Along my journey to sample all of the Mexican food New York City has to offer, Carta Azul certainly isn't on the top of my list for its location or the quality of its food. But it is near the top of the list for entertainment value, and the free tequila shots at the door will definitely promise a good time.
The corner of 14th Street and 6th Avenue isn't typically a destination for dining. Yet when you discover Carta Azul, it just might become one. The restaurant has seemed to adopt the casino-like attitude that believes when you feed people more alcohol, they'll buy more of everything, and as a result, drinks like sangria and margaritas are cheap, and shots often come free with a little mention to your waiter. Sometimes when the food or the service is a little slow, as it tends to be on a crowded weekend night, a little wink and a mention of the amount of time you've waited is just the trick needed to get a bit of complimentary tequila. Carta Azul is a place built on fun that nonetheless genuinely cares about its customers' happiness, a recipe for a successful evening.
While there are other Mexican restaurants in the city with this type of attitude, the menu at Carta Azul blows a place like Tortilla Flats out of the water. While both are notoriously rowdy (the manager at Carta Azul will even do a tequila shot with your table if you ask - shh!), the food at Carta Azul is not just edible, but flavorful and well seasoned. No steamed frozen broccoli in quesadillas here! The menu is long and varied, but filled with the sort of classics you would expect like chicken and steak tacos, mushroom and cheese quesadillas, and fajitas with sauteed vegetables and chicken, steak, or shrimp. The quality is predictable, the freshness of the guacamole that comes on the side is sometimes questionable, and there's nothing innovative about the cuisine. But service is friendly and the atmosphere is vibrant and exciting, making the errors with the food fall into the background of a happy, slightly raucous evening with your waiter, who is about to become your next best friend.