Not having grown up in New York, when I walk through the East Village and see how rapidly it is changing, it makes me wonder how that part of town was in a not so distant past. Images of Nico, Blondie, Warhol, Basquiat, Lou Reed and The Ramones among others, are juxtaposed to Japanese restaurants, coffee shops, cheap sunglasses, Himalayan jewelry, vintage punk clothing stores and new condos in my brain. The walk from Astor Place through St. Mark’s to Avenue A has a flavor of gentrification with a bit of the grittiness of that New York that used to walk on the wild side. I take in all of the noises, colors and smells of the East Village on my way to meet a couple of mommy friends who, like me, have left the kids at home tonight and are enjoying a summer mommy-duty free evening at Yuca Bar.
Yuca Bar has been a favorite of mine for a long time. Their food has always been deliciously solid, the drinks are tastily strong, the happy hour is good and the brunch is amazing. After having the girls, it had the added bonus of being located opposite Tompkins Square Park, which nowadays, even if at some points is still a bit sketchy, it has foregone part of its rough past and has a very ample and fun playground, with a couple of slides, a sand pit and a number of swings where the little ones can let off some energy.
Every time we go to Yuca it seems to be very busy: good food, strong drinks and a good price point is something New Yorkers become loyal to. That they have outdoor sitting also helps to the long brunch lines. Good thing you can wait it out at the playground.
The place is loud and cramped but we have been able to get in with a folded stroller. And although it’s geared more to the non-kid crowd, they have been very friendly with the little ones and offered us high chairs.
The menu is Latin American with dishes from different parts of the continent: a perfectly spiced guacamole with pico de gallo and chips; crispy empanadas filled with chicken, beef or seafood; assorted tacos and Brazilian fish bolinhos. They don’t have a kids menu but the girls had no problem with their brunch pancakes (with 4 different choices: plain, banana, chocolate chip and coconut, plus maple syrup and a delicious dulce de leche butter rum, no kid appropriate, on the side). Their Latin twists on the classic Benedict are worth a try and the fusion of traditional and unexpected ingredients work really well: you won’t regret trying the Yuca Benedictos (poached eggs on a shrimp and yuca hash brown bed, topped with guacamole and a cilantro hollandaise). For under $20.00, your brunch comes with a cocktail (frozen pomegranate margarita is a favorite) and coffee or tea. No wonder the lines are so long on the weekends.
There are two tiny unisex bathrooms in the back with no changing table in any of them, so if you have a diaper emergency you are better off taking Junior to a bench in the park because their bathrooms are really small and not super clean to maneuver in with a wiggly baby.
Yuca Bar & Restaurant
111 Avenue A
New York, NY 10009
Sunday – Thursday: 10:00am – 1:00am
Friday – Saturday: 10:00am – 3:00am