Janice and I often end up at Latin American places for birthday dinners, for the drinks as well as the usually festive atmosphere (which Yuca Bar does have).
The Yuca Bar dinner menu is split into tapas and entrees. We decided to go for three tapas and one main which, porkaholic that I am, was the Cuban roast pork with sweet plaintain mash and onion-garlic-oregano mojo. It was a humongous hunk of pork shoulder, with crispy skin, on the bone. The meat was moist and very flavorful.
The three tapas were disappointing. Crabmeat crepes were rather bland, the crepes themselves rubbery. The coconut-crusted baby shrimp, while eminently edible, seemed like chain-restaurant refugees; we ordered them out of nostalgia for the killer coconut shrimp at the long-gone East Village eatery Sugar Reef. Perhaps the best of the three was a sweet corn arepa topped with shredded beef, but it too was very shy when it came to seasoning.
The dessert we split, a bread pudding with dulce de leche ice cream, was quite good, though.
I did mention there were other plusses. Prices are reasonable. The room has a comfortable, casual vibe. The staff are both friendly and adept. And, though it's often difficult to hear it over the ambient conversation, they play a great mix of Latin music. Any restaurant that plays Jorge Ben's "Chove Chuva" scores some points with me. If you do go, just think of the food as something to eat.
Overall, I will say that for a similar mix of great drinks, great staff, great vibe and great music (sometimes live), you'd do better at nearby Esperanto, at Avenue C and East 9th, where I can recommend the food unequivocally. Some day I'll do a proper review of Esperanto.