Take two: Riverdale Restaurant Week is back at it again!

The Tacos de Barbacoa at Tobalá are made with lamb and served on blue corn tortillas, and will be part of their prix fixe menu for Riverdale Restaurant Week running April 15-22.
Photo ET Rodriguez

After a successful run last October, Riverdale Restaurant Week is back beginning on April 15. Presented by Dine Out Riverdale, the week-long event will include four additional restaurants this year from the Kingsbridge, Van Cortlandt and Riverdale neighborhoods, bringing the total roster to 33.

However, the excitement is bitter-sweet as the Riverdale community has lost three eateries in the last six months — Blue Bay Diner, Madison’s Italian restaurant and Siam Square Thai cuisine, two of which were participants in the inaugural restaurant week.

“It’s fun, but I really learned the importance of this (event) to these businesses,” said Laura Levine-Pinedo, who co-founded Dine Out Riverdale along with Michael Gabert of Flexis Media.

In a borough that is often under-represented during NYC & Company’s Restaurant Week, which spans across the five boroughs, this localized iteration draws more Bronx establishments, in an event that can help drive traffic to their businesses.

Restaurateurs of Dine Out Riverdale pay $100 to participate. This includes quality video promotion that is featured on the Dine Out Riverdale Instagram page, which has accrued 990 followers in six months.

Over that same timeframe Tobalá restaurant, which sits at 3732 Riverdale Ave., has gained more than 12,000 followers.

As more people opt for non-alcoholic drinks, the trend of the mocktail has grown pervasive. Much like El Mero, a spicy yet refreshing mocktail on Tobalá’s menu, the drink is made with lime, cucumber and a zero-proof spirit. Photo ET Rodriguez

The suave Dominican-owned Oaxacan restaurant is awash with earth tones, down to the servers’ uniforms, and the room is open and inviting. The diners are well-dressed. The menu is pricier than most, but that’s where restaurant week comes in. Where else in the Bronx will you find an octopus dish with chicatana sauce? It’s made of Mexican flying ants and the taste is a sweet earthiness. The dish is on their restaurant week prix fixe menu at $60 with an appetizer and dessert included.

“We felt like it was a cuisine that wasn’t being explored properly in New York,” said co-owner Billy Mercader.

The four owners of Tobalá have been working in the industry for more than a decade, and especially at Mexican eateries. To round out their experience, they have travelled through Mexico extensively and chef Moises Lopez lived and worked in the Mexican city of Oaxaca for some time.

“We’ve been in the industry for many years and we’ve always worked at Mexican restaurants and we wanted to open our own,” said co-owner Roma Mercader.

Right next door on Riverdale Avenue is Tin Marin, the Latin-Carribbean tapas place that has sat on the block for more than a decade. Also a participant of restaurant week in Riverdale, Tin Marin is easily one of the busiest restaurants in all of Riverdale, Van Cortlandt and Kingsbridge, and “it has the best flan,” said Levine-Pinedo. For $39 one can order an appetizer, an entree and their flan, which is homemade by the owner’s mother, Mama Flora.

The Kingsbridge Social Club is known in the Kingsbridge neighborhood for their artisanal pizzas. The restaurant will be participating in Riverdale Restaurant Week for the second time. Photo ET Rodriguez

People can also sponsor restaurant week in Riverdale by donating anywhere from $10-$100 — like Arnie Adler, colloquially known as the Bread Man of Riverdale. An events photographer by trade, Adler had work come to a standstill when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Like many others, he was relegated to his home and started baking bread.

“My daughter actually gave me some starter that she was playing around with — I found I really liked bread-baking almost as much as eating it,” said Adler.

He began to bake too much bread to eat so he started donating it to the local community refrigerator and posting on Facebook that he would swap bread for other home and handmade items. Then one day someone said to him, “I hear your bread is really good. I don’t cook. I don’t do crafts. Can I just buy a loaf?” And that’s how Adler got into the bread-baking business.

Riverdale Restaurant Week is about more than food — it’s about knowing your neighbors, especially in the North Bronx where the ties of community are still strong. These are neighborhoods where families have been living for generations.

The pandemic highlighted the importance of small business with the term “essential worker.” While much of the U.S. had to abide by curfews and lockdowns, many people spent that downtime in kitchens cooking, prepping and delivering meals in the midst of a global catastrophe.

Thousands of restaurants across New York City shuttered from 2020 through 2021, but many survived  — like those participating in this Riverdale venture. It is because of communal spaces like bars and restaurants that locals can mingle and build community.

Go to the Instagram page @dineoutriverdale to find out more about all participating venues and discounts. Riverdale Restaurant Week runs through April 22. 

Reach ET Rodriguez at etrodriguez317@gmail.com. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes