Victor’s Café, a Manhattan landmark, has reached an impressive milestone. The restaurant recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. No small feat given New York City’s highly competitive restaurant business. But it’s still the place to go for upscale Cuban cuisine.
What’s more, Victor’s is still family owned and operated, always a good sign, because no one pays attention to detail like and owner/manager.
And when it comes to good food, details count.
Founder Victor del Corrall left Cuba in 1957 on the eve of the country’s violent revolution. He landed in New York City and his life is the kind of story that has made the Big Apple famous as the world’s melting pot.
He worked odd jobs until he finally saved enough money to open Victor’s in 1963, with his wife Eloina Ruiz de Ugarrio. In 1980, the restaurant moved from its location at 71st St. and Columbus Ave. to it’s current location in the heart of Manhattan’s Theater District.
Today, the restaurant is run by Victor’s daughter Sonia Zaldivar, who has been working there since 1972. She’s added her own touch by incorporating Nuevo Latino style in many of the family recipes to make them lighter and healthier.
She’s also been joined by her daughter, Monica Zaldivar. Monica graduated from Fordham University in 2002 and from Shepard Broad Law Center at NOVA Southeastern University. She previously worked as a trust and estates attorney at Fowler White Burnett before moving to New York City two years ago to take over the family business.
At the restaurant, a first course might include a signature entree Bartolito made of sweet plantains filled with roast Berkshire pork, olives and raisins. It’s served over zesty black bean sauce and goat cheese. Or, Yuquita Frita con Salsa de Cilantro, an original, crispy cassava fingers with an aromatic coriander dip.
For a second course, Ropa Vieja is a Victor’s house specialty. It includes shredded black angus skirt steak simmered in garlic, tomatoes, onions and peppers.
Another house favorite is Lechón Asado al Estilo del Puerto Boniato con Moros y Cristianos. It’s roast suckling pig marinated in sour orange, olive oil, garlic and herbs. Hand-carved and served with yucca in garlic mojo.
Desserts include Arroz con Leche, a creamy rice pudding scented with cinnamon and vanilla bean; Flan, a traditional Cuban-style egg custard topped with a light caramel sauce or Pudin de Pan, classic Cuban bread pudding. For a complete menu go here.
Victor’s signature cocktail known “Cuba Libre!” was featured in the Tom Cruise movie “Cocktail.” The restaurant is known for its refreshing summer bebidas.
Inside, the decor is festive with the look and feel of Old Cuba. It’s been described as a refuge (one diner has eaten there every day for the past 11 years, according to the family) and culinary voyage to the island nation. It’s a favorite of the theater crowd and celebrities.
Everyone from Barbara Walters and Liza Minelli to Don King have dined there. Rapper Pitbull called Victor’s his favorite “pitstop” the last time he was in New York.
236 W 52nd St, Manhattan, NY 10019
website: Victor’s Cafe