Photo via calleochonyc.com
I’ve dined at Calle Ocho for years now and recently made a re-visit to the restaurant after a two-year hiatus.
Calle Ocho is a delicious Latin American restaurant inside the beautiful Excelsior Hotel on the Upper West Side in New York City. Calle Ocho is well-known among young professionals for their brunch, which offers unlimited Sangria. Some people coin Calle Ocho as the “best brunch in NYC”; however, I think that has something to do with the unlimited Sangria thing.
The Food: Even with some minor logistical changes since my last visit (discussed below), the food is as delicious as I remembered, very flavorful and well-seasoned. For brunch, I always order the steak and eggs; however, the more interesting dishes can be sampled during dinner. If you have the opportunity to go for dinner, I recommend trying the “Bistec”, which is Cuban Style “Steak Frites”, Crispy Yuca, Caramelized Onions, and Traditional Chimichurri Verde (simply delicious).
Unlimited Sangria: While I enjoy all the Sangria options, my favorites are the Spanish Harlem (Red) and the Tropical (White).
The Crowd: Young professionals. The restaurant gets very loud during brunch hours.
Changes since my last visit: Since my last brunch visit at Calle Ocho, a few things have changed. For starters, I vaguely remember the sangria being self-serve. Logistically, I understand the change. With waiters now bringing the sangria to you, the restaurant avoids having drunk patrons roaming the restaurant and spilling drinks everywhere. You, the customer, also avoid the long sangria line, which I vaguely remember was a little annoying. What I don’t like about this change is that sometimes getting a refill can take forever, depending on how many other people are ordering refills from your waiter. Requesting and receiving refills inevitably slows down the entire “boozy brunch” process. This is especially true since they will only allow you to drink one glass at a time. This rule applies even if you haven’t finished your last drink. Once a new glass is delivered, your old glass will be removed, empty or not.
Another perceived change is that Calle Ocho is not playing with you about their policies … For starters; they do not hold reservations past 15-20 minutes, max. They will try to accommodate you once your party arrives; however, since they are in demand during brunch hours, tables will not be held.
Calle Ocho is also serious about their time limit. I did notice some patrons being politely informed that their allocated time was up. The point of the story you ask? Don’t think you’re going to linger all day and get free sangria. It’s just not happening.
Overall, Calle Ocho is a solid brunch option that you should definitely give a try if you are in the area.