Chavela’s, affectionately named after singer, Chavela Vargas, is located at 736 Franklin Ave in Crown Heights, in a section of Franklin Avenue that has been experiencing a renaissance over the past few years.
A reboot of its 2007 offering, the 60-seat cantina invites you in with bright tiles, exposed brick and candles. Even on a frigid Saturday night, there was a 45-minute wait huddled around the hostess booth, people chatting and vibing to the music pumping loud just below.
Once the food and drinks begin to flow, though, you will immediately understand the hype.
Sangria & Margaritas, $6 to $9
I tried the red sangria and margarita combo, as well as the red sangria and lemonade drink. Both were a perfect balance of fruity and tasty, though not very strong.
Greedy Girl Tip: Ask your bartender or waiter about selecting one of their 50 tequilas and mescals on hand. Want to try something new? Check out their Micheladas, which is cerveza preparada made with beer, lime juice, and a selection of sauces, spices and peppers.
Trio of Salsas, $3
What’s a Mexican dining experience without chips and salsa? The chips, while they don’t appear to be house-made, were large crispy rounds made of corn (think: poppadum at an Indian restaurant). The salsa, though, was the star of the show, with a spicy yet tangy salsa verde, a basic pico de gallo, and my personal favorite, the smoky hot chipotle.
Greedy Girl Tip: At such a low price point, I’d recommend ordering the salsa with your meal to season some of the blander items. If you do go traditional, though, I’d mix the pico de gallo with the green salsa for a more substantial bite.
I’ve never been much of a tamale girl. However, I rather enjoyed this one. I opted for the queso and jalapeno, which came like a steamy little masa, hug-wrapped in corn husk. I didn’t see much cheese or jalapeno inside, but drizzled a little chipotle sauce on that spongy tube and devoured it all the same.
Taquitos de Cangrejo, $8
To think that I almost didn’t order this. I would have never known the mouth party that is this dish. Four crispy tortillas stuffed with crabmeat, piled high with with salsa verde, pico de gallo, and guacamole. Sounds simple enough. But I don’t know what type of sorcery is going on in that kitchen because this, my friends, was magic in my mouth. You will involuntarily be doing a greedy girl/guy dance in your seat!
Nopales Taco, $3
Nopales Tacos are made out of cactus. Yes, that’s right, cactus! And after sampling these, I asked myself, why are we not eating this everyday?! Smokey, tangy, grilled cactus strips over two warm, soft flour tortilla blankets with two thin slices of avocado, pico de gallo and queso fresco. This was hands-down one of my favorites. Whether herbivore or hard-core carnivore– you need this in your mouth today! If you know me, you know I don’t speak about vegetables this way. So either they sprinkled crack on my cactus taco, or it’s really that amazing. You be the judge.
Greedy Girl Tip: Most of the items are offered a la carte and range between $3 and $9 so I recommend grabbing a friend or two and ordering a few things to share.
The Meh Zone:
Reading a lot of the reviews there appeared to be a common theme of the food being rather bland. I did find this to be true with the fish tacos, rice and beans and empanadas. These dishes straddled the line between bad and good, sliding right into the meh zone.
Greedy Girl Tip: Attention, all of my fellow fire-eaters. You don’t want to miss Chavela’s house made hot sauce. This dark, peppery slather is not for beginners, so try a dab on your finger before you dress your food. You’ve been warned!
The Bottom Line:
If you’re looking for a fun and festive place for some South-of-the-Border-inspired comfort food and light socializing with a friend, this is your place. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable. There’s something for everyone!
And if you’re strategic, it’s possible to get out with a few coins left. Just popping in for a drink and a snack, no problem.
Chavela’s also has Happy Hour, Mondays through Thursdays, from 4:00pm to 7:00pm, featuring $2 tacos, $3 beers, $4 Micheladas, $5 Sangrias and $6 Margaritas.
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