Founded in 1959, Murray Hill’s El Parador Café claims to be the oldest authentic Mexican restaurant in New York, but there is nothing dated or old-fashioned about this busy and congenial place. Twinkling light from the dark cutout lanterns hanging from a beamed ceiling lends an air of festivity. Carved wooden frames enclose indigenous art displayed on the white brick walls. The café has been owned by Manuel Alejandro for many years and his son, Alex, a graduate of the International Culinary Institute, is the host.
Classic Mexican cuisine is key here and the signature appetizer, Lobster Salpicon, is a chilled half-lobster salad with corn, scallions, tomato, Serrano, and mesclun. Aguachile de Cameron, a shrimp ceviche, is served simply with celery, jalepeno, and lime, and is always on the menu. If you have never tried a Fire Roasted Chile Relleno stuffed with peanut butter, you are in for a treat; this appetizer is paired with a second relleno stuffed with anejo cheese. Pork Tenderloin Carnitas with mole negro, rice, avocado, and cilantro are tender and tangy. A classic entrée—indeed, the national dish of Mexico—is the Mole Poblano, a half-chicken braised in the mole sauce. Another specialty of the house is Bouillabaisse Veracruzana, a Latin take on the French classic. The tasty Ropa Vieja Mexicana is braised and shredded flank steak with fried green plantains, black beans, and salsa. Coconut and peanut brittle crumbled over Mexican Fried Ice Cream is a delicious way to end your dinner. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday, noon to midnight; closed major holidays and summer Sundays. -- Marian Betancourt