[all photos by Conor Rose]
Coppelia, my light, my love. It has taken me longer than planned to write this. How do you pay homage to an institution that is there for you 24/7, that has cared for and nourished you throughout its life, that has been a part of all your adult life’s milestones, and has provided you with a true feeling of mutual adoration?
My first visit to Coppelia was back in 2012 – I had been living in the neighborhood for about a year and stumbled drunkenly upon the Cuban diner on my way home one night, back when I was young and innocent, and didn’t truly know what the place really had to offer. I remember ordering the blue cornmeal crusted calamari and one too many cocktails and thinking, hey, great food, affordable prices, always open, this could be my neighborhood spot. I’ve spent the past six years frequenting this place conveniently located a block from my apartment, taking everyone and their mother there, and seriously studying the menu (with my stomach). I am not ashamed to admit that I’ve been here multiple times in a week, and totally ok with the fact that I’ve been here multiple times in one day. Looking back, I can’t remember a birthday spent living in the city where we didn’t celebrate at Coppelia. If you haven’t been here yet, you’re doing it wrong, but never fear – let’s focus on how you’re going to do it right.
First, let’s talk about The Nachos. Promise me that you will not step foot in here without ordering The Nachos. Since the first time I’ve ordered them, I’m not sure that I’ve ever been here without having them, and I am confident that my life will continue in this direction.
The Nachos, to put it lightly, are a feat of modern innovation, and constructed with utmost integrity. Chips are stacked on their side, allowing for an even distribution of toppings – each chip gets love, no chip is left untouched. Atop the nachos is a generous pile of tender, chopped beef short ribs, jalapeno, salsa, and a hefty scoop of guacamole, and beneath – a luscious pool of black beans and melted chihuahua cheese soaking into every individual chip. You will find yourself in an atypical nacho conundrum, when the amount of toppings outweighs the amount of chips, and you’ll scrape the rest of the gooey cheesy black bean remains from the dish – heaven forbid you let a smidgen go wasted. If you want to order an empanada or two (the sweet corn is my favorite) to round out the apps, you won’t be upset about it.
When choosing a main course, we usually steer towards breakfast (served all day!) or the sandwich sections of the menu (our go-tos are the Cuban sandwich and huevos rancheros, you’re welcome in advance) but this time around we thought we’d give the entrees a chance. The arroz con pollo is a mountainous dish, arriving in a deep bowl filled with enough rice, chicken, peas, peppers, and pico de gallo for one person to comfortably, and happily, sustain themselves for about half a week. We also tried the churrasco, another gargantuan platter of food – grilled skirt steak, moros (the Cuban version of rice and beans), sweet plantains, and fried brussel sprout salad. It’s a dish full of diverse textures and flavors, with each part standing well on its own, but a standout meal overall when mixed together.
We can’t forget the drinks, of course – we’ve also got a full bar featuring a solid weekday happy hour here with affordable cocktails, wine, and imported beer – on the cocktail side, the Mango Caipirinha is my personal favorite, but I’ve also been known to indulge in the enormous Gran Paloma, assuming I don’t have work or any other obligations at all the next day. A simple Corona will pair well with anything, especially here. You’ll be happy with anything they’ve got.
I could wax poetic about the wonders of Coppelia for the rest of my life, but to put it simply – just know that if you need a restaurant recommendation for any time of day and you are in, near, or not even anywhere near Chelsea, I’m going to tell you to go to Coppelia, so you should probably just go ahead and do it.
Coppelia is located at 207 West 14th Street in Manhattan. This meal was provided by Coppelia, a restaurant that truly is our favorite in New York City, and all opinions are our own.