82 S 4th St, Williamsburg
Bonita, the now-defunct Mexican restaurant from the people behind Marlow & Sons, was a pleasant alternative to the usual burrito joint. The atmosphere was buzzing, the food was farm-to-table fresh, the booze was flowing. It was a shame it had to end, with the Williamsburg location shuttering and the Fort Greene restaurant transforming into the successful Italian spot Roman's. Luckily, four managers from Bonita wanted to keep the party going. They opened Carino a few blocks away from the Williamsburg original earlier this year and haven't missed a beat.
The food remains immensely satisfying (some of the cooks made the trip as well). Tortas come piled high with pickled jalapenos, pureed beans and thick slabs of avocado matched with a meat of your choice, all on a crusty piece of white Mexican telera bread. Mine was a monster, the taste of the tender, beefy Milanesa slathered in mayo sitting in my stomach for hours. The carne asada is also formidable, a juicy, 10 oz. rib-eye steak whose juices sluice into the pile of rice and sauteed Swiss chard crowded onto the plate. Don't forget to order the elote; I made that mistake and watched my friend with envy as she stripped the mayo-and-chile-powder-covered hunk of grilled corn of its kernels.
The restaurant itself is still fun, although not quite as hip as its previous incarnation. I was lucky enough to visit in spring, when the warm weather made sitting at one of the two sidewalk tables an option. The waiter was immensely friendly when he actually remembered we were sitting out there. Every time he did visit us, we made sure to order another round of margaritas, made with Jimador tequila, fresh lime juice and syrup, blissfully potent drinks without the cloying quality of so many inferior margaritas found around the city. I chased one with a cold Bohemia which, in retrospect, I should have turned into a spicy Michelada for an extra dollar. Next door, someone was fiddling with his guitar, providing an unexpected soundtrack. A nice buzz, an empty plate, a mild spring evening; I didn't miss Bonita at all.
Photos by Ashley Minette