For years I’ve resisted the lure of Don Coqui’s much hyped Puerto Rican cuisine of their other establishments outside of the Bronx but when they finally opened up in our borough —on City Island no less— I decided to see what all the fuss was about. This past Monday my mother and I took my father to Don Coqui to celebrate his birthday since he’s always wanted to go to one of their restaurants.
As you go over the bridge onto City Island, the restaurant is the second on your right. At first sight, it doesn’t really look all that impressive from the outside, but never judge a book by its cover. When we entered Don Coqui it was the complete opposite impression.
Immediately you see nothing but a large, beautifully appointed, dining space which seems even larger with its vast windows that wraps around the restaurant. Those very windows make you feel as if you’re dining at sea since it’s located right on the water offering you a beautiful view of Eastchester Bay.
Being a Monday and just shy of 5pm, the place had a few diners but as the evening progressed it quickly began filling up for a Monday night.
Once we sat down, we were served a basket of long, delicately sliced plantain chips with a regular salsa dip and a black bean dipping sauce that was simply perfect.
My parents and I had heard of the legendary portions that Don Coqui serves so we skipped the appetizers (which all sounded amazing) since we had our delicious tostones chips.
I decided to order the paella, a traditional Spanish dish from the province of Valencia which is very popular in Puerto Rico. Mom ordered the red snapper with yuca mash but was disappointed when our server told us that yuca mash was no longer available and going to be removed from the menu. She decided on the arroz con gandules instead but with much hesitation (why get rid of something so delicious?). The birthday boy, or rather my father, opted for the pernil y arroz con gandules aka roast pork with traditional Puerto Rican yellow rice and pigeon peas.
When the food arrived, we really weren’t prepared for the mammoth portions we were served.
The paella was cooked to perfection and one of the best that I’ve had in a very long time. For paella enthusiasts, the Don Coqui version is what’s called a paella mixta which is seafood and meats. This one was pleasantly filled with lobster, mussels, shrimp, squid, chicken, and chorizo. Meanwhile, mom and dad were very pleased with their choices. My mom, who’s probably the harshest food critic I know, had nothing negative to say about the food. This is a woman who is not afraid to say something was good but not great so imagine my shock when she told our server how excellent everything was down to the seasonings and salt. My mom is someone who doesn’t like salty foods and is often disappointed when eating out due to excess sodium used at many restaurants so this was a first.
We decided to end the meal (which we couldn’t finish and had to take home the leftovers) with coconut flan. Since the server had heard we were celebrating dad’s birthday, it was brought out to us with a candle and a few other servers with tambourines and maracas singing happy birthday.
Although the flan was delicious and we ate it all, we agreed that it was on the thick side and not the creamier variety we prefer, but again, we couldn’t complain since it was delicious.
In terms of service, it was perhaps one of best dining experiences I’ve had in the Bronx and that I owe to our server Christine R. From the moment we arrived to the moment we left, Christine made us feel like family she hasn’t seen in a while and was happy to see.
When we sat down, she unfolded our napkins and placed them on our laps as she acquainted us with the drink menus. Throughout our dinner she was very attentive and making sure we had all we needed or wanted was at hand.
In all, we had an excellent time, received top-notch white tablecloth service and if all the servers are as excellent as Christine R. was this past Monday, February 24th, you can count on me coming back.
I highly recommend making a trip to Don Coqui on City Island even if you’re hooked on going to the other locations in Westchester County simply for the waterfront experience. The ambiance of the restaurant is perfect and is perhaps, City Island’s finest restaurants and definitely one of the most upscale eateries in the Bronx.
The restaurant features a bar and lounge area offering visitors to the island a bit of nightlife which isn’t found elsewhere on City Island. They also have a banquet room which is used to handle overflow as well as to rent out for special occasions.
Don Coqui is located at:
565 City Island Ave
Bronx, NY 10464
Hats off to Don Coqui for bringing a fine dining experience to the Bronx.