Enjoy Colombian Cuisine in New York City

Find exotic eats in Manhattan at El Cartel Tapas Bar and Restaurant.

With a charmingly provocative name (the inspiration was actually from a telenovela), El Cartel Tapas and Restaurant brings authentic Colombian cuisine to New York City. The restaurant is the second incarnation of El Cartel Tapas Bar and Restaurant, the first being started by owner Billy Arango’s mother in Queens from 2009 to 2011. “The original restaurant was a bakery/restaurant that offered various authentic Colombian dishes, breads and pastries,” Arango explained. “We now offer more a la carte and plated tapas and entrees alongside Colombian beers, sodas, cocktails and more.” 

Menu Selection at El Cartel Tapas Bar and Restaurant New York | WHERE Traveler®
Menu Selection (Courtesy El Cartel Tapas Bar and Restaurant)

Inside El Cartel Tapas Bar and Restaurant in New York City

The restaurant serves dinner six nights a week and a weekend brunch with bottomless mimosas for $18. “We wanted to introduce something different to Hell’s Kitchen. As a Colombian, salsa runs in my blood,” Arango said. “We are known to have the best Salsa dancers in the world (Cali, Colombia) and some of the biggest and most famous groups of Salsa as well.” 

Diners can also enjoy some unique menu items that will likely be new to those who aren’t familiar with Colombian cuisine. “The Bandeja El Cartel Packs tons of flavor and is a well-packed dish,” Arango told us. “It is a very typical dish in Colombia. The picada is also typical, and we serve it in a hand-painted boat.” 

Dining Room at El Cartel Tapas Bar and Restaurant New York | WHERE Traveler®
Dining Room (Courtesy El Cartel Tapas Bar and Restaurant)

The colorful space also offers a charming aesthetic to complement the restaurant’s cuisine. “We offer banquet seating upfront, dining tables and a 39-foot bar with seven televisions,” Arango said. “Our walls have Colombian art and today’s artists. The back area offers two full living room spaces, high tables, service bar and more art. Giving it more of a lounge vibe and also an area to cater parties.”

If you’re just trying Colombian cuisine for the first time, Arango has some suggestions for how to navigate the menu. “I would recommend either sharing a Picada El Cartel (if it’s two people) or having a Shrimp Ceviche. I would also recommend a frozen sangria to drink,” Arango told us. “As an entrée I would offer them either a Bandeja El Cartel or a Cazuela de Mariscos. For dessert, between an Oblea or Figs in Syrup as they are both staples of Cali.” 

Picada El Cartel at El Cartel Tapas Bar and Restaurant New York | WHERE Traveler®
Picada El Cartel (Courtesy El Cartel Tapas Bar and Restaurant)