It is not often that a college student will actually offer to pay for food but at Antojeria La Popular that is exactly what happens.
Just two stops away from the university at 50 Spring Street, Antojeria La Popular offers an array of tasty tapas. Situated in the uber posh Nolita the restaurant’s interior is just as hip as the surrounding area. Walking down into the restaurant, the Black Keys can be heard humming from the speakers.
The slick black and white minimalist designs paired with classic Mexican motifs seems to be a seamless counter to executive chef Andrew Figeroa’s adventurous cuisine.
Figeroa, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, lends his talent to the La Popular. La Popular is the third creation by Mexican architects and brand designers Regina Galvanduque and Andres Mier Y Teran. The two are also behind the vastly successful Taka Taka and Vive la Crepe.
La Popular took the Mexican fair of Taka Taka but developed it further to create a truly unique spin. The menu consists of standard Mexican street fair but completed with elegance. The many dishes represent the many different territories and providences of Mexico. Each dish maintains the vibrant colors and the rich flavors of its origin country.
The tapas are arranged in a series of options: ceviches, botanas, mar and tierra. Ceviche or, for the vegetarians a botana, offer a great way to begin the meal.
The distrito federal is an obvious choice. A combination of sirloin, shrimp, tilapia, serrano chile, red onion all in a “tribilin” sauce gives the classic fresh taste of ceviche with an intriguing flare.
Of course one cannot forget about the morelos. A mix of corn, queso fresco, epazote, mayo, lime and chili powder does not sound the most appetizing but it mixes to form a flavorful confection. Both dishes are served with warm in-house made tortillas that can easily be shared or savored solo.
Never to be outdone the tapas from la tierra (the land) are a tantalizing assortment of chicken, sirloin and even crickets. The michoacan is composed of a variety of ingredients, but the savory chicken paired with mole and crema fresca are the stars. The creaminess of the dish accompanied by the mole leaves a delightful sizzle on the tongue.
Zacatecas gives steak fans just what they were waiting for. The shredded sirloin along with queso chihuahua and salsa verde delivers a tangy mouthful. The salsa verde and the queso chihuahua compliement each other, the salsa adds the necessary heat while the queso cools. The foods from the mar (sea) are hard to resist. The Sonora takes the idea of bacon wrapped shrimp and transforms it into a classy delectable dish. A pita is stuffed with bacon-shrimp machaca, queso, Chihuahua, avocado and then lightly coated with chipotle mayo. This one will be hard to give up, as after one bite it proved quite impossible to put down.
The first ingredient of all the dishes is of course quality, however the freshness of the tuna in the guerrero tapa makes it the shinning star of the menu. Consisting of only raw tuna, mango, habanero, serrano mayo all on a pickled jicama tortilla. The sheer simplicity of the dish makes for some mouth-watering bites. Afterwards a slightly spicy crisp flavor lingers on the pallet.
Nothing pairs better with the array of tapas better than the house sangria. Available in both red and seasonal flavors, a pitcher is the perfect way to unwind with friends after a stressful day.
If after the many dishes one finds themselves still hungry, fear not because the selection of deserts leave little to be desired.
La Popular uses a variety of Mexican chocolate, from cacao to guajillo chili, to create both hot and cold chocolate beverages. There are also the postres (sweets) including traditional Mexican flan and a selection of Mexican candy.
There are also the paleta “La Newyorkina” which combine three seasonal flavors. Those lucky enough to find themselves at La Popular on a night when Chef Figeroa is experimenting might be able to try his tortilla neapolitan. Made with multiple layers of crispy tortillas separated by layers of whipped cream and secret sauce that leaves a lingering taste of fresh apples and peanuts.
La Popular is a place to for anyone looking to enjoy classic antojitos (Mexican street snacks) and with there soon to be opened take out window even the person on the go can grab some excellent grub. Opening this spring, the window will offer made-to-order casadias and tapas. Along with aquas and refrescos expect La Popular to become even more of a hot spot as the summer months apporach. However, fearnot because those afaid to leave the warmth of their apartments can still order delivery. La Popular is a fantastic place for tapas lovers and food connoisseurs alike.
All photos by Olivia Beteta