El Rey on the LES
After spying El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette‘s yum on a friend’s Instagram, I texted my food compatriot CandyPenny immediately. A menu like this does not turn into a back burner bookmark. So a semi-spontaneous afterwork trip to Manhattan’s Lower East Side trumped the age-appropriate desire to head home to relax on a Friday night. As it turns out, this place is all abuzz, written up in Bon Appetit, New Yorker, New York Magazine, and the New York Times, quintessential New York culture vultures. But now El Rey gets the Vegan Victuals spotlight.
Dinner service starts at 6pm, so beer was the first course. Head Chef Gerardo Gonzalez gave us the scoop and some complimentary plantain chips. Eager and hungry, I thought they were deserving of a picture, especially with the backdrop of bustling Stanton street.
Then, as a steady stream of people began filling up the space, it was dinner time. We ordered everything vegan on the menu, save for the kale salad. Sorry, kale salad. Here are El Rey‘s Vegan Chicharrónes Locos, i.e. vegan pork rinds (!), with shaved veggies, hot sauce, cashew crema, and chamoy sauce, topped with heaven sprinkles (nutritional yeast, salt, red stuff), peanuts and crimson-veined micro-greens. Bright, beautiful and delicious. The chamoy sauce, a sweet, pickled concoction, was my favorite part.
But El Rey’s magic didn’t stop there. Next: Papas Bravas: thinly sliced pickled pineapple atop hot sauce, scallions, and cashew crema disguised blue and white potatoes. The tender full-sized potatoes balanced El Rey’s spicy red sauce, the crema cooled, while the pickled pineapple made it all pop. El Rey surely hits each part of the tongue.
Up last, because it was fresh-made and baking, was the Roasted Garlic Focaccia. Perfection.
Needing a sweet bite, we headed next to Little Cupcake Bakeshop on Prince street. The shop was packed with people and the showcases, with a ton of pretty real looking cupcakes. But only one vegan option, so the choice was an easy one. The gluten free Spicy Hot Chocolate cupcake.
It was a good cupcake. The cake was a bit crumblesome as gluten free, vegan goods tend to be. The frosting was a delight, though I would have preferred straight up vanilla as the spices grittied up the creamy texture. Hope they experiment with other vegan flavors.