Openings and Reopenings: Szechuan Garden, Covacha, Simply Gourmet Market Place

“On par with a very good Chinatown meal without the trek.” Photograph by Lilian.

Szechuan Garden, 239 West 105th Street, off Broadway, reopened last Sunday for pickup, delivery, and indoor dining (50%), after being shuttered for more than a year — not just because of COVID. “The whole building was without gas for the entire time,” Ellen, a cashier, told us. “We closed before the lockdown.” Lilian, a loyal local, alerted us to the reopening with a rousing endorsement: “The food is fresh — authentic — on par with a very good Chinatown meal without the trek. Pre-pandemic the place was packed with crowds that knew what the real thing tastes like and were happy to get their fix at Szechuan Garden. My family’s been eating there for years. Three generations would go for a nice family meal. When Columbia was in session, it would be full of Asian students looking for home cooking. It’s very popular even among non Asians and ironically I was turned on to the place by a Caucasian tennis partner who used to live in China.”

Szechuan Garden is open seven days a week, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (212) 865-8808. Thanks to Lilian and Beth for the tips.

Covacha. “Its interior is welcoming and cheerful.”

Covacha, 368 Columbus Avenue between 77th and 78th Streets, is opening “softly” this week, replacing the popular, 25-year-old Mexican favorite Cafe Frida with “a re-awakened vision and a more profound concept,” says restaurateur Cristina Castañeda, owner of both spots, as well as el Mitote and Ella Social, also in the neighborhood. “A ‘covacha’ translates simply as a hole in the wall, unassuming, discreet, humble,” Castaneda explained. “Yet, this Covacha’s approach to food, ingredients and preparations holds a deeper meaning…the food is a tribute to the food of the western Mexican “Ranchos”; the executive chef is “one of Mexico’s finest” from the region. Signature dishes include guacamole, ceviches, aguachiles, “covachas” (regional small dishes), and rancho-style desserts. ‘I really hope that the UWS gives us the chance to show the new approach,” Castaneda said, “and we can always bring back some of Café Frida’s favorites down the road.”

Covacha is now open Tuesday-Friday 4 to 10 PM, Saturday-Sunday 12 to 10 PM. “We will extend to normal hours soon,” Castenada promised, and serve Brunch all week.” (212) 712-2929.

“…they’re great!”

A new “supposedly 24/7 super bodega” called Simply Gourmet Market Place just opened on West 84th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. In fact, it’s so new there’s no sign of it yet on Google, but our stalwart tipster Amanda got a look inside on opening day. “I was able to stop by- they’re great! Here are a few photos from inside, and a receipt with the contact info.”

Drinks as far as the eye can see.

NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 24 comments | permalink
    1. jms says:

      I have many pleasant memories (along with a few not-so-pleasant ones) of back when 239 West 105th Street was home to vegan spot Zen Palate. But Szechuan Garden has a number of intriguing menu items I’ll have to go try once I’m no longer between jabs. Also dearly missed is my Cafe Viva pizza, from eight blocks south of there.

      Meanwhile, I shall continue to resist that tempting single marshmallow….

      • Sally F says:

        Oh no! Didn’t know Cafe Viva was gone!

        • RP2020 says:

          cafe viva is still open. I just ate there Sunday

        • jms says:

          Now, now, “DON’T PANIC!” I miss it simply because I’ve forsworn restaurants, along will all other inessential activity abroad (the cited “marshmallow”, as in the test), for the duration of the pandemic, or at least until I’ve achieved immunity. Only another month or so to go, in theory. Sorry, Sally.

    2. Ish Kabibble says:

      “Covacha, 368 Columbus Avenue between 78th and 79th Streets”
      That should read between 77th and 78th Streets.

    3. RWC says:

      Ate at Szechuan garden yesterday, even more delicious then I remembered. So happy they reopened!
      It was the first time in a year I’ve eaten indoors in a restaurant. Had a joyful dining out reunion with our favorite couple. All of us vaccinated . And kept our masks on until we ate and then put them back on!
      One of my favorite Szechuan restaurant in the area.

    4. Lisa Coghlan says:

      Looks like Simply Gourmet Marketplace charges +4% to use a credit card.

      • Rwc says:

        It used to be illegal in New York City to pass along credit card fee to consumers.
        Now it’s legal, and must be disclosed to consumers .
        Ask first before you use a credit card.

        https://nypost.com/2019/04/27/new-yorkers-are-furious-over-sneaky-credit-card-surcharges/

      • Mahjg says:

        That’s what they have to pay to the company who processes their credit card charges. It used to be a rule of the networks (MasterCard and Visa) that the merchants weren’t allowed to offer discounts for cash or have a surcharge for using a card. That rule got overturned in court as anti-competitive. So while I agree that the businesses should disclose that fee, I can understand why they charge it. Margins are so thin in small retail store that 4% eats up a lot of it.

        • MaryC says:

          It’s pretty common these days, sometimes just noted with a tiny sign at the register–or not. Some places seem to automatically charge the higher credit card prices, especially if they have online ordering and have prices posted. Then they offer a discount for cash, which I don’t think they are required to advertise.

        • Huh says:

          I get it too as margins are really small. But there are costs involved with taking cash, too. Internal theft,giving out too much change by accident, banking fees and more. It probably evens out but if it’s legal to do this it’s legal so caveat emptor.

        • Linda says:

          Mahjg,

          Thank you for explaining why small merchants need to charge the credit card fee, and why we should be generous with tips in restaurants. We can hope that covid has made us all more aware of others’ needs.

        • nkatt says:

          When I worked retail MC & VISA charged us 2.5% and AMEX 3.0%. If that’s still true the stores are making money on all cc purchases.

    5. Johnny Culver says:

      They charged .17 to use a credit card?

    6. Chris says:

      Szechuan Garden is the best Chinese restaurant in the neighborhood. It’s our go-to for Chinese takeout. Yum!

      • TERENCE says:

        just tonight, we picked up to go:
        diced chicken appetizer
        edamame in rice wine sauce
        hot n sour soup
        salt n pepper scallops
        stir-fry duck with ginger
        brown and white rice

        kinda hard to beat the quality, and yes, you do pay…this was $84 but fed 3 with leftovers.

        • lynn says:

          Do you happen to know how far they deliver? I couldn’t find the info online. The total for all those items is actually MUCH lower than you’d pay in the 86th street area for Chinese take out.

    7. wombatNYC says:

      What is Cafe Viva ? are you talking about the Pizza joint on 97th/98th broadway? I do love the food but that place is Dirty with a capital D. Place could use some better lighting , a better and hidden rubbish disposal area and a wipe down of the seats and tables much more often.

    8. W. 105 Street Denizen says:

      Szechuan Garden’s parent restaurant, Szechuan Gourmet, on W. 39th between 5th/6th, also recently reopened. My experience of their food is that it was far superior to Szechuan Garden, one of the best Chinese restaurants I’ve ever been to, and it’s as good as it ever was. Go if you stray to midtown! Oh, and they charge 4% for credit card use, too — and they say so up front.

    9. I miss my bar says:

      I like Szechuan Garden, but man do I miss the Abbey Pub.

      • Terence says:

        Yes, I miss the Abbey…………and Hnery’s……..and West End Lounge (The Underground”.

        Things come and go…………Szechaun Garden is very good, Zen Palate was ahead of their time, but we’ve been here so long that we still remember the excellent Metisse in the same spot on W105.

    10. Miss the bar says:

      Nostalgia aside I agree Szechuan Garden is among the best Chinese in the neighborhood.