The antique bookshelf holds tequila varieties. (Photo: Staff)

This week, Rebecca Feldbin and I visited the new Citron et Sel tequila/provisions bar in the West Village in the pouring rain.

The restaurant is located in the middle of 8th Street adjacent to Alimentari on Chestnut Street. Look for the large words “ARTSY” and you’ll be close. Bex (that’s what I’ll call her the rest of the article) picked me up from the Nooga offices on 6th St. and we drove to a parking spot on Chestnut. By the time I entered the restaurant, my shorts were completely soaked through as if I’d forgotten about the existence of toilets. Thankfully, only a few people were dining and I was able to conceal my embarrassment. We decided to sit at the bar instead of ruining leather seats with my wetness. And also because we like sitting at the bar.

There is another restaurant going in next to Citron et Sel soon. It was originally slated to be a steakhouse, but those plans changed. Whatever it becomes, the space is large and will certainly be an anchor restaurant for the West Village. A person at Citron et Sel told me my guess that it might be a “vegetarian gentleman’s club” was incorrect. Oh well!

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After our experience, I can say that of the new West Village restaurants (including the Westin), Citron et Sel is the one I’ll frequent the most. It has a great vibe, good drinks and tasty bites.

Chips and queso with real jalapeños. (Photo: Staff)

Atmosphere/service
I’m usually pretty good at hiding when I’m reviewing an experience at a restaurant during the actual experience. This time, I think I was ratted out. It may have been paranoia, but I saw some telltale pointing and staring, head nods from the wait staff. It’s also possible they were staring because they thought I was a vagrant with wet shorts and scraggly beard. I can give off a “creepy” vibe if I’m not consciously trying to prevent it. They probably knew I was writing an article, though.

Citron et Sel is gorgeous in appearance and décor. The tequila collection (lots and lots of tequila) is displayed on an antiqued bookshelf that looks ripped from “The Haunting of Hill House.” A row of TVs lined the back of the bar. When we arrived, all of them were showing a Pink Floyd concert from “The Wall” and, later, AC/DC performing. I enjoyed the music, but then it switched suddenly to a documentary about the Carrera Panamericana — a “border-to-border sports car racing event” in Mexico on the then newly created Pan-American Highway from 1950 to 1954. It was interesting, but not that interesting. The more I looked around, I noticed that “racing” was a theme. I wonder if the owners plan to have World Cup viewing parties or if the TVs are strictly for artistic/ambient purposes? I’d sit there and sip cocktails while watching the game at lunch. That documentary almost put me to sleep, though.

Pineapple Mezcal Margarita. (Photo: Staff)

The service was impeccable. Our original server, Aris, was cut before the end of our meal and sent home. I think they were overstaffed and only a few people trickled in while we waited. He was friendly, approachable and a hell of a good cocktail maker. I’m not sure I even like tequila. I know there are different varieties — Blanco, Reposado, Añejo and others—but the college years of drinking Cuervo Gold, dancing in the streets and regretting it hasn’t waned in my mind. Never again will I “shoot” tequila. Cocktails are fine, but if I’m shooting tequila then I’m either about to go or have just been released from jail. It makes me angry and sexual in large quantities. Nobody needs/wants that.

Bex and I ordered some chips and queso to start while our cocktails were being created.

Cocktails/tacos
The menu includes a variety of margaritas, specialty cocktails and “provisions,” which is a fancy word for tacos and things to munch on with your mouth. Aris convinced me to order a Pineapple Mezcal Margarita and Bex ordered a Blueberry Basil Margarita. My drink was festive and green — served with a pineapple leaf — and had a surprisingly pleasant smoky flavor thanks to the Mezcal. It reminded me of a tamer Talisker taste with a touch of fruit and sweetness. I could drink six of these. Bex’s margarita was served in a rocks glass and also contained the fruit/herb concoction without the smokiness of the Mezcal. I adored this cocktail. It’s the perfect flavor combo for the summertime hot weather.

A trio of tacos. (Photo: Staff)

If you purchase a shot of premium tequila you get to ring the “old Mexican bell” and smash the ice glass like a brawny, burly beast person. I didn’t do this because I forgot it was an option. We did order tacos during the visit.

As far as the food goes, you have several options depending on your style. If it’s after 5 p.m., you can get homemade tableside guacamole. They also have chips and salsa/queso, shrimp, a queso fundido and a wedge salad. But if you like tacos at all—and who doesn’t?—you should get a few of their signature tacos while you drink your cocktails. Bex and I ordered three: pescado (fish), barbacoa (marinated beef) and Borrego (lamb). They were served in one of those fancy taco holders with a side of corn/bacon confetti. Aris told us his favorite was the fish taco, but I think I preferred the lamb. All three were great bites to go along with our tequila cocktails.

A Blueberry Basil Margarita. (Photo: Staff)

Would we go back?
If you like a festive atmosphere with tons of people and madness, visit Citron et Sel on either Friday or Saturday night. Otherwise, you might find the place relatively quiet throughout the week. The West Village is still a new concept for many residents and it will take a while for people to grow accustomed to the area as a destination. Sure, I could live without seeing the car racing documentary on repeat visits, but that’s a small quibble. I do think the owners should encourage World Cup viewing this month. Why not? The place would be packed and lively. I look forward to coming back. Also, go Germany!

The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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