Centro In My Mind

I was heading to SN's birthday apartment party on the west side with AS and JM, and we thought it'd be fun to grab dinner nearby for a change of scenery. I use to go over to Hell's Kitchen a lot for lunch during work, but haven't since the weather turned cold. We didn't get a chance to scope out a restaurant beforehand, so we did something Miss Menu really doesn't like to do...roamed the street looking for a restaurant!

Luckily for us, it was one of the easiest restaurant hunts I've ever had. Knowing how many restaurants line 9th Avenue in the 50s, we told the cab to drop us off at 50th & 9th. We figured we could get out there and work our way up since SN lives on 60th.

We peaked in the windows and looked at the menus of a few places, but nothing was really grabbing our attention. We ended up at El Centro, a lively, crowded Mexican restaurant. It was perfect. They had a table available for us right away, and a pretty extensive, reasonably-priced menu.

At first we were seated right at the door, which made us uncomfortably cold. Luckily, the table next to us opened up a few minutes later and we moved over to a great corner table. It gave us a great view of the restaurant...right next to the wall adorned with metal - OK, I have NO clue what these things are!

Chips and salsa were brought out right away, and I was a huge fan of both. The chips were hot and really salty, and the salsa had a great flavor and just the right amount of heat. After perusing the menu, I decided to go with my old standby, enchiladas suizas. Yes, I've ordered these recently, but they are just so darn good! I ordered the grilled vegetable enchiladas that came in homemade corn tortillas, topped with lettuce, queso blanco, crema fresca, salsa verde and radish. It came with a side of black beans and rice.

The vegetables had a great flavor, and surprisingly had quite a kick to them! The crema fresca helped though.

AS ordered the burro vegetarian, which was a stuffed homemade flour tortilla with monterrey jack cheese, pico de gallo, and crema fresca. It came with a small side salad as well. She really enjoyed the veggies that were inside and commented how she liked that the outside of the tortilla was grilled lightly, adding a nice texture.

JM decided to go for a more creative dish and ordered the pan-seared striped bass, which was served with roasted sweet plantains, a mixed salad, and black beans & yellow rice. He loved it and said the fish was cooked really nicely. And, the sweetness of the plantain complimented the seasoning on the fish really well.

Top 40 music was playing pretty loudly, which, for a Saturday night, was a lot of fun. But, I can see how that'd get a little old on a quieter weeknight. We didn't get any drinks, but the margaritas on the table next to us looked delicious too! The waitstaff was friendly, coming by multiple times to ask how everything was. All in all, we had a great experience there. It may not have been our first stop in the restaurant hunt, but it should've been the centro all along!

El Centro
824 9th Avenue
@ 54th Street
Menu Pages listing