Cafe El Portal

★★★★☆
  • 174 Elizabeth St B

    New York, NY 10012

    Cross street: nr. Spring St.

    Map & Directions
  • 212-226-4642

About Cafe El Portal

Hours
Mon-Sat, noon-11:30pm; Sun, closed

Food

Food
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On the surface Caf El Portal is perfect, the quaint location on Elizabeth St. and cute dcor. Once you look past the surface and meet the staff, the quaint location and cute dcor seems to be the only thing nice about it.

I don't care how good the food is, I would never want to spend my money at a place that employs such unaccommodating people. I was so turned off by the staff (including manager) behavior that I couldn't even enjoy my food.

Bottom line, if you are not a "people person" then maybe working/managing a restaurant just isn't the right profession for you.

**The staff's attitude seems to be a repetitive issue on these reviews.

0
★☆☆☆☆

On the surface Caf El Portal is perfect, the quaint location on Elizabeth St. and cute dcor. Once you look past the surface and meet the staff, the quaint location and cute dcor seems to be the only thing nice about it.

I don't care how good the food is, I would never want to spend my money at a place that employs such unaccommodating people. I was so turned off by the staff (including manager) behavior that I couldn't even enjoy my food.

Bottom line, if you are not a "people person" then maybe working/managing a restaurant just isn't the right profession for you.

**The staff's attitude seems to be a repetitive issue on these reviews.

Pros: cozy

Cons: rude staff

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Those who deride the service are right on. As we walk in we see a sign advertising happy hour 4-7. We were seated at 6:45. There was one other table of customers and two tables of staff eating yet it took so long for a waitress to take our order that when I ask her what beers where in the happy hour she said it was over. I explained we had been sitting there for 15 minutes but she wouldn't budge. so ridiculous that i went with a diet coke out of spite! And then it took forever to get the bill and our change.

As for the food. It was okay but I've been to mexican places in Texas and California and you can't compare this one to them. Its solid for New York, pretty much on par with the average place here and that is all. I'd like everyone who thinks $16 chicken mole is a bargain to take a trip to East LA! And the chicken was boney and fatty and pretty much the same quality you would get in cheap mexican. My girlfriend had a chile relleno special which I must commend. Tasty sauce, cooked nicely, but something about the seafood inside tasted funky.

The salsa verde was great but the actual chips SUCKED. not a fan of the red salsa and never a fan of paying for chips to begin with. I guess this place plays well to the "I have no problem paying double digits for guacomole and chips" crowd but I was not impressed.

1
★★★☆☆

Those who deride the service are right on. As we walk in we see a sign advertising happy hour 4-7. We were seated at 6:45. There was one other table of customers and two tables of staff eating yet it took so long for a waitress to take our order that when I ask her what beers where in the happy hour she said it was over. I explained we had been sitting there for 15 minutes but she wouldn't budge. so ridiculous that i went with a diet coke out of spite! And then it took forever to get the bill and our change.

As for the food. It was okay but I've been to mexican places in Texas and California and you can't compare this one to them. Its solid for New York, pretty much on par with the average place here and that is all. I'd like everyone who thinks $16 chicken mole is a bargain to take a trip to East LA! And the chicken was boney and fatty and pretty much the same quality you would get in cheap mexican. My girlfriend had a chile relleno special which I must commend. Tasty sauce, cooked nicely, but something about the seafood inside tasted funky.

The salsa verde was great but the actual chips SUCKED. not a fan of the red salsa and never a fan of paying for chips to begin with. I guess this place plays well to the "I have no problem paying double digits for guacomole and chips" crowd but I was not impressed.

Pros: cute place, good chile rellenos, corn on the cob, salsa verde

Cons: terrible chips, poor service, overpriced mexican

.

This restaurant holds a love / hate relationship with me. On many occasions it has taken me forever to get the simplest things, i.e. getting my drink, an extra napkin, the check... etc. It's one thing if the restaurant is packed and we cant flag our waiter/waitress down, but even when its practically empty, the service is still terrible. There have been times when other tables whom have seated down after i sat down receive their food, my friends & i would have to 'remind' them that we are waiting for our drink (shouldn't that be the first thing you do after taking our order?) Half the time they're doing other things and never paying attention to the customers, but I can give it to them that they are generally nice (never have i encountered a rude wait staff). You would think that they're working on tips... Granted that service is a ZERO, i must confess that their food is amazing (their guacamole is unbelievable)! which is why i keep going back. Service stinks, but hey, their food makes up for it.

2
★★★★☆

This restaurant holds a love / hate relationship with me. On many occasions it has taken me forever to get the simplest things, i.e. getting my drink, an extra napkin, the check... etc. It's one thing if the restaurant is packed and we cant flag our waiter/waitress down, but even when its practically empty, the service is still terrible. There have been times when other tables whom have seated down after i sat down receive their food, my friends & i would have to 'remind' them that we are waiting for our drink (shouldn't that be the first thing you do after taking our order?) Half the time they're doing other things and never paying attention to the customers, but I can give it to them that they are generally nice (never have i encountered a rude wait staff). You would think that they're working on tips... Granted that service is a ZERO, i must confess that their food is amazing (their guacamole is unbelievable)! which is why i keep going back. Service stinks, but hey, their food makes up for it.

