TravelNoise: Coppelia, New York City
Against the opinions of my friends, I really love diners. I dream about those fluffy pancakes in the morning, open-faced turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes in the evening and greasy-as-all-hell chicken fingers and French fries after hours. And up until recently, I actually thought I knew everything there is to know about diners. Coppelia tripped me up in the best way possible.
If you’re not familiar, the west-side restaurant makes its mark as one of the only Latin diners with heavy Cuban influence. The outside of the restaurant suggests diner vibes for sure, but walking in is a completely different experience. I felt like I was in an upscale version of the nicest diner I’ve ever been to. Multi-color stained glass panels and low lighting made the place feel almost romantic while diner-esque amenities like paper menus and cushy booths brought the atmosphere down to more casual and informal.
The menu is extensive, as diner menus should be, but instead of seeing a bunch of versions of patty melts, I eyed a serious cocktail menu and Cuban classics as well as some fusion dishes. First, my guest and I tackled the cocktails by asking our host what he recommended to start. I chose the Kanella ($12), which was made with Maker’s Mark, cinnamon syrup, Cointreau and lime juice, while my guest opted for the Guayabera ($12) with gin, guava juice, absinthe, thyme and lime juice. The Kanella was smooth, not too sweet and nicely balanced by citrus notes, and the Guayabera was floral and sweet with a friendly bite from the absinthe.
Next up, appetizers. Man, did we have a hard time choosing with so many incredible options. With the help of our host, we chose the Alitas 100 Fuegos ($10.95), chipotle-glazed chicken wings with jicama and blue cheese. We also got the nachos ($10.95), which were made with gouda and muenster cheeses, black beans, jalapeño, chopped beef short ribs, guacamole and crema. The wings were crispy and reminiscent of mole but had a strong chipotle aroma while the nachos were exactly what we’d want at 4 am. after a long night out: layers of super crispy chips, guacamole piled high, tender short rib, creamy cheese. Yep, we were in heaven.
We could have stopped there, but our host told us all about the mains and — well — you know what had to happen. We went for the Churrasco ($22.95), which included skirt steak grilled, moros, sweet plantain, fried Brussels sprouts salad, queso fresco and chimichurri, and the Lomo Saltado ($21.95), a Peruvian fusion stir fry with beef short ribs, red onions, tomato, fries, light soy sauce, ginger, sambal and rice. Needless to say, both dishes exploded with flavor. The bed of Brussels in the Churrasco were light and airy and nicely accentuated with queso while the steak was succulently charred and slightly spicy. The ribs in the Lomo Saltado were succulent and rich with taste, and the stir fry with the crispy fries on top made for a strangely satisfying combination.
Of course we weren’t done yet. The host brought over the house special chocolate mocha cake and a mango tres leches. The mocha cake was full of coffee flavor and accompanied by smooth ice cream and mint while the tres leches was milky, frothy, bright with mango flavor and swimming in sweet milk. Basically, we lived out our ultimate dreams eating these desserts.
My idea of the perfect diner has definitely changed. On any typical weekend, you just might find me at Coppelia living my life to the fullest.