Zarela Mexican rest.
- Peter Krass
Any reports -- good, bad, or indifferent -- re Zarela,
a Mexican restaurant at Second Ave betw. 51 and 52? I'm
taking a group of coworkers to dinner in that nabe, and
would like something that's tasty but won't break the
Zarela is very good, authentic, Oaxacan cooking. The
owner and grande doyenne of Mexican cooking (and author
of two very fine cookbooks) is Zarela Martinez, and
she's there all the time. The cuisine tends to combine
fruits and meats rather often. Everything I ever tasted
there was quite wonderful. Dinner with drinks and tip
and tax will run you each about $35-40.
That said, you should know that the place is extremely
popular, and, thanks to the intensely socko margaritas,
that means a VERY LOUD PARTY is always going on. But you
and your buddies may well be up for that.
I concur. Reservations are a must. I've found that
ordering family style is a good idea at Zarela.
Vegetables, rice, and other side dishes have to be
ordered separately, and the portions are pretty big; so
if you order an assortment, you can share them round
The desserts are wonderful, too.
re: Josh Mittleman
I used to go there for lunch regularly - always found
it a revelation - it was my first exposure to non-
tacobell type Mexican. My friends and I always found
the food to be exemplary - I always ordered Caldo de
Amor (I think it's called) - a crab and corn chowder.
And yes, at lunch, too, very noisy. One of my
favorite lunches there was a total indulgence for a
friend's birthday. We each had our bowl of soup,
revelled in it's creamy, rich combination of flavors
and then ordered one of every dessert on the menu
(yes, that's not generally why we went there, but she
always seems to have wonderful desserts, too, so that
time we thought we'd eliminate the horrible choosing
that came at the end of every meal). The loud
advertising-types at the table adjoining ours suddenly
hushed when our table was suddenly covered with
sweets!! It was great.
re: Barb H.
Thanks to all for replying...but get this: I called to
get a reservation for a large group -- in my case, 16
folks -- only to learn that Zarela wants to fax me an
actual CONTRACT. I need to sign it, provide a
credit-card number, and fax it back. Then, if we show
up with fewer than 16 people (highly possible, given
the vagaries of group meals), they will still charge me
$35/person for all 16 people.
Thanks, but no thanks. I'll try Zarela sometime when
I'm with a much smaller group.
re: Peter Krass
Sorry to hear that the party didn't work out. They
couldn't accommodate a group of 16 without doing some
major rearranging of tables. I wouldn't want to go
there with more then 8 or so for the reasons others
have mentioned. It's best experienced with constant
tasting and switching of dishes.
In general, I find the appetizers to be much stronger
than the entrees, and a great meal can be had by
ordering just appetizers, some sides, and dessert.
The two essential dishes, IMO, are the corn and crab
soup, and the snapper hash, but the queso fundido is
wonderful, the tamales are usually delicate and
Have to admit I haven't been to Zarela's in more than
a year. I used to go very often, and found it to be
consistent. If you want to avoid the zoo, make sure
you reserve a table upstairs. It's not necessarily
quiet up there, but the bar downstairs can be raucous
re: Peter Krass
My suggestion for anytime you are booking a such a
large party (this goes especially for very large
parties, too, like weddings at banquet facilities) is
to guarantee a slightly smaller number than expected.
Unless the size of the room is limited (if they are
giving you a private room), most places will be able
to accomodate a few more when you call back to confirm
the day before (or at least several hours before, or a
couple weeks before for the aforementioned large
affair) your reservation.
For your group of hopefully 16, I would make a
reservation for 12-14, and when you let them know it
will actually be 16, they should be happy to get the
This may not work at such a popular place as Zarella
unless you have a private room. But most places would
be able to deal with this.
re: Rachel Perlow
I don't understand why you'd make a reservation for
fewer folks than you know will come. If you made a
reservation for 12 at Zarela's, it is unclear whether
they could comfortably rearrange tables for 16. I've
also never been to Zarela's, at any "prime time" for
lunch or dinner, when they haven't been full or near-
capacity. How are you assured you'll have room
And then there are the ethical problems in
misrepresenting the size of your party. I don't want
to sound holier than thou, but isn't it this kind of
behavior (overbooking, underbooking, double-booking)
that leads to the admittedly draconian measures
instituted by Zarela's? I doubt if they would have
instituted these kinds of policies if they hadn't been
burned in the past.
The situation is a little different at a big catering
hall, perhaps. Competent halls usually cook some
re: Dave Feldman
I was probably wrong to say 12, but not 14, as the
original poster specifically said they had invited 16,
but, knowing their group, did not expect all to show
up. It obviously depends on 1)the type of restaurant,
2)whether you have a private room or not, and 3)the
capacity of that room (i.e. if they are putting you in
a room which seats 10-20 and you invited 16, I
wouldn't sign a contract for more than 14, feeling
assured that the restaurant will be able to accomodate
all my guests if they all show up/none cancel).
Also, I specifically said to call and confirm your
party the day before, or at minimum several hours
before, your reservation. Frankly, even if you sign a
contract for 16 people, if you apprise the restaurant
a day or two before that you will only have 12 or 14
people, and you are not in a private room, they
shouldn't charge you for all 16 as such popular places
would have no trouble filling one or two more tables.
Zarela is excellent. Great, authentic and sometimes
creative Mexican. Fun, but not cheesy, setting
(albeit a bit loud). Top notch margaritas. In my
opinion, it is better than Rosa Mexicana - the food is
just as good, but it doesn't take itself so seriously.
"but won't break the bank"
All delicious, but be careful about ordering rice,
vegs, etc. All that stuff is extra, and it adds up
I was there two weeks ago (for about the third time
over a few years) and my friend (who's a real foodie)
and I thought it was still excellent.
wow! so many responses to this post, i didn't read them all!
Zarela's is a good time for a group of people, whether entertaining clients or hanging out with friends.
the food is reasonably good (one of the highest rated mexican's in NYC - although, i *love* Rosa Mexicano and i think it's "all over" Z's).
good fun, good food, and people generally leave with a smile.
what more could you ask for!!!!