Flatiron Lunch: Rocking Horse Cafe is a Decent Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant

Every Friday we go south of the ML boundaries in search of a delicious lunch. Sometimes it’s Murray Hill south or the Flatiron District, sometimes Gramercy and everything in between- but we just like to call it Flatiron Lunch.

If you’re like me, you are constantly looking for good Mexican food that falls in the happy middle ground between:

1. Overpriced and obnoxiously nuevo Mexican

2. $5 Nacho Places. You know the ones…nothing over $5, all have the word Taco in the title. Taco King, Super Taco, Fresh Taco, New Taco, New Fresh Taco, Taco Express, Taco Taco, Taco Bandito (actually, that last one has caught my eye, perhaps just because the name is fun to say, but if it is any good, you might see it here on Flatiron Lunch in the future.)

3. Chain fast-food Mexican.

But if reasonably priced, quality Mexican food, is what you’re looking for than you might want to check out Rocking Horse Café.

Earlier this week, I spotted Rocking Horse Café from across the street, and I was guessing they wouldn’t have any lunch options in the ML budget. Since it is not too far from my office, I had to do my due diligence and see if it would be good for drinks after work, if not lunch. I had almost given up hope thinking that only a salad or soup would be in budget, when I noticed a $5.95 Brown Bag Burrito. Depending on the size, I figured with a $3.95 side, we might have a meal. When I called to ask about the Brown Bag Burrito and place my order, they mentioned they offer three lunch specials including a burrito with soup or salad and an enchilada with soup or salad. Of course, after revisiting their website it was clearly there under “Especiales” (so much for 7 years of Spanish in high school and college.)

When I went with a coworker to pick up our to-go order, I wasn’t surprised by the interior. Design-y lamps, colorful tile, bar full of different types of tequila – pretty much exactly what you would expect from a somewhat upscale Mexican restaurant.

We picked up our order from the bartender and were happy to see a massive wire bowl of oversized chips on the bar. And by massive I mean the bowl was about 2 feet long and by oversized, each chip was about 4 inches long. Figuring they were fair game while standing there, we each had a few. While impossible to eat without breaking in half first, they were deliciously salty.

I ordered the pomegranate charred chicken enchilada combo meal with spicy chicken posole soup for $7.95. I had the choice of three different soups, including a black bean and roasted garlic, butternut squash with spinach on top and the chicken posole. As inexpensive as it was for a sit-down restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised that my enchilada came with two scoops of black beans. The pomegranate flavor wasn’t noticeable to me, but the enchilada was good and full of meat. I did have two bites of not-quite meat, but the rest was really tender and flavorful.

The chicken posole soup was also delicious with a great depth of flavor, and a little of the spiciness came through. It was nice to see almost half an avocado cut on top of the soup, which provided a nice buttery taste. I also noticed tomatoes, onions, hominy and cilantro.

My coworker ordered the Brown Bag Burrito with Chicken and a side of Sauteed Collard Greens (warning: combined they are over budget.) We had been told on the phone that the burrito was about 6-7 inches long, but we both agree, it was closer to 5 inches. Not huge, but with the greens she felt like it was a complete meal. The menu states that the burrito comes with watercress, Chihuahua cheese, and serrano-onion escabeche, but since it is on the small size, none of those flavors are really that prominent. The collard greens were perfectly cooked with a slight crunch and not bitter. Despite the fact that the garlic was everywhere in the greens, it was cooked enough to have mellowed so it wasn’t over-powering. Since the greens will put you over budget, I also ordered a side of rice and beans to see if you could make a full meal from this side and the Brown Bag Burrito. I think it would be a reasonable lunch, and I might do that in the future, but I should mention that the rice and beans were pretty basic.

They also automatically included a small bag of about 6 chips and dipping container of roasted tomato salsa. I thought both were very good, and a nice way to round out the meal. I could see snacking on a whole basket of those chips while enjoying a margarita some day after work.

The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • Mexican from neighborhood spot at a good price
  • Addictive salsa and salty chips
  • Three great soup options a day (with some rotation)

The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • Can’t go into heavy rotation because so few options
  • Not very authentic Mexican food
  • I would rather get 10 tacos for $10 at a “$5 Nacho Place”

Rocking Horse Cafe, 182 8th Ave btw 19th and 20th. 212-463-9511


  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    I know that ML uses a very liberal definition of “Flatiron District” but this time YOU HAVE GONE TOO FAR.

    But thanks anyway. I might check it out one day. But the reason the price is so good is that relatively few people work over there. All of the those Thai places in Chelsea also offer cheap lunch deals, too.

    • User has not uploaded an avatar

      Dan L., thanks for your concern. I’m just trying to hit all the corners of the “Flatiron Lunch” area (yes, loosely defined), and everything in between. So please don’t be surprised if you see something posted from 30th and 8th Ave someday. I also noticed the $6-$8 lunch specials at the Thai places in Chelsea. Let me know if you have a favorite or two.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Agree with Dan L … I got REALLY excited when I thought they opened a Rocking Horse Cafe in the Flatiron! Lunch aside, this place is fabulous for dinner. Excellent food, good portions and excellent service. They also take (and keep) reservations.

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