Carnivale: Summer's Hot Spot to Eat, Drink, and Dance

So you think you can’t dance?  Think again!  This summer Carnivale will help you get rid of those dancing fears every Thursday with free Latin dance classes.  Recently, I was invited to bring a friend and experience both the dancing and the excellent menu crafted by their talented new chef Rodolfo Cuadros. 
The classes take place each Thursday from 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. but plan to arrive a little early because the evening starts with a pork roast in the bar area.  Chefs are on hand to offer you tremendously tasty, complimentary soft pork taco as a prelude to more pork goodness as they slow roast a 100 lb. local pig from Maple Creek Farms in a traditional Cuban smoke-box, the La Caja China.  Check their Facebook Event for details about the weekly pig roast.  While you enjoy those tacos or any of the other pork offerings, make sure you order one of the great cocktails.  The bar menu at Carnivale is inspired and intriguing.
Since neither my friend nor I consider ourselves to be ‘dancers,’ we felt the need for a bit of liquid courage before heading into the lounge for the complimentary Cha-Cha class.  If you’re a whiskey lover, be sure to try the Bourbon Whisperer (Maker’s Mark bourbon, Hum botanical spirit, fresh lemon juice,
housemade honey syrup).  Of course, as a Latin American restaurant they have a large selection of tequila and tequila-based cocktails.  One of my favorites is their smoky, delicious Carnivale Manhattan (Semental añejo tequila, Contratto vermouth rosso, Heering’s cherry liqueur, orange bitters).  For a slightly sweeter drink, definitely try either the Strawberry Caipirinha (Leblon cachaca, limes, Mick Klug Farm strawberries) or one of their signature mojitos.  My favorite of the mojitos is the Coconut – light, refreshing, and not at all too sweet.
My friend and I were happily surprised that the dance class was so much fun!  It was fast-paced, but certainly not difficult.  Even if you have never danced a moment in your life, you should easily be able to pick up the basics of the dance styles from the talented instructors.  Be warned, you might work up a 
little bit of a sweat.  After all, Latin dancing is hot in more ways than one.
The free pork tacos, complimentary dance class, and tasty cocktails would be a great start to any evening out on the town.  But since you’re already there at Carnivale and you’ve probably worked up a bit of an appetite from the dancing, you should plan to stay for a sample of their superb menu.  
Plan ahead and make your dinner reservations for 8 p.m. since Carnivale (justifiably) gets very busy and you might have to wait for a table if you don’t plan ahead.
Carnivale feels vast in size, but manages to maintain a light, playful, sophisticated vibe.  The bright colors lend a festive feeling and every meal feels like a special event particularly if you’re lucky enough to get a seat at one of the second floor tables overlooking the main restaurant floor.
You can check out their online menu here.  The selections are varied, the portions are very satisfying, and the quality is superb.  From my own personal experience, I would recommend any (or all) of the following appetizers:
  • Guacamole (some of the best I have had in the city – fresh, chunky, flavorful)
  • Ropa Vieja (served with sweet plantain and malanga)
  • Ceviche Sampler (four types including Skuna Bay salmon, Ecuadorian shrimp, seafood sampler, and tuna with watermelon)
For entrees, don’t miss out on:
  • BBQ Short Rib (Espresso braised, Cuban tamale, achiote kimchee fennel)
  • Paella (Shrimp, sea scallop, mussels, clams, calamari, bomba rice, Spanish chorizo, sofrito, tomato, peas)
  • Arrachera (Grilled skirt steak, rice and beans, bacon sofrito, sweet red onion, chimichurri sauce)
Be sure to sample the side of Crispy Yuca with chipotle aioli.  Wow!
One of the most impressive things about Carnivale (aside from their beautiful decor and fabulous food) is their committment to green initiatives.  They feature seasonal, local produce from the Green City Market and a number of regional purveyors.  They also have a rooftop garden that was first planted in 2008.  Many food items come directly from that garden, including heirloom peppers, ghost peppers, chiles, cucumbers, tomatoes, several types of herbs, and lettuce.
Check out more about their green initiatives here.
Carnivale is located at 702 West Fulton Market and has unbelievable inexpensive valet parking ($5 for dinner, complimentary for lunch).  Get more information on their website, on their Facebook page, or on Twitter.






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