Oh, and it helps to be good . . . really, really good. Case in point: La Esquina, a combination taqueria, café, and brasserie discreetly tucked away in a subterrane beneath a nondescript old dining car in the Nolita section of Lower Manhattan.
You won’t see this special Mexico City–style eatery advertised in any newspapers or magazines. The management doesn’t court journalists or publicity of any kind. Nor do they allow photography inside the joint, and we’ve got it on good authority that anyone caught taking snapshots will be shown the door without exception. That door, incidentally, is covertly marked “Employees Only” and unless you’ve made a reservation weeks in advance, well, good luck getting through it. La Esquina has been playing hard to get since it opened in the summer of 2005, and as a result it’s become one of the most desirable nightlife destinations in New York.
Beyond the air of exclusivity, much of La Esquina’s considerable appeal lies in its beverage program, which is heavily focused on tequila. Their list boasts over one hundred quality tequilas from a wide variety of producers, everything from a lip-smacking blanco from boutique label Tezón ($11 per serving) to the hedonistic Don Julio Real ($68). Among the other enticing selections are Sol Dios Platinum ($11), Hacienda Cristero Reposado ($12) and several hard to find mescals such as La Fogata ($14) and the super-rare Del Maguey Pechuga ($241).
At La Esquina, beverage director Naren Young understands that Mexico’s national adult beverage isn’t meant to be set up with salt, slammed, or chased with a giant wedge of lime. The preferred method of consumption for sophisticated imbibers is to sip a chilled shot along with some homemade sangrita made with fresh tomato, orange, lime and grapefruit juices, chile piquin, and a splash of Worcestershire. If tequila isn’t your thing, La Esquina also offers twenty high-end sipping rums from around the world, as well as Brazilian cachaças and Peruvian piscos. One of the highlights of Young’s cocktail menu is a delectable margarita made with hibiscus syrup and rose water, and a “michelada”—beer served on the rocks with chipotle purée and lime.
106 Kenmare St.
New York, NY 10012