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by Marisa Olsen

Cafe Frida, the old Mexican restaurant haunt on the Upper West Side, has a new location on Amsterdam Avenue and 98th Street; and guess what? I think it's better than the original for several reasons. First of all, the space is beautiful. 

There is a romantic garden in the back decorated with twinkle lights that surround cafe tables, which is reminiscent of a European cafe. Second of all, the food is really good with wallet-friendly prices. And did I mention the Happy Hour at the bar? I think these reasons alone are worth the few extra blocks.

I started with a house white wine during Happy Hour for $6 and then switched to a Don Julio margarita at the table for $11. The margarita had the gentle balance of salty and slightly sweet, with a citrus finish. 

For food, we started with Guacamole (obviously) for $11. It arrived in a huge molcajete filled with soft chunks of ripe avocado, tomato, and jalapeno, and served with crispy corn chips. It was one of the best guacamole I've had recently. 

Next up were the Tacos de Tinga Poblana (4 for $16.50), shredded pulled pork with bursts of tangy flavor and hints of salt.  If you have any leftover guacamole, this dish tastes even better with a dollop on top. 
We also ordered the Steak Quesadilla ($16), which was delicious.  It arrived in a delicately folded corn tortilla with an array of sautéed mushrooms and tender grilled steak served on a plush bed of melted cotija cheese. The meat and vegetables were perfectly flavored, but of course, a little hot sauce is always appreciated.  
The entrees were also served with a big blue-speckled pail of rice and beans--a very welcome addition to the tasteful Mexican plates. 

Overall, I had zero complaints about my first experience at the new Cafe Frida. The service was prompt and lovely, the setting felt like I was out of the City, and the menu boasted an authentic and flavorful Mexican cuisine. 

RIP Big Nick's

Smoothie Series: Berry Blast