The Upsurge in New Latino Restaurants and Nightclubs in Westchester County
An Explosion of Latino Restaurant-Nightspots
Dine and dance the evening away at Don Coqui.
You’d have to be an idiot not to notice the success of three-year-old Don Coqui (115 Cedar St, New Rochelle 914-637-3737; doncoqui.com), the giant New Rochelle powerhouse that is both a dance club and a Puerto Rican restaurant. If I were a restaurateur, I know I’d be paying attention. Even on weeknights, Don Coqui overruns its parking lot and snarls local traffic to accommodate crowds that dance and sit down to dine until midnight, an hour when most Westchester kitchens have been long closed. On weekends, Don Coqui serves its pernil and churrasco until 2 am, and you can bet that these diners also drink. With all that dancing—and the current fad for Mojitos and bottle service—you know that this spot yields profitable liquor sales. In short, Don Coqui is a money-spinner.
It was a given that other restaurants would soon follow suit. Within the last year, we’ve seen the White Plains debut of glittering Sofrito (175 Main St, White Plains 914-428-5500; sofritowhite plains.com) in the space that formerly housed Peniche. Like Don Coqui, Sofrito is large, Puerto Rican, and doubles as a nightclub—its basement floor offers live music, DJs, and a bottle-service lounge. Also like Don Coqui—which just spawned an offshoot in Astoria—the White Plains Sofrito has an urban sister, and it was once partially owned by Jimmy Rodriguez, the “Jimmy Bronx” behind Don Coqui. Currently, Sofrito is part-owned by former Mets outfielder and current St. Louis Cardinal Carlos Beltrán. Perhaps owing to that athlete’s healthy lifestyle, Sofrito’s dinner service ends early—at 1 am—on Friday and Saturday night.
Sofrito’s main dining room can get loud—in a happening-place-to-be good way.
This year, Siete Ocho Siete (414 Pelham Rd, New Rochelle 914-636-1229) opened in the space that formerly housed New Rochelle’s Mamma Francesca’s. Like Don Coqui and Sofrito, Siete Ocho Siete offers Puerto Rican food, live music, DJs, and bottle service. Also, like Don Coqui, it serves dinner on Friday and Saturday nights until 2 am. But what sets Siete Ocho Siete apart is its outdoor patio, a feature that this restaurant shares with Port Chester’s year-and-a-half-old bartaco (1 Willett Ave, Port Chester 914-937-7226; bartaco.com). Though Mexican in its inspiration, bartaco is spacious and bar-centric, offering vacation-style tequila cocktails along with the throbbing beats of a DJ on weekends. Overrun spills onto a deck, which overlooks the Byram River and, in winter, is heated with firepits. Like Don Coqui, bartaco is often thronged with late-night partiers.
In mid-April, Cuba-themed Havana Central (238 Market St, Ridge Hill Shopping Center, Yonkers 914-423-5500; havanacentral.com) opened in Yonkers’s Ridge Hill, and it promises to be a tropical haven for syncopated rhythms and arroz con pollo. Like its two Manhattan originals, Havana Central is large (250 for dining, 400 for cocktails) and will be offering live salsa bands on the weekends—along with dancing, Cuban cocktails, and dining until midnight. Its cocktail list stresses boutique rums and Mojitos, which are available by the glass ($9.50) or by the instant-party pitcher ($40). Though smaller (and far quieter), the formerly French-Cuban fusion restaurant Belle Havana has recently dropped its Gallic accent; it’s all Cuban now as La Bella Havana (35 Main St, Yonkers, 914-920-9777; labellahavana.com). While its intimacy is not conducive to large bands and dancing, La Bella Havana does offer live music, DJs, and Mojitos. Still less showy is the recent debut of eclectic Bistro Latino (64 Main St, Tuckahoe 914-961-2233; bistrolatino
restaurant.com), less nightclub than chic Euro-style tapas bar, which offers excellent tequila-based drinks along with a seductive wine list of mostly South American picks.
Can the recent trend of Latin restaurants be explained by Westchester’s changing census figures, which reveal—in the 2010 census—that we are 22 percent Hispanic or of Latino origins? Perhaps. But one might also note that Westchesterites are veterans of balmy vacations—the week spent in Puerto Rico or surfing in Costa Rica. All of the locales referenced by these new restaurants express dreams of warm weather and freedom from care—and who doesn’t love that?