The Bar Tab 

Finding an interesting bar sometimes requires a fresh perspective. For example, observe the bar scene at the restaurant Chacho and Chalucci’s at 1:45 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Similarly, finding great restaurants with cheap prices provides its own challenges. Luckily, for a few hours each week, the bar in Azuca serves a delicious combination of excellent food at low-end prices.

Azuca is known for its excellent nuevo-Latin fare, but dinner entrees hover around $20. If one sneaks over to the bar during happy hour, however, there is a great window of opportunity. Though many people go to happy hour for the wonderful drinks (mainly mojitos for $2.50), the kitchen serves a great array of appetizers, that when eaten in toto, can make an excellent meal. It would seem self-defeating not to get a mojito with fresh mint for $2.50, but I’m going to try and focus my attention on the food.

Like the mojitos, the appetizers are each $2.50. Consider these kick-ass options:

• Guacamole with pico de gallo and chipotle-flour tortilla chips

• Yucca Frita with mojo (fried yucca strips with mojo, a garlic sauce, not the “charm bag” found in hoodoo)

• Tostones con mojo (fried green plantains with aforementioned garlic sauce)

• Amarillos (fried ripe plantains served with cilantro sour cream)

• Moros y Cristianos (Rice and beans seasoned with mofrito. Figuratively, it refers to the Moors and Christians of Spain, with the Moors symbolized by black beans and the Christians represented by the white rice. Costa Ricans have a similar dish called Gallo Pinto, which translates to “spotted rooster.”

• Ceviche in three different options: shrimp, scallop, or fish (a citrus-marinated seafood salad)

Generally, all of these options are excellent. Though it may take about 10 to 15 minutes for the food to come, it is worth the wait for the ingredients and craftsmanship put into the presentation. We first tried the Moros y Cristianos and the tostones. Together, these two (or technically, three) items make a great simple meal. When paired with the rich tostones with bitter, sweet garlic, the totality of the parts transcends the individual ingredients. My friend wished her Puerto Rican mother had made beans and rice this well. It was a happy/sad moment and out of respect I chose not to prod.

Next we ordered the guacamole. The avocado was extremely fresh and abundant. The dish was not diluted to save money.

The Yucca Frita was encouraging as well, but because I’m not a fan of deep-fried tubers, this dish was not my favorite.

Overall, one cannot fail with any of the happy-hour dishes. Azuca might be losing money with these specials, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t enjoy them while they last.

— Mark Jones



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