Recently Opened Restaurants
by Julie Besonen, 01/14/2015
Photo: Paul Wagtouicz
- more in dining/
151 Essex St., 212-219-2000, Lower East Side, Manhattan
Tijuana Picnic is a kitschy Herb Alpert album with Colonel Sanders holding a bucket of chicken on the cover. It's also a clubby, high-caliber, bi-level Mexican restaurant replacing the Laugh Lounge, a defunct comedy club on the Lower East Side. Since nightlife impresarios Jean-Marc Houmard, Huy Chi Lee and Jon Neidich are behind it, it's no joke. Mexico City–born chef Alex Lopez, formerly of Kittichai, makes a super-spicy guacamole with habanero chiles and charred corn, empanadas filled with shredded duck and foie gras to be dipped in a fabulous tomatillo-mole sauce, and skirt steak with refried beans and queso fresco to share family-style. Head barman Jim Kearns (ex-NoMad, Pegu Club and Mayahuel) is behind the collection of rare mezcals, tequilas and fine cocktails. There are a few seats at the bar but otherwise it's nice to huddle in the lamp-lit, half-moon booths.