My guest and I visited A.G. Kitchen (named after the Cuban-American chef, Alex Garcia) early one evening and learned that their Happy Hour at the bar and lounge, two spacious well-appointed rooms, is from 3:30 to 6:30 Monday to Friday. Served are an array of reasonably-priced specials and drinks. For $6 guests can enjoy Guacamole & Chips.
From my table, I watched the chef carefully scooping avocados into a bowl, adding salt, lime juice, plum tomatoes, minced onion and serrano chiles, finishing the mixture off with a sprinkle of freshly grated black pepper.
Also on the Happy Hour menu were Crispy Calamari, Hollywood Fries and Bacon-Wrapped dates. The A.G. Classic Burger is $11; with Bacon or Cheese ($2 extra). Chris our affable waiter told us it’s a favorite among patrons, as is the NYC’s Best Cubano, a juicy roast pork, black forest ham sandwich with Swiss cheese pickles and mustard. Tap beers and wines are $6, well cocktails $7 and call cocktails $8. A.G. Kitchen Specials are $9.
At this time of evening, A.G. Kitchen is a family friendly place perfect for just-from-work couples who want an inexpensive quick, satisfying meal. Still, until they departed with children and babies in tow, the decibel level of high-pitches voices was ear-splitting. (The place is large enough for a family section??)
The Guacamole, which can be made to suit patrons’ palate (mild, medium or hot), was excellent. The Nachos that accompanied it were crisp and fresh. We agreed: this was the best guacamole we’d had in the US.
Chris served us crispy calamari ($12), which came with a side of fresh green salad. The calamari were excellent, tender and fresh, although they could have been warmer.
The pan seared tuna steak looked perfectly prepared, although the flavors of the tuna, which was dry and tasteless, with chopped tomato and melon on top and sprinkled with mustard seeds didn’t mingle well with the overly salted, heavily spiced Jicama fries, and the salty, tangy ponzu-dressed, fresh green salad. What happened to the native Cuban, whose family taught him to appreciate the simplicity of ingredients? Garcia’s Nuevo Latino cooking is a bit too creative for my taste.
My guest ordered the A.G. Classic burger, which could have been warmer and the bun less soggy. It came with Hollywood fries. But for the salt, these fries are made from a denser potato, absorb very little oil, have a low sugar content and were delicious.
For those who don’t watch their weight or sugar intake, the apple pie (with or without ice cream – $7) is a sweet-fix dream for any dessert lover.
A.G. Kitchen is located at 269 Columbus Avenue in New York. Phone 212-873-9400. For reservations log on to Opentable.com.