New York City Eateries with Sabor and Soul

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If you do a Google search for brunch in New York City, you are bound to come across the growing complaints from long time city residents about how  it has become an all-day drinking fest, a form of binging sport lacking anything that resembles the leisurely Sunday gatherings with friends and family so many of us have known and loved.

But there are still places in New York that welcome that sense of community, places that seek to become that favorite spot you take your best friend to and look forward to visiting every weekend. Not so much for the trendiness, as much as for the good food and friendly ambiance.

I traveled a bit around town in search of the good brunch spots without the obnoxious crowds and came across several new favorites, offering Latin and Caribbean food menus along with so many other wonderful reasons to visit them often.

Chico Julio (768 Amsterdam Avenue, b/w 97th & 98th Streets – 212 – 749-2929) serves dishes inspired by the seafood dishes traditional to the coast of Mexico.

Which means you want to make sure to order their ceviche (I tried the Clasico de Sinaloa with fish & shrimp cooked in lime, cucumber, red onion, chopped tomatoes, chile Serrano, cilantro) and fish tacos (the Taco del Patron with seared house-smoked swordfish, sliced avocado, cabbage, chipotle aioli, served on flour tortilla make my mouth water). Pair these with any one of their classic Mexican drinks, such as the Agave Silencioso (Blanco Tequila 100% agave, Green Chartreuse, Fresh Lime , Agave nectar, Orange Bitters) or Chico Julio’s Smoky Negroni (with an Oaxacan twist on the bitter classic).

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A lot of the more traditional dishes they serve aren’t offered during brunch, so coming for lunch or dinner is a better way to taste more of the menu. And if you come for brunch and aren’t feeling too adventurous, you can still get the basic eggs and potatoes, with hot sauce of course. During warmer months, find a seat in their outdoor patio, but on cooler weather, take a seat in front of their beautiful wooden bar and enjoy the classic Mexican black and white films playing on rotation.

chico julio nyc_girlgonetravelchico julio nyc_girlgonetravelDuring warmer months, their outdoor patio is a delight.

chico julio nyc_girlgonetravelChico Julio is a local favorite for many, including this lovely family who raved about it during my visit.

The Black Ant (60 Second Avenue, b/w 1st Avenue & 4th Street – 212-598-0300) in the East Village is such a treat. Chef Mario Hernandez does an amazing job at brining a contemporary flair to Mexican favorites and paired with bartender Jorge Guzman’s cocktails, the food becomes a wonderful culinary experience.

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The presentation is top-notch, and the combination of flavors are some of my favorite I’ve tasted in Mexican cuisine so far. Must tries:

The Black Ant_girlgonetravelHuevos pochados con langosta: Poached eggs and lobster, jalapeño biscuits, chorizo gravy, papitas. Paired with

The Black Ant_girlgonetravelFish tacos Anjelito Baja style, jicama slaw, chilpaya aioli

DSC00322Los Rancheros de Teresa: Tortilla de Manteca, fried eggs, hoja santa, chile de agua salsa, pork belly

A visit to La Bodega 47 Social Club (161 Lenox Avenue, b/w 118th & 119th Streets 212-280-4700) during brunch hours felt like home. It felt like New York. It felt like Harlem. It felt warm and familiar and it made me happy.

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During the time of my visit, La Bodega was hosting one of its Sunday socials and it seemed like the whole community was there. Harlem, as I have always known it, was present. The music was good, the Latin and Caribbean food was off the hook, and the ambiance and energy of the place filled my soul.

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It was a New York City moment like I haven’t felt in a long time. Reserve a table and go. This is one of those special places that are so rare to find in the city.

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Must tries include the French Toast BLT. The sweet and savory, the crunchiness from the generous amount of bacon and the softness from the cinnamon and sugar-coated bread…oh my. I can’t even finish this sentence without salivating. I didn’t see it in their menu at the time of this post, but if you do, GET IT.

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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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