Williamsburg has become a hipster haven and something of a cultural icon in New York. Thankfully, the neighborhood’s status comes with numerous fantastic restaurants and eateries, which now reside on practically every street. Café Mogador, a Moroccan restaurant that also has a home in the East Village, sits on Wythe Avenue, a couple of blocks away from the luxury condos near the East River.
One of the most important factors that I use to judge a restaurant is its ability to deliver a good meal every single time. No matter if the restaurant is busy or slow and no matter what day of the week or time you visit, its food should always taste the same. Café Mogador, a staple in my restaurant rotation, is a place where I never feel nervous about bringing friends. I have never had a single complaint about the food or service, and the café is, above all, consistent. The space is also quite beautiful, decorated with various pots and Moroccan touches. Even the bathrooms have mirrors that are from Morroco! There is a covered outdoor area that is a pleasure to dine in, and the restaurant is the perfect place to literally bring anyone. (Unless you don’t like them—then don’t bother showing them such an amazing restaurant.)
Now, I can rave all about how great Café Mogador is, but even with consistency, there has to be some awesome food backing it up. Café Mogador has an extensive menu filled with North African, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean delights.
The restaurant does offer some salads as appetizers, but the real stars are the various dips and sauces accompanied by the homemade pita bread. The babaganoush is silky smooth and has a beautiful eggplant flavor, not bitter or muddled by any other additives. The yogurt and cucumber dip is similar to greek tzatziki but much less complex flavorwise (and believe me, that’s a compliment). It’s as simple as a dip can be but paired with hot pillowy pita bread, it makes for the perfect appetizer. Café Mogador also offers falafel with a delicious dipping sauce. The falafel is freshly fried and must be experienced, especially by those who haven’t had it before, like me.
As a side note, get the lemonade. The lemonade is the absolute best lemonade I have ever had in my entire life, and it goes perfectly with every single dish on the menu.
For the main course, there are plenty of traditional dishes to choose from, as well as some inventive ones that are making me salivate as I write this. On the more traditional side, grilled meats are served with a delicious couscous that packs a subtle unexpected spiciness. Although the grilled meats are absolutely delicious, the most famous Moroccan dish, the tagine, is an experience in and of itself. With a choice of chicken or lamb and another choice of four sauces, there should definitely be at least one person at your table who tries it. My favorite is the charmoullah, a spicy cilantro sauce that is extremely flavorful and tastes like nothing I’ve ever had before. Although you may want to write the sauce off as another version of curry, it is not, and you’ll thank me after you try it.
Café Mogador also offers various specials every night, usually involving a variety of shellfish as appetizers and a protein other than chicken, lamb or merguez for an entrée. Okay, I did just say that these menus offer something other than chicken, but the chicken from the special menu must be tried. The dish was a revelation, if there ever was one, and made me believe in the use of chicken as the star of an entrée. I’m always hesitant to order chicken that hasn’t been grilled or isn’t in a sauce (usually the focus of that type of dish). On my tenth time around, I asked the waitress for a nudge in the right direction, and she recommended the roasted chicken with fingerling potatoes, sweet baby onions, and a thyme jus.
Oh my god. This was literally the best chicken I have ever had in my entire life. I wanted to live in the apartments above Café Mogador so that I could experience it daily for the rest of my life. The thyme jus seeped into the crispy fingerlings and sweet onion, creating bursts of flavor that kept me on edge for the entire meal. It was glorious. Literally no other words can describe how good it was. Eat it. Now.
Now onto desserts!
The café’s sweets are pretty damn delicious. The vanilla panna cotta, served with raspberry sauce and a coconut crisp, was flavorful and texturally amazing. I also tried a great slice of orange cake, soaked in orange and garnished with some crème fraiche. The cake was simple and not ridiculously sweet; a perfect end to a great dinner. The coffee and espresso-based drinks are delicious too—so yeah, go eat there.
I really hope that I’ll be paid one day to write these reviews, and believe it or not, I’m not even going to get some free food for this one. But I digress.
Café Mogador also offers a great lunch deal with a chicken tagine and a soup or salad. Their lunch menu includes delicious sandwiches, like the grilled curry chicken, which comes with cucumber, watercress, and a tangy garlic yogurt sauce on crusty ciabatta bread.
So, you really have no excuses for not getting some food from there. You’re really only hurting yourself if you don’t go.