Pros: everything on the menu

Cons: SERVICE - need to be alert

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I absolutely adore this place. I love the atmosphere, food, drinks and price. The pitchers of margaritas are a great value (get the cucumber margarita!) And the shrimp and fish tacos are delish. It's a small place, so get there before 8 on a Friday or Saturday night. You will continue to come back to this place and will not be disappointed.

2
★★★★★

I absolutely adore this place. I love the atmosphere, food, drinks and price. The pitchers of margaritas are a great value (get the cucumber margarita!) And the shrimp and fish tacos are delish. It's a small place, so get there before 8 on a Friday or Saturday night. You will continue to come back to this place and will not be disappointed.

Pros: Food, Price, Atmosphere

Cons: Small and there's only one bathroom

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My husband and I were able to scoot our way into the very packed and teensy restaurant. The table was small and I felt like I was constantly getting elbowed by other diners. Aside from the body jarring, the food was delicious. I had a special which was a pepper, filled with rice, raisins, meat, and other goodies, smothered in a nut sauce--sounds dreadful or too-too, but it was surprisingly light. My husband was happy with his carnitas and kept raving about the margarita. Wine list had some nice choices. Our server was very nice. Kind of a hectic night, not sure if this is the usual. Definitely felt like a local destination, a few hipsters, one family, some older couples, and a few models talking about their day's work and agents. I'd love to go back and I'm hoping that next time I'll get a seat with more space.

2
★★★★☆

My husband and I were able to scoot our way into the very packed and teensy restaurant. The table was small and I felt like I was constantly getting elbowed by other diners. Aside from the body jarring, the food was delicious. I had a special which was a pepper, filled with rice, raisins, meat, and other goodies, smothered in a nut sauce--sounds dreadful or too-too, but it was surprisingly light. My husband was happy with his carnitas and kept raving about the margarita. Wine list had some nice choices. Our server was very nice. Kind of a hectic night, not sure if this is the usual. Definitely felt like a local destination, a few hipsters, one family, some older couples, and a few models talking about their day's work and agents. I'd love to go back and I'm hoping that next time I'll get a seat with more space.

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Coming from a Mexican background, I have to say that this was one of the most authentic and best Mexican meals I have had in New York. There were even some ladies making tamales in the corner!!

Go!

2
★★★★★

Coming from a Mexican background, I have to say that this was one of the most authentic and best Mexican meals I have had in New York. There were even some ladies making tamales in the corner!!

Go!

Pros: Most authentic Mexican food in the city!

Cons: gets packed early! =(

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A friend suggested the place and he was dead on; the ceviche (seafood stew) was incredible-- and I usually don't like soups/stews. It's a small restaurant but the decor is great, makes for an intimate setting. The food is priced reasonably, it's the drinks that can be expensive but they are great, especiallly the margaritas! Great great great food, topped off with friendly service.

2
★★★★★

A friend suggested the place and he was dead on; the ceviche (seafood stew) was incredible-- and I usually don't like soups/stews. It's a small restaurant but the decor is great, makes for an intimate setting. The food is priced reasonably, it's the drinks that can be expensive but they are great, especiallly the margaritas! Great great great food, topped off with friendly service.

Pros: friendly service, excellent food, ambiance

Cons: none

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Great Mexican Food that is reasonable and well prepared. Their Margaritas are top notch and I love the shrimp tacos.

2
★★★★★

Great Mexican Food that is reasonable and well prepared. Their Margaritas are top notch and I love the shrimp tacos.

Pros: Great Food, Good Service, Good Drinks

Cons: Too Popular, Noisy

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Portal is one of my favorite restaurants in the neighborhood. First off, it's not expensive. Secondly, the food is quality. Most folks like the Fish Tacos, Shrimp Tacos, Enchiladas and the chips and Pico de Gallo. I personally recommend the Chicken Chilaquilles. Dining in is a very mellow and relaxing experience, which I always enjoy. The Sangria and Margaritas are excellent. Finally, the staff is very friendly and helpful. Buen Provecho!

2
★★★★★

Portal is one of my favorite restaurants in the neighborhood. First off, it's not expensive. Secondly, the food is quality. Most folks like the Fish Tacos, Shrimp Tacos, Enchiladas and the chips and Pico de Gallo. I personally recommend the Chicken Chilaquilles. Dining in is a very mellow and relaxing experience, which I always enjoy. The Sangria and Margaritas are excellent. Finally, the staff is very friendly and helpful. Buen Provecho!

Pros: inexpensive, relaxing, tasty

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It's authentic. Excellent Margaritas. Very Cool. Makes you feel like you're in Mexico. Service was good.

2
★★★★☆

It's authentic. Excellent Margaritas. Very Cool. Makes you feel like you're in Mexico. Service was good.

