What to Eat at Lalo, Gerardo Gonzalez’s Mex-American Follow-up to El Rey

Carnitas with corn nuts, white sauce, and housemade flour tortillas.

Gerardo Gonzalez is playing with scale at Lalo, the “New Age ’70s Mexican diner” he opens for dinner this Thursday in Chinatown — and that’s not just referring to seating capacity (47, versus the 15 bar stools that occupied his former home, El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette). The menu caters to variously sized appetites (and parties) with dishes that range from a nearly four-ounce dry-aged strip “baby steak” to corn-nut-strewn carnitas portioned for “single,” “lovers,” and “familia.” The chef hopes to escape the tyranny of traditional dining with a mix-and-match, choose-your-own-adventure format. “I’m not a fan of coursed-out meals,” he says. “I think they can be a little boring.”

The same cannot be said of Lalo’s flavor profile: a Mex-American core seasoned with accents from Japan, the Middle East, and even the Ashkenazi-Jewish tradition (see the toasted-kasha salad with caramelized-onion agrodolce and the smoked sable in the coconut clam chowder). But there’s also a very contemporary vegan Caesar with nutritional yeast and seaweed; cannellini transformed into black-bean dip with squid ink and black garlic; and, courtesy of pastry chef Lexie Smith, sweets like braised pumpkin with candied panko and queso fresco.

A luncheonette vibe and a full bar. Photo: Konstantin Sergeyev

Lalo (Gonzalez’s own nickname, the diminutive of Gerardo) also has a full liquor license, and the bar follows the kitchen’s border-crossing lead: The wine list coins a whimsical new appellation, Calispanya, juxtaposing Old and New World approaches, and cocktails incorporate trendy-healthy ingredients like aquafaba and whey. Gonzalez has a soft spot for the vanishing New York lunch counter, and his eclectic daytime menu pays homage with corned-pork Reubanos, a doner kebab–al pastor mash-up, and a $15 lunch combo.

Check out their menu for dinner, dessert, and beverages.

The façade is a neighborhood landmark. Photo: Konstantin Sergeyev
Chamoy char siu ribs: Chinese-barbecue-inspired baby backs flavored with a Mexican sour-plum sauce with links to Japanese umeboshi. Photo: Melissa Hom
The “Brown Goddess” cucumber salad, with brown-mole vinaigrette, mint, and candied peanuts. Photo: Melissa Hom
Coconut clam chowder with smoked sable and brioche with avocado taramasalata. Photo: Melissa Hom
Sweet braised pumpkin with candied panko and queso fresco. Photo: Melissa Hom
Masienda champurrado: hot-chocolate pudding with heirloom masa and tonka-bean marshmallow. Photo: Melissa Hom
The Coming Soon cocktail: rum, coconut, pineapple, and dragon fruit. Photo: Melissa Hom
The Sumac Sour combines sumac bourbon, lemon, and aquafaba (otherwise known as chickpea-soaking water). Photo: Melissa Hom

104 Bayard St., nr. Baxter St.; 646-998-3408

*A version of this article appears in the November 14, 2016, issue of New York Magazine.

What to Eat at Lalo, Gerardo Gonzalez’s Follow-up to El Rey