Cafe Mogador: NYC’s pioneer Moroccan restaurant

Cafe Mogador Cafe Mogador
101 St. Marks Place (between Ave A and 1st Ave)
New York, NY 10009

Cafe Mogador is the definition of the type of restaurant that I love. It has all the right components to keep me going back again and again. I’m almost sad that I just discovered it now because it is just that good. It satisfies my criteria of:

  1. Having really great food (duh)
  2. Having a speciality food (I hate places that do “all things” because it is impossible to do all things well) – Moroccan specifically (think tagines, cous cous, hummus, babaganoush…)
  3. Having really reasonable prices (~$20 an entree and ~$10 an appetizer)
  4. Having the right “mood” that  pauses time and allows you to get lost in your food and conversation

Cafe Mogador
The drinks are also strong. There’s really nothing not to like! It’s been around since 1983 so is pretty much an East Village landmark. A colleague of mine said his wife grew up going to Cafe Mogador as a little girl. I can’t imagine growing up in East Village but if it involved coming to Cafe Mogador every weekend, I’d be pretty happy about it.

Cafe Mogador
LAW, B.A., B.P., H.W., and I came on a Friday night and definitely waited a good hour before we got a table. It was warm out (YES warm nights!) so it wasn’t so bad. We started with the Hummus Falafel Platter with green sauce ($12). The hummus is the best I’ve had in the city, not quite at Jordanian hummus level, but very, very, good. Not as machine-made smooth as store-bought… FRESH is how I would describe it. Fresh, light, and creamy. The falafel was also the kind I like: small, crisp on the outside, and fluffy on the inside. Hate it when falafels are over fried and have a thick crust and dense filling.

Cafe Mogador
Pita that came with the hummus. It was toasted and harder/denser than normal pita.

Cafe Mogador
BABAGANOUUUUSH. Legit, the best I’ve ever had in my life. So effing tasty. The eggplant was a little smokey and the natural sweetness of the eggplant was really apparent. Like the hummus, it was very light. Need to get this again asap.
Cafe Mogador
I ordered the Fish Tagine (can’t remember price, $25-30?), which I believe is a special on the menu. Tagines, for those of you who don’t know, are earthenware cone-shaped pots that are a staple in Moroccan cooking. The cone shape allows the heat to build up at the top, along with the condensation, which then drips back down into the food, creating very moist dishes. The classic is lamb or chicken, but since others at the table were getting those already, I decided to go with the fish. It doesn’t look particularly amazing, but the fish was very tender and fresh. The dish was overall very light, with the natural flavor of the ingredients as the stars.

Cafe Mogador
It came with a deeeelicious fluffy side of cous cous.

Cafe Mogador
I dumped my fish and fish sauce on the cous cous and wolfed it all up.

Cafe Mogador
H.W. and B.A. both got the Lamb Tagine ($19.50), one with a potato saffron sauce, and the other with a lemon olive sauce. There are five sauces to choose from, and I look forward to trying them all. The lamb slipped right off the bone, and was tasty without being gamey. Cooked perfectly.

Cafe Mogador
L.C. got the Chicken Tagine ($18), also with the potato saffron sauce. Although less impressive looking than the lamb, it was just as succulent, tender, and tasty. Highly recommend this saucey chicken dish over cous cous.

I don’t know Moroccan cooking well enough, so it is difficult for me to write about specific flavors. But honestly, everything was just so good. All the flavors FIT together really well. The food was hearty without being heavy. I LOVED the babaganoush in particular. We stayed for a while, slowly enjoying our food, drinks, and conversation. Great place to unwind on a Friday night.

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