Leo’s Hillside Cafe is a small, tucked away Mexican restaurant in Manhattan. I love hole-in-the-wall places so I figured it would be an interesting place to go that may be off the beaten path. However, it’s not really worth venturing off this beaten path. It’s more of a place to eat at if you accidentally find it and could use some food.
The Hillside Cafe itself is quiet and quaint. When you walk in, it is clearly a hole-in-the-wall type of spot, which is right up my alley. It isn’t exactly modern, but rather a rustic place that seems to be sticking to its roots, which I can certainly appreciate. It’s a seat-yourself kind of eatery.
The restaurant is clearly an older place and a little refurbishing definitely couldn’t hurt. Also, the location from campus was fairly difficult to find, even with the GPS. It’s on a back road and very much blends in with the other warehouse-and workshop-type establishments surrounding it.
The service at Hillside Cafe is pretty middle of the road. The people are nice and kind, but they did take a while for simple things. For example, it took them five minutes to bring me a straw when I was one of probably only three other tables. The waitress gave me a good suggestion for food, which I tried and enjoyed. I did get a waitress that was training with another waitress and that went over very smoothly, not any inconvenience at all.
The menu is small with limited choices, my first impression of which was that Hillside Cafe must have a few select foods that it does very well. Then I saw the section for burgers, which threw me off and I wasn’t sure what to expect since it was very clearly a Mexican restaurant otherwise. It’s not very often that with a smaller menu, you find things that are outside of the restaurant’s food theme.
One thing I was also really pleased about, though, were the prices. Especially as a college student, the low price was definitely a big benefit.
The waitress recommended the white flour taco, which, for the most part, was delicious. It was a concept that was very unique to me. It was a fried tortilla for the shell, which was both deliciously crunchy and also created a really good flavor. The one draw-back I had to the dish was that the shredded beef inside was pretty flavorless and just wasn’t very appealing to me. Luckily, the delicious shell and the other contents of the taco like the lettuce, cheese and tomato made up for it.
The enchilada, on the other hand, didn’t have much redemption. The tortilla part of the enchilada had a “new tire” taste, for lack of a better description, which kind of carried through the whole bite. The sauce wasn’t bad, and the inside wasn’t bad either, but through each bite I could taste that “new tire” taste and I was not a fan. The rice was extremely basic and was pretty dry, but I like Mexican rice, basic or not, so it was fine for me.
Finally, for the dessert, I ordered fried ice cream – which I figured had to be delicious. When the dish came out, the presentation had me even more optimistic. While it definitely wasn’t bad – because, well, it’s fried sugar – it was just very basic. The breading was pretty chunky, which I wasn’t a huge fan of, but it was just basic vanilla ice cream with some breading … nothing very special.
All in all, I would go again for a cheap meal or to meet up with friends, but I definitely don’t think it would be at the top of my list.
Overall Rating: 3 Stars out of 5
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include the full name of the restaurant.