Lucy’s Cantina: Tiki Tiki Tequila!
Last night, I was invited to dine at the freshly opened Lucy’s Cantina Royale! Located on 34th and 8th, convenient to Penn Station and pretty much every subway line, this tiki hut tequila bar/restaurant wants to jet you to the West Coast with a laidback taco-stand theme.
If you close your eyes and ignore the sounds of New York sports on the widescreen TVs, you can almost imagine the sand between your toes. The entire space draws inspiration from beach stands. The kitchen looks remarkably like a taco truck, complete with a chalkboard outlining offerings and an ordering window. The lamps looks like those hung from a pirate ship, nautical and briny. Tropical knickknacks and patterns abound, adding to the whole tiki-hut inspired look. The waitresses flounce around in short flirty dresses that resemble beach cover-ups and the waiters wear appropriately-bright Corona beer-sponsored shirts. In the spring, the upstairs will transform into an outdoor patio complete with a sand pit (real sand!) and tiki hut tables.
While more of a bar than a restaurant, the Sam Hazan-designed menu offers Baja-inspired cuisine. The offerings are pretty basic, but each as a nifty twist to spice it up. While there, I got to taste the chips & guacamole, the chihuahuas in a poncho (slightly unappetizing name for pigs-in-a-blanket), a sampling of the house tacos, the gazpacho tequila shooter, the baja sliders, and both desserts: the churros and the apple burrito. The food preparation and taste was of mixed success. The highlights for me were definitely the hard tacos, the guacamole, and the churros. The tacos come with 5 stuffings: chipotle skirt steak, pulled lime cilantro chicken, pineapple scallion pork, charred market fish, and lucy’s beef chili. The pork and chicken fillings were the best: well-cooked, huge bursts of flavor, and all-around delicious. The steak was also tasty, but a bit chewy in some spots, and the beef chili was pretty ordinary. Unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan of fish, so I found the fish tacos a bit unsettling.
The guacamole was wonderfully chunky and fresh – loved it! The churros were excellent. They were sweet and doughy, but also light. So many churros are dense and just sink in your stomach. These floated!
Not so successful for me were the chihuahuas in a poncho, but that could have been because I was slightly put off by the dog-inspired name. Either way, they were very standard pigs in a blanket, fit for bar snacking and catered corporate events. The baja sliders were in general good, but with so many ultra-tasty burgers floating around this city, they fell a little flat. More tropical tweaks to the served side sauce might add some punch. And lastly, the apple burrito was a bit too sweet and sticky, and, call me a traditionalist, but I sorely missed a flaky pie crust to accompany my apples.
One of my favorite things about the food was its cheeky presentation. The chips and churros were served in paper bags with wooden clothespins; sliders came served with a plastic bag of fritos, just as you would get at the beach. The presentation was 100% in line with casual laidback beach bum concept.
Aside from the food, the bar, perhaps the main event, was well-stocked with good tequilas and beers. The margheritas were absolutely amazing: tart, not too sweet, well-mixed, and flavored with tangy tropical mixers like blood orange or passion fruit. Don’t leave Lucy’s without giving one a whirl.
Lucy’s has got itself the perfect location for the type of bar/restaurant it is. It attracts the after-work crowd and the commuters sorely in need of a stiff drink before heading home. It is fun and festive with great throwback tunes and large widescreen TVs. The food is not exactly haute cuisine, but a tasty accompaniment to tequila drinks and the overall bar vibe. Lucy’s is a great option for grabbing happy hour drinks with some buddies or for noshing on some tasty Baja grub before hopping on the subway downtown.