2012-03-07 / Restaurant of the Week

Café Salamanca

For nearly 25 years, Café Salamanca has been offering classic Spanish cuisine for all to enjoy at lunch or dinner or anytime you’d like to enjoy some tapas. Conveniently located on Northern Boulevard. in Jackson Heights, Café Salamanca is one the most authentic Spanish restaurants you’ll find on this side of the Atlantic with its range of regional dishes from the Iberian Peninsula. Even its warm, kind-hearted owner, Julio Villar, hails from Orense, in the northwest corner of Spain called Galicia. The cozy, white stucco dining room is adorned with tile floors, hanging plants and sturdy tables in white linens, replicating many restaurants I’ve visited in Spain.

A convivial crowd gathers at the bar to enjoy small plates called tapas, along with a pitcher of freshly made sangria, their favorite cocktail, or beer. Indeed this is a great place to unwind after a long day. Meanwhile, in the dining room, we started with many of Café Salamanca’s wonderful tapas, or appetizers which are perfectly sized for sharing. Fresh mussels vinaigrette are topped with a zesty salsa and a new item is baked clams Spanish style with a delicious, crunchy breadcrumb topping. Next came a plate of thinly sliced Serrano ham and buttery Manchego cheese, as well as a plate of sizzling chorizo sausage. Shrimp in garlic sauce is one of my favorites and this authentic dish is brought in a clay crock, swimming in a delectable garlic sauce that is swiftly soaked up with the light and crusty rolls brought to your table. I can’t get enough of a classic dish from Galicia called Pulpo Gallega. It’s made of tender, stewed octopus, seasoned with pimentón and sea salt that you’ll find delectable. So are the boquerones, which are fresh sardines marinated in vinegar and served on slices of bread ($6.95). Tender cod fish croquettes are crisp on the outside and tender in the middle. Try the seafood soup, which is thick, hearty and chock full of clams, mussels and shrimp. Caldo Gallego is another soup from Galicia made with sausage and vegetables.

Café Salamanca’s menu offers dishes from the various regions of Spain, with a strong emphasis on fresh fish and seafood. One-pound lobsters are available nightly for $18.95. Paella Valenciana, a dish practically synonymous with Spain, is prepared in a traditional cast iron pot, with chicken, sausage and rice, or Marinara style, simmered with a melange of fresh seafood including a whole lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels and scallops. The saffron-infused rice, peas and red peppers makes this a complete and satisfying meal. Paella takes about a half an hour to prepare, so put your order in then nibble on tapas and sip on sangria while you wait. It’s definitely worth it.

Entraña is grilled skirt steak and has been added to the menu and I can say that this supremely tender, cooked to perfection steak is a treat, served with vegetables and saffron rice or their crispy house made fried potatoes. Café Salamanca’s broiled baby rack of lamb is legendary by now and has people coming back for more of those succulent ribs of juicy lamb ($29.95). Veal chop Salamanca is tender veal prepared with mushrooms in a savory brown sauce and diners nearby loved the veal in lemon sauce ($15.95). Tender, pounded breast of chicken is prepared parmigiana style or in a savory garlic sauce. The service is professional and friendly too.

Café Salamanca is currently offering dinner and lunch specials that are unbeatable and make it affordable for all to enjoy a relaxing meal here. Dinner for two people includes your choice of soup, two entrées, a pitcher of sangria, coffee and dessert for an amazing $59.95! For lunch, Monday to Friday, enjoy soup or salad, an entrée and one glass of wine or sangria for just $15.95.

Café Salamanca has a nicely decorated private party room which is completely separate from the main dining room. It has its own bar and restrooms and holds up to 60 people. This festive room would be a great venue for your next special occasion or holiday party. Business luncheons and dinners are welcome. Complete meals are reasonably priced, so call Julio for details.

Finish your meal with flan, a traditional Spanish custard with caramel sauce, a slice of torta de Santiago made with almonds or creamy natilla pudding. Café con leche or café Salamanca with a touch of brandy ends the meal in style.

Café Salamanca is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week from 12pm to 11pm weeknights and 1am weekends. Remember the complete dinner special for two people for just $59.95 (or $21.95 for one). Café Salamanca makes any night special and at these prices, it’s within reach to all. Weekends, reservations are suggested and credit cards are accepted. Life is a fiesta so enjoy yourself at Café Salamanca!

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