Apps Only: Ofrenda

Apps Only

Seeking out the best bites for under $15 a head.

Editor's note: In "Apps Only," Ben Fishner will be eating his way through New York's appetizer, bar, and lounge menus as your guide to fine dining on a budget. He blogs at Ben Cooks Everything.


Nopales a la parrilla, grilled cactus pads, at Ofrenda. [Photos: Ben Fishner]

Last week, Carey visited West Village Mexican joint Ofrenda to check out their great happy hour deal—margaritas starting at $5, beer for $4, and plenty of snacks for just $6.50. I decided to stop by this week to see how the rest of their menu stacked up for an eater on a budget.



We started with a bowl of Guacamole ($8.50), a fine version of the dish with plenty of lime and spice. The guac was great, but the homemade tortilla chips stole the show—flaky and rich-tasting, they were a cut above your usual bag of chips. We also shared an order of Queso al Horno con Huitlacoche ($8.50), which was delicious though it came with too few chips. Soft goat cheese was melted down with pepper jack cheese, red peppers and huitlacoche, or "corn truffle," as the menu referred to it (huitlacoche is a deep black fungus, sort of like a mushroom, that grows on corn). Drizzled with hot sauce, it emerged at our table warm and gooey, and even after the chips ran out, it was great slathered on everything else at our table.


Queso al horno.

The sides that we ordered, for example, took well to some extra cheese. Platanos Fritos ($7), sweet fried plantains drizzled with a bit of crema, were tender and tasty, if a bit overpriced at seven bucks. Calabacitas a la Parilla ($4) consisted of sliced green zucchini, topped with a sweet roasted red pepper sauce. The same sauce was drizzled on top of Nopales a la Parrilla ($4), grilled cactus pads. Just a bit slimy, they took on a great char from the grill, and a bit of hot sauce added some kick to the otherwise mild flavor. Espàrragos a la Parilla ($7) rounded out our trio of grilled veggies, topped with cotija cheese and a vibrant asparagus purèe. The grilled veggies were a good value and, when we were at risk of eating a meal of not much more than cheese, tortillas and guacamole, added a bit of nutrition to our dinner.


Calabacitas a la parilla.

The Quesadilla a la Parilla con Pico de Gallo ($8) was another great value. Stuffed with pepper jack, cheddar, and Oaxaca cheese along with black beans, it was served in quarters and topped with avocado crema, plain crema, roasted poblano and a dollop of pico de gallo. The most amazing part? All of it worked in unison, and the thing wasn't overstuffed despite this laundry list of ingredients. Somehow this quesadilla, a highlight of our meal, was understated. Go figure.


Quesadilla a la parilla.

The Caesar Salad ($9.50) was good, but not essential. We ordered it mostly out of curiosity at what a Mexican Caesar (Cesar?) is like. It is, in fact, a lot like a regular Caesar salad. Good, but not particularly interesting, with garlicky croutons and plenty of anchovy flavor. For almost $10, it didn't stack up to the rest of the dishes we shared.


Caesar salad.

Overall, dinner at Ofrenda was good; the starters and sides here are more than enough to make a meal of; we ended up just a bit over our $15/person target price. I'd recommend Ofrenda, but knowing about its fantastic happy hour deal, I think I'd rather return for drinks and a snack than for dinner. A few of the dishes we had are even available for a few bucks less during happy hour. Still, in a city with so many terrible and overpriced Mexican restaurants, this is a good one to have in your back pocket for when you can't make it all the way to Fonda.


113 Seventh Avenue South, New York NY 10014 (map) 212-924-2305