Authentic Latin fare at Madison’s Castillo

Arroz con pollo with a side of fried yellow plantains at Castillo de Manhattan. Photo by Gabe Herman

BY GABE HERMAN | When a local restaurant is no-frills, with no Web site and in an unassuming spot, yet has been around for decades, you know the food has to be good. And that’s the case with the Spanish restaurant El Castillo de Manhattan.

It’s deep in the Lower East Side at 207 Madison St., between Rutgers and Jefferson Sts., and just a block from the East Broadway stop on the F train.

It’s a small place, midway up the block, with just 11 tables and a counter toward the back for ordering.

And there are many choices from the big menu, including sandwiches, salads, plenty of meats and seafood, and breakfast items like green banana with egg, salami and cheese. The place combines casual with sit-down, as you order at the counter and then are waited on at a table.

Local resident John Quinn, the former Democratic State Committee man, is a longtime customer. He said the restaurant has been there more than 40 years. He noted that the place has a new lease and its block is the last full block of tenements on Madison St.

“I’ve been going for 30 years,” he said. “My favorite dish is asopado de pollo,” which is also called “chicken soupy rice” on the menu. “Though everything is excellent,” Quinn added. “It’s very much a community place. Big lunch takeout.”

Festive Christmas decorations and lively music, along with the friendly staff, contributed to the warm atmosphere on a recent November night. The place also features a television that was playing NY1 news, and an electronic jukebox in the corner.

There is some name confusion, as some online listings call it Castillo de Madison. This name also appears in the restaurant on one sign, but the outside awning and menu call it Castillo de Manhattan. Despite its lack of a Web site, the restaurant offers delivery on Seamless and Grubhub, and is called Castillo de Manhattan on both sites.

Quinn noted that all the food is prepared to order and “takes a while. Even soup is prepared individually.”

On a recent visit I tried the arroz con pollo, with a side of fried yellow plantains. The food was ready in about 12 minutes and did not disappoint. The portions were big, probably enough for two people, and delicious.

The total price was $13.25 for the meal, which included complimentary bread with butter. If you order a meat dish, you might have to watch out for an occasional bone. But that’s O.K., that’s just a sign that it’s real food.

El Castillo de Manhattan, 207 Madison St., 212-227-2892 (no Web site). They accept credit cards and offer free delivery.

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