First Impressions: El Luchador

El Luchador signBack story: Tony Fok (who had been in the bar business) and Stephan Lemagnen (who used to have a dessert bar called Room 4 Dessert and who created the menu for Russ & Daughters Cafe) opened El Luchador in the fall of 2014. The tiny white building at the corner of South and John streets is the kitchen; most of the seating is outside or in the vintage Airstream Safari parked off to the side.

El Luchador AirstreamEl Luchador Airstream interiorThe vibe: Incredibly chill, El Luchador is about as Southern California as Manhattan gets. There’s some style inside—”luchador” means “wrestler” in Spanish, so you’ll see a bit of theming along those lines—but an intentional raffishness is part of the charm.

Menu: They’re still waiting on a beer/wine license, which should be approved soon.

Gold star: At the risk of overselling it, I loved being at El Luchador. Adam and I went for lunch on a Saturday: The weather was perfect, and we felt like we were on vacation in a scruffier, more interesting city. The staff was easygoing, and the food was mainly terrific. We (over-)ordered a vegetarian quesadilla (it had portobello mushrooms), a vegetarian burrito, and two fish tacos (below). The tacos, as TC readers had indicated, were delectable. Adam considered the quesadilla to be the best he’d ever had—which, to be fair, isn’t saying much because he rarely eats Mexican food and quesadillas are by their nature pretty vanilla.

El Luchador fish tacosRoom for improvement: As you may know, because I’m always quacking about it, we try to avoid meat that’s not raised humanely, so we may have missed out on some of the tastiest options. (Mexican food, in particular, benefits from the savoriness of meat.) While the quesadilla was good, the burrito was extremely bland, with the ingredients in distinct clumps, so first you ate a wad of tortilla, then the iceberg lettuce, then the cheese….

El Luchador wallAnything else? At El Luchador, as at many places, the cashier swivels the monitor around so you can enter a tip. I’m a crazy tipper when you bring food to my home, and I’m a generous tipper at restaurants, when good service is part of the experience. But if all you’re doing is taking my order and my money, then why on earth do the preset amounts start at 15 percent? No one even brings you the food! Worse, the percentage is of the post-tax amount. And even worse, you have to tip before they even prepare your order, so tip poorly at your own risk. Sorry for the rant, El Luchador—you’re certainly not the only one doing this—but those systems must have settings that can be adjusted.

Contact: 87 South St. (at John), 646-398-7499; And they deliver.

El LuchadorRecent New Kid on the Block / First Impressions articles:
NYC Elite
The Wooly Daily
Gourmet Garage
City Pole
Maison Kayser
Ten Thousand Things



  1. I like the food, the vibe and everything about El Luchador — except for the acrid smoke that engulfs you as you wait to place your order. When the line is long, the smoke has driven me out. I’ll return when they figure out how to ventilate the place.

  2. We had a similar experience there a couple of weeks ago. Ordered the vegetarian burrito, and they “forgot” the vegetables. (They did try to make it up by giving us a single fish taco on the house.) We adhere to the same standards for meat eating, so we missed out on what looks like the best things on the menu. Everything else is pretty tasteless. Staff is aloof at best, so now way I was tipping them. Bottom line is El Luchador is really long on style & attitude and really short substance.