Food & Drink

CAB SESSIONS: Finding Puerto Rico in Chelsea at La Taza de Oro

by Lea Faminiano

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Oh hi, remember Cab Sessions?  Please ignore the fact that the last one was from February, and that this recommendation came from a cabbie back in January – but I finally made it.  Like I said in the inaugural Cab Sessions post, the number of times I hop in a cab is extremely minimal as I am a walking freak – but I’ll mostly give in if: a) it’s extremely, ridiculously cold or b) i’m wearing shoes with heels greater than 0 inches.

Anyway, for this version of Cab Sessions, I was a victim of all of the above.   It was way back in January, and I remember already being on my street when I asked the driver where his favorite place to eat in the city was, and he said it was just down the street and around the corner.  He offered to go with me, right there and then, probably because he knew anyone can win by offering a drunk girl some late-night food, but luckily I had enough sober sense in telling him I’d go another time.

So, of course, ten months later, I finally went.  I had absolutely no excuse to never have gone as it is exactly one-and-a-half avenues plus a couple more steps away from my apartment, but that’s life when you have a long list of eateries to conquer and tend to overlook what’s right in front of you.

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“Hole-in-the-wall” and “no-frills” are the best words from this place.  It doesn’t really look like anything special, just kind of a divvy and maybe even seedy spot at the intersection of 14th and 8th.  There’s both counter and table seating, and your typical diner fluorescent lighting, and in the same neighborhood diner fashion, I felt that the staff knew everyone that walked in the door.  As a first-timer, however, this didn’t make me feel uncomfortable – our waiter was super friendly, continually checking up on us and chatting up all the regulars at the same time.

What else can I really say about this place?  It’s just good old Puerto Rican comfort food, with rice and beans not even on the menu because obviously you’re going to get rice and beans, and daily rotating specials.  What’s special about it is the fact that this little gem thrives on the border of the West Village, Chelsea, and the Meatpacking, where all the glitzy overpriced places are just brimming off the streets.

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The food doesn’t show off one bit, because it doesn’t really have to.  You don’t really need the fancy garnish and pristine plating – their version of mofongo is a huge fist of plantains with a side bowl of gravy just waiting to be poured all over it, as it should be.  We also picked up a small bowl of stewed codfish and a big plate of perfectly seasoned bistec encebollado, and combined with the plates of rice and beans that we each bigger than the size of my head, I wasn’t even able to order the flan I had my heart set on – that’s how full I was.

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For a meal for two that we couldn’t clean up, the whole thing cost about $22, and it was so filling that I’m writing this at dinnertime and I have no intention on eating again anytime soon.  My advice?  If you want a fancy meal out, pick any other spot in the area –  but if all you want is a simply amazing and authentic Puerto Rican meal, La Taza de Oro is for you.

So far, Cab Sessions has been a success – stay tuned for the next,

La Taza de Oro
96 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10011