When I suggested to K that we include bars and SPF-worthy drinking experiences in our posts, she astutely pointed out that the posts would NEVER end. Fortunately, although I originally went to Cafe Mogador to drink, it's food that is really driving this post. I'm writing, of course, about one of life's greatest things: tapas.
My friend A. and I were trying, as usual, to think up a new place to quench our thirst (for...wine) when she suggested Cafe Mogador, a Moroccan and Mediterranean restaurant located between 1st Ave. and Avenue A on St. Mark's Place. It sounds strange, but I've always been a fan of this particular block, which also boasts a lovely little crepe restaurant (Crooked Tree Creperie), a delicious chain ice cream joint (Australian Homemade) and a snug little used book shop (East Village Books and Records). It's also not as INSANE as the rest of St. Mark's in the sense that there are comparatively fewer tourists and annoying 19-year-old mini-hipsters getting in the way.
In addition to the nice atmosphere outside the restaurant, the interior has a warm, cozy appeal that makes it an ideal spot for a cold night. Immediately beyond the door is a thick velvet curtain, which gives the impression of creating a partition between patrons and the outside world. Fortunately, the large street-level windows on either side of the door keep it from having a weird, cave-like vibe. Typical dim mood lighting, of course, finishes off the appeal.
The restaurant section of the restaurant is off to the left, and the bar is on the right. A. beat me there, and immediately upon my arrival she presented me with an extensive tapas menu. Each drink order came with two free tapas, which we could select from the list. I ordered a delicious red wine for $7 and chose falafel with tahini sauce and a miniature feta cheese pizza, while A. ordered potatoes and garlic eggplant.
True, the portions were tiny, but if those tapas are any indication of the food at Cafe Mogador I will definitely be going back. Both of my choices were quite flavorful and warm, and the feta on the pizza was soft and savory. I've had bad falafel (Warning: do not order it at Pump) and great falafel (Mamoun's...obviously) and this leaned heavily on the great side, especially paired with the tahini sauce. With my next drink, I requested another round of the pizza (which was approximately cracker-sized) and halloumi cheese (spelled halumi on the menu), which was served with a warm pita and tasted something like muenster (with that consistency) and goat cheese on steroids. Explosion of deliciousness.
When it became clear that I would spend my evening drinking (first at Mogador and later at Johnny's with A., K and P), I knew I needed more than tapas to get me through. I ordered babaganoush from the appetizers menu for a mere $4.75 and was pleasantly surprised when they presented us with a plate piled high with the stuff. They may serve miniature tapas, but that simple appetizer had enough substance to fill me, A and her friend J with baba-goodness.
The babaganoush was also served with three huge, delicious rounds of pita bread, which were thick and warm and not at all crispy or brittle. When we finished the three pieces and were left with extra babaganoush, J requested more bread and they kindly gave us two more pieces without charging us. That, my friends, is the kind of thing that makes for repeat customers!
So, I ended up spending $19 (before tip) and got two drinks, four tapas and an appetizer that fed three people (two of whom continued to complain about how full they were for the rest of the evening). I would be absolutely delighted to grab a drink here again, and I'm looking forward to getting a meal as well, especially if it's anything like those tapas!
The verdict: A great place to drink, and an even better place to eat!