El Aguila Dorada
Photos by Alyssa Bredin Quiros
From a small storefront 12 years ago to two bustling locations, El Aguila Dorada (the Golden Eagle) has become a Bayonne institution for anyone who wants authentic and delicious Mexican food.
The family-owned restaurant is run by Israel and Irma Romero with the help of their daughter Marisol. Late last year, they opened their new location a few blocks from their first to meet the growing demand and to share with new customers the food they love.
There are no vestiges of the old Big Apple Sports Palace and Restaurant; the new façade transports you to Puebla, Mexico, where Israel is from. A golden eagle soars above the heavy wooden doors.
We are greeted by smiling staff and a warm and welcoming ambience with gentle lighting, exposed brick, and brightly colored murals featuring some of Mexico’s most famous artists including Frida Kahlo and Pedro Infante.
Visitors can choose a stool at the wooden bar or high tables to watch the game or to sip specialty margaritas in every flavor imaginable, made with fresh fruit, and the rim of the glass sweet, salty, or spicy. If you have a sweet tooth I recommend the strawberry margarita. The sugared rim and naturally-sweet strawberries nicely balance the bite of the tequila.
Tables accommodate any sized party; comfortable red booths are also available.
On a weekday afternoon, the place is bustling with the friendly wait staff serving elegant dishes with ingredients imported from Mexico.
It’s tempting to fill up on homemade salsa and chips, but pace yourself.
We began with calamari and Spanish chorizo sautéed with onions, jalapenos, and tomatoes, served in the restaurant’s famous red sauce and accompanies by homemade rosemary bread. The large helping was more than enough for photographer Alyssa and me to share. The chorizo and calamari paired beautifully, and the homemade sauce had a spicy kick, perfect for soaking up with bread.
Next came the largest lobster tail I’d ever seen, the surf portion of a surf-and-turf extravaganza with an herbs-marinated eight-ounce filet mignon, served with crab-and-potato hash, sautéed mixed vegetables, and potato straws.
Chicken enchiladas in a homemade green tomatillo sauce came next. If you’ve eaten only the canned version, this sauce will be an eye-opener.
Corn tortillas come with a variety of sauces and fillings including shredded chicken, cecina, Oaxaca cheese, veggie, grilled steak, shrimp, lobster, or lump crabmeat.
Sauces include red sauce made with guajillo and pulla peppers; mole; poblanas, which is a roasted Anaheim pepper in a creamy sauce; and suizas, a charred plum tomato creamy garlic sauce with Swiss cheese.
A lively sizzle announced the arrival of an enormous plate of fajitas served with five warm flour tortillas.
You can stuff your tortilla with whatever filling you like. Options include veggies, chicken, New York steak, shrimp, fish, or a mix. We decided on the mix and were not disappointed.
One dish I can’t stop thinking about is the seafood soup, Caldo de Mariscos, a mélange of clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp, and soft-shell crab. The seafood was so fresh I felt like it jumped out of the ocean and into my bowl, but the secret was the homemade red stew broth, which you could order mild or spicy. I went for the heat, which warms you up on a cold day. A staff member claimed it was the best hangover cure ever.
We left, takeout bags in hand, knowing we would come back and tell our friends about this truly golden experience.—BLP