Pros: Excellent food, Eclectic Crowd, Friendly

Cons: , can get a bit crowded, arive early

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Very cozy restaurant. The food was very good and authentic, especially considering the price. The waitstaff was very courteous and answered all questions. Specials were very interesting and different than the usual Mexican dinner entrees. The drinks are a bit overpriced, though - they cost more than some dishes!

2
★★★★☆

Very cozy restaurant. The food was very good and authentic, especially considering the price. The waitstaff was very courteous and answered all questions. Specials were very interesting and different than the usual Mexican dinner entrees. The drinks are a bit overpriced, though - they cost more than some dishes!

Pros: Authentic, Inexpensive Food, Cozy

Cons: Alcohol Prices, Crowded

.

Until recently, I was a big fan.

Last visit, ignored by our waiter, we finally got beers and ordered food. As we waited (needing beer) table after table was served. After an hour, we flagged down our waiter. He said (with attitude) "carnitas take a long time." then he split. I think it's more likely that he screwed up our order.

Taking another chance, we ordered delivery one night at 8pm. 8:45 we called and were told it was "on the way." 9pm "he should be there." 9.30 "he's on the way." 9.45, frustrated and hungry, we went to Mexican Radio. We came home to a message left by el portal at 10PM!!! TWO HOURS AFTER WE ORDERED!!!

It would be easier, FASTER, and less stressful to go to the store, buy ingredients and cook for myself. My guacamole is better anyway.

0
★☆☆☆☆

Until recently, I was a big fan.

Last visit, ignored by our waiter, we finally got beers and ordered food. As we waited (needing beer) table after table was served. After an hour, we flagged down our waiter. He said (with attitude) "carnitas take a long time." then he split. I think it's more likely that he screwed up our order.

Taking another chance, we ordered delivery one night at 8pm. 8:45 we called and were told it was "on the way." 9pm "he should be there." 9.30 "he's on the way." 9.45, frustrated and hungry, we went to Mexican Radio. We came home to a message left by el portal at 10PM!!! TWO HOURS AFTER WE ORDERED!!!

It would be easier, FASTER, and less stressful to go to the store, buy ingredients and cook for myself. My guacamole is better anyway.

Pros: cheap, good food

Cons: horrible service

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The only way we found this place was b/c the outside was painted yellow. Nice little place in the basement drawing a hip village crowd. With the few tables expect a wait, even on a Tuesday nite at 10pm. Service was ok, took a while to order even drinks. But you definantly get a bang for the buck.

2
★★★★☆

The only way we found this place was b/c the outside was painted yellow. Nice little place in the basement drawing a hip village crowd. With the few tables expect a wait, even on a Tuesday nite at 10pm. Service was ok, took a while to order even drinks. But you definantly get a bang for the buck.

Pros: Good Cheap Food

Cons: Flaky Service

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I love this restaurant because the food is flavorful and flavorful Mexican is one of the few things that New York lacks in appropriate abundance. Portal is cheap, the food is amazing and the people who work there know about the food they serve and can make solid recommendations. The restaurant is best on a Monday night when its empty, but you gotta be pushy to get in the door on Friday night.

2
★★★★★

I love this restaurant because the food is flavorful and flavorful Mexican is one of the few things that New York lacks in appropriate abundance. Portal is cheap, the food is amazing and the people who work there know about the food they serve and can make solid recommendations. The restaurant is best on a Monday night when its empty, but you gotta be pushy to get in the door on Friday night.

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Very cozy atmosphere. Good food for a reasonable price. Worth visiting if you can ignore owner's lack of social skill and the waitresses' absentmindedness.

2
★★★★☆

Very cozy atmosphere. Good food for a reasonable price. Worth visiting if you can ignore owner's lack of social skill and the waitresses' absentmindedness.

.

I have to say the food is sooo good here! The place is cozy and friendly, It's almost like being in a secret private party in Mexico. You have to try their specials which I bet you can't find anywhere else cause they are family recipies. I went for lunch and I got to meet The chef, Mrs. Gloria while she was prepairing the Chiles Rellenos, and while I was there I even made some new friends cause it seems like some customers from other states like Texas ot California consider the place "there home away from home" .

2
★★★★★

I have to say the food is sooo good here! The place is cozy and friendly, It's almost like being in a secret private party in Mexico. You have to try their specials which I bet you can't find anywhere else cause they are family recipies. I went for lunch and I got to meet The chef, Mrs. Gloria while she was prepairing the Chiles Rellenos, and while I was there I even made some new friends cause it seems like some customers from other states like Texas ot California consider the place "there home away from home" .

Pros: food, cozyness, prices

Cons: a bit small

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Good eats, good prices, but owner man needs to get himself to a hospitality course quick!

1
★★☆☆☆

Good eats, good prices, but owner man needs to get himself to a hospitality course quick!

Pros: nice atmosphere, inexpensive, decent food

Cons: owner

Editorial from

Mexican food and New York City have never been a very good match. But cafe El Portal helps bring a sense of salt-of-the-earth authenticity to lower Manhattan. There's something about the diminutive subterranean dining room that has the air…

 

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