Lower East Side Taqueria

The restaurant’s signage and website loudly proclaims it “Mexican inspired”—a smart move, given how strangely finicky Singaporean diners can be when it comes to the authenticity of Mexican food.

Unfortunately, though it’s a cute and inviting space with a healthy crowd of smiling east-siders, a meal here turns out to be neither Mexican nor inspired. Classic snacks, like chilli con carne tacos ($18) and our waitress’s personal favorite, pork carnitas quesadillas ($11) are so very basic; they tick all the boxes but don’t do anything more.

Same goes for burritos like the cumin grilled chicken and lime rice ($13) and the squid, octopus and green apple ($15). Despite their brilliant-sounding ingredient combos, these are some of the most watered-down tasting burritos we’ve tried in Singapore. The accompanying pots of condiments and salsas ($2.50 per additional serving) are just as lackluster.

All that said, it’s a great place for some serious boozing in the neighborhood—beer bars abound in Katong and Joo Chiat, but there aren’t many good specialty liquor places—as Lower East Side has a pretty comprehensive tequila, mezcal and cachaça list. In particular, the tequila and mezcal tasting flights (from $29/trio, but goes up to $61 for the premium pours) sound great. Their happy hour (until 8pm) isn’t too shabby either: 1-for-1 cava ($19), sangria ($14) and draft beer ($15-16/pint).

When nice and plastered, one can opt for braver plates like cuello de pollo (deep fried chicken necks slathered in lime salt, $7) or taking up their level 5 hot sauce taco challenge (eat 3 tacos in 5 minutes and they’re on the house), which are good clean mouth-searing fun. Meanwhile, sweet-toothed drunks would love the churros ($8), which look off-puttingly phallic but are delicious, all hot and crunchy and dipped in a Nutella-like substance.

When the weather is good, eating outside can be a truly enjoyable dining experience. These joints with charming open air areas are just the place to dine on breezy evenings.