Come summertime on the Lower East Side, there’s no better spot to peep at beautiful, fashionable passerby than from a sunny window seat at El Rey, sipping on a frozen Tinto de Verano, aka a “Poor Man’s Sangria,” made from equal parts cola and red wine. And after taking a break for renovations and a chef shuffle this past spring — Gerardo Gonzalez is out, Marlow & Daughters vet, Mason Lindahl, is in — the Nick Morgenstern-owned eatery is even more warm weather ready than ever, outfitted with Terrazzo countertops and an eye-catching backsplash inlaid with vibrantly-colored glass, and featuring an assortment of light, seasonal, internationally-inspired fare.
One of the biggest changes — perhaps a product of Lindahl’s gourmet market background — is the tasty grab-and-go concept that’s been initiated during the day, featuring fridges stocked with wholesome prepared foods. So for sun-loving patrons, who can’t stand to spend a second cooped up indoors (even at one of those aforementioned, opened-to-the-sidewalk perches), disposable bowls of Coconut Ash Chia Pudding and Beet Yogurt with Brazil Nuts await at breakfast, followed by Gigante Bean Pita with cucumbers and za’atar, a Spring Green Rice Bowl with sardines and egg yolk, and Tahini Cold Noodles with shaved radish and scallion for lunch (as a concession to longtime El Rey acolytes, the uber-popular Kale Salad with almond vinaigrette and lemon remains).
A recently rolled out dinner menu also has summer appeal to spare. It starts with a cool, creamy saucer of Avocado Gazpacho, crowned with puddles of cumin yogurt, followed by fat Corn Fritters, moistened with Portuguese milk mayo and powered by piquant espelette, and ideally, concluding with the flat out fantastic Squid Poke — which we hereby proclaim the very best we’ve had of late, in this currently, certifiably poke-mad city. Comprised of achingly tender coils of squid, mingled with fleshy petals of purslane, half moons of sweet-tart gooseberry and bits of Brazil nut for crunch, it’s impeccably fresh, non carb-reliant and pretty as a picture; precisely what we imagine those beautiful, fashionable Lower East Siders eat.
El Rey Coffee and Luncheonette
100 Stanton St., btwn. Ludlow & Orchard Sts.