True family restaurants are hard to find these days. Orlando remembers when his father opened a restaurant around ’95 when he was 4 years old (yea, do the math on how old this hard working young man is). Then Spanish Harlem started gentrifying and they were forced to move further East in search of lower rents in 2006. Cafe Ollin 339 East 108th Street, New York, NY 10029 (double l’s pronounced like a y), two blocks away from their first restaurant, maintained many of the same patrons and grew with the new growth of the area, but it still runs with that same genuine feel of a family restaurant. Orlando pointed out his mom and brother, Israel, all hard at work in the small space with a big menu.

Tacos 2

We were invited by Hagan, of 93 Plates, who’s roughly half-way through the project. He only gained 6 lbs. For a 6’2″ guy, that’s nothin’. That’s the difference if I weigh myself in the morning or in the evening, and I’m 5’3″. How is it possible with so much delicious food?

The tacos were over-flowing with delicious toppings.  We tried, steak, tongue, and spicy goat. Lon was so impressed by how the tongue was tender but crisped at the edges. Hagan, devouring the goat with such chile aroma, didn’t want to share his (but we did get to try it). We all agreed, we need to be back for more.


They had a green sauce and a red sauce, both great on just about everything.

green sauce

For $8, these giant Cemitas can really feed two people. We went with Orlando’s favorite, the spicy pork, and were not one bit disappointed. They pull out a little bit of the bread, which is super fresh with that nice smell of sesame, to give room for more fillings, all tender and chopped up for very easy bite-through. It’s flavorful with tender meat, nice bright accents of crisp lettuce and creamy avocado, and just works!

Carne Enchilada Cemita 2

Lon and Hagan didn’t seem too interested in the rice and beans, but I did appreciate the fluffiness of the rice.

rice and beans

I’m not familiar with Chile Rellenos being so soupy, but I’m sure different areas have their own ways of making it. The batter was too eggy for me and the whole thing was too mushy. I’ll pass on this one.

Chile Relleno

Lon loved their basket of fresh tortillas.


As if they knew Lon, they brought us some horchata. It’s too sweet for my taste, but you know me by now.


Lastly, I have to rave about the super clean bathroom! You just don’t expect a little place like this to have that and that just sealed the deal. Despite being totally out of the way for us, we’ll be back. Actually, Lon had already decided he was coming back with or without me, but I’ll happily accompany him for some of the best Mexican food we’ve had in NY.

*Idea Flash: If you’re having a superbowl party (and you don’t cook), just order a bunch of their Cemitas.

posted by jessica at 06:19 PM Filed under Latin, Restaurants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.