From the outside, La Esquina looks like it could stand to set aside a part of its budget for a little upkeep. The exterior paint is fading and the signs advertising food are missing letters. I am not sure if this is a deliberate attempt to give it a cool, “worn” vibe that those hipsters seem to love or if they know they have such a great reputation they don’t have to look polished on the outside. Either seems possible. On one hand, this little “taqueria” is located in the heart of Soho, where people are more than happy to plunk down $14 for a mixed drink served in a plastic cup if they are surrounded by the cool crowd. In the trendier areas of NYC, the quality of food doesn’t always matter so long as there is a good time to be had. But, despite the hip address and decor that caters to that crowd (paint chipped tables, worn wooden floors, and pockmarked walls bedecked with Picasso-esque art), La Esquina stands apart from many of its neighbors by consistently turning out delicious food that is worth the money you pay for it.
I have ordered many different items off the menu and have found each and every one to be delicious. The “street” tacos, corn on the cob rolled in spice and cheese, and the ceviche all rock the house. The reason I return, and will wait in line despite being the oldest and worst dressed person around, is for the Sopa de Tortilla. Somehow, despite swimming in the perfectly spiced broth, the chicken retains bits of crackling skin that never becomes soggy. The tortillas are finely sliced and crunchy and the avocado always perfectly ripe.
But, look, I am not going to sugarcoat it – La Esquina is not above the Soho snootiness. The hostesses have a reputation for behaving as if the restaurant is continually hosting an after-Oscar party to which you were not invited – especially if you try to go the “secret” downstairs room where it is rumored you must have a reservation, a publicist, and other insider connections to sit in. If you don’t have the time or patience for that nonsense, you can order from the menu out-front and take the good stuff to go.