BY Claudio Cabrera
With the influx of new restaurants in Washington Heights and Inwood of all culinary tastes, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the restaurants that made this neighborhood what it is. Those classic, hole in the wall establishments that made our ‘hoods a foodie’s paradise before the NY Times ever considered us one.
One of those veritable hole in the wall establishments is Margot’s. A restaurant located on 159th and Broadway, which has been a fixture in our community for over two decades. Though Margot (owner) no longer handles the day-to-day duties due to her old age, my cousin, who accompanied me to Margot’s told me the quality hasn’t slipped one bit.
The restaurant, whose small size and setup (red and white plaid tablecloths) reminds you of those classic restaurants in old Italian films like “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas,” has been a Washington Heights landmark before Junot Diaz decided to quote it in his 2007 Gourmet Magazine article which was displayed in the restaurant. A piece that had everyone moving into the neighborhood racing to Margot’s to see if Junot’s taste buds are as good as his classic book, “The Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.”
When my cousin and I walked into Margot’s this past week, we came at the perfect time (4:00 P.M) – right before everyone got out of work. Our waitress proceeded to inform us that we arrived right before it got real busy “y la gente del hospital llegan (the Presbyterian Hospital crowd begins to fill the place).” Seated next to us were some local barbers and handymen. All of them attested to the great food they eat here.
The recommendations flew out from the arroz con habichuelas y pollo guisado (rice, beans and stewed chicken) to the classic Dominican dish of mangu con salchichon y cebollas (mashed plantains, salami, and fried onions). My cousin and I felt it was too late for the latter, though many Dominicans would disagree with us on that one. Some say it’s never too late for mangu. My cousin wasn’t too hungry and just went with some maduros and a morir sonando. I went with the first recommendation mentioned and wasn’t disappointed at all.
Our waitress was extremely attentive and our food arrived in 15 minutes. In such a small space, you got the feel that the cooks took their time to keep the quality of the food up to Margot’s standards, even with delivery requests flying in each minute.
Once I received my food, my cousin immediately asked the waitress for another plate, which didn’t surprise her. Before we dug in, we both knew that once we were done with this meal, falling asleep on the bus or train was a strong possibility.
The seasoning of the chicken and taste of the pollo guisado was definitely something that reminded me of my great grandmother who is my favorite cook ever. The taste was so similar and anytime an establishment can take you to a happy, important time in your life, you know they have done their job. My cousin enjoyed his maduro’s, which he felt were soft and had the perfect amount of sugar. The morir sonando (die dreaming), which is one of Margot’s specialties was good, though he said he’s tasted better.
Our bill came out to a total of 17.00. Receiving so much bang for your buck is a tradition in Washington Heights when it comes to classic, Dominican restaurants. They make sure to fill your plate so you won’t have to eat for the rest of the day, and that was the case with Margot’s.
I strongly recommend this as not only a place to look at when you want an affordable, delicious meal, but a place that will provide you with an ambiance that can only be recaptured in the cozy confines of your home.