(keep reading to learn what happened)
Season: 8 | View All Season 8 Episodes
Original Episode Air Date: November 20, 2023
El Cantito Cafe Address: 1550D Central Park Ave, Yonkers, NY 10710
El Cantito Cafe was a Yonkers, New York restaurant featured on Season 8 of Kitchen Nightmares.
Though the El Cantito Kitchen Nightmares episode aired on TV in November 2023, the actual visit from Gordon Ramsay happened in June 2023.
It was Kitchen Nightmares Season 8 Episode 7.
In this episode, Gordon Ramsay heads to El Cantito Cafe in Yonkers NY.
If you’re not up on your New York geography, Yonkers is located directly to the North of NYC (North of the Bronx, specifically), along the Hudson river.
Given its proximity to the city, it’s basically part of the NYC suburbs, and is classified as an “inner suburb” of NYC.
El Cantito Cafe serves Puerto Rican food and aims to offer a “small piece” of Puerto Rican culture.
It features food like empanadas, trifongo, mofongo de yuca, pork chops, and so on.
The El Cantito restaurant is owned by a brother and sister duo – Julio Santana and Adelvi Santana (who goes by Debbie).
The restaurant is a tribute to their mother, Gloria Santana, who sadly passed away from breast cancer.
While the siblings grew up in Brooklyn NYC, their mom was from Puerto Rico, which is why the restaurant focuses on bringing Puerto Rican food and culture into the neighborhood.
Many of the recipes for the dishes on the El Cantito menu actually come from Gloria.
Julio (pictured below) is the chef working in the kitchen, while Debbie (pictured above) works in the front.
They opened the restaurant at possibly the worst time ever (though that wasn’t their fault) – March 10, 2020.
If you’ve blocked that period of time out from your life, that’s pretty much right at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Obviously, that made it really hard for them to get started.
And with inflation increasing ingredient and staffing costs, the restaurant is still dealing with those difficulties even at the time of the El Cantito Cafe Kitchen Nightmares visit.
As a result, they’ve pretty much sunk all of their savings into just keeping El Cantito Cafe afloat.
When Gordon eats at the restaurant, he orders a full fried fish, among other dishes.
He is not a fan, to say the least.
First, he’s a bit annoyed that they didn’t remove the fish’s fin, as it could damage someone’s throat when they eat it (I’m not sure if “fin” is the right term, but it’s the part on top).
To make matters worse, he finds the fish dry and it doesn’t have “an ounce of seasoning”.
He says they’ve “forgotten what Puerto Rico stands for”, which is a pretty big criticism of a restaurant that serves Puerto Rican food.
My favorite part is that “anyone paying $30 for that in Yonkers needs to be f***ing bonkers” lol.
Currently, I’m writing my El Cantito Kitchen Nightmares update a day before the episode airs, so I might update this recap with more detail once I watch the episode.
However, I have been able to discover some of the changes just from reading some news articles about Gordon’s visit.
As part of the Kitchen Nightmares episode, Gordon Ramsay and his crew did a complete remodel of the interior at El Cantito Cafe.
Gordon also implemented a number of operational changes, as that was another area where El Cantito Cafe struggled.
And, as he’s done at pretty much every restaurant so far, Gordon also reduced the size of the menu.
However, because the restaurant was a tribute to Gloria, Gordon didn’t focus on changing the dishes as much as he would at other restaurants.
Yes, he slimmed down the menu; but he didn’t completely cut and alter things like he might’ve at other places.
Instead, a lot of his changes were more focused on operational efficiency than completely changing the food.
For example, Gordon Ramsay helped Julio re-arrange the kitchen to give everyone more space to navigate, while still keeping things efficient.
Gordon Ramsay also wanted them to communicate more in the kitchen so that the whole team could stay on top of everything.
Here’s a quote from Julio about how Gordon approached things:
He didn’t touch my food […] he just guided me on how to be successful with what I was doing
So was the Kitchen Nightmares El Cantito Cafe episode a long-term success?
Keep reading to learn what happened next and if this Yonkers, New York restaurant is still open in 2023.
El Cantito Cafe Update - What Happened Next?
Now that we’ve recapped the El Cantito Cafe Kitchen Nightmares episode, let’s talk about what happened after Gordon Ramsay and his crew left Yonkers, NY.
Overall, Julio and Debbie seem to be mostly happy with the visit from Gordon Ramsay.
When the El Cantito restaurant episode aired on TV, they hosted a watch party for the episode.
They actually made it a real event and charged $60 per person for tickets (sold via Eventbrite).
Step into the Episode and experience the viewing right where it all happened!
This is a Live Viewing Extravaganza you don’t want to miss.
Get ready for a blend of excitement, drama, and savory delights.
Make sure you’re in the mix—secure your spot now!
The ticket price included appetizers and small bites from 6:30 to 7:30, a cocktail social from 7-9 (including watching the episode).
It ended with a final toast after the episode aired.
Overall, $60 for unlimited small bites and unlimited cocktails seems like a solid deal for New York City.
With that being said, they haven’t stuck completely with the menu changes.
Julio said that they have added back some menu items and scaled it up a bit in size from the El Cantito Cafe menu that Gordon Ramsay put in place.
But other than that, they seem to be largely sticking with the changes from Kitchen Nightmares.
Let’s talk about the most important question on your mind, and then I’ll get to some El Cantito Cafe reviews from after the episode.
Is El Cantito still open after Kitchen Nightmares?
As of 2023, El Cantito is still open and serving customers in Yonkers, NY.
In general, customers seem to be very happy with the food and service at the restaurant.
Below, I’ll share some real examples of El Cantito reviews from after the Gordon Ramsay El Cantito visit.
While the restaurant doesn’t have its own website and doesn’t seem to be very active on Facebook, they do have an Instagram page with a lot more content.
The Instagram page is where I found the Kitchen Nightmares watch party.
In addition to the restaurant, El Cantito Cafe also offers catering services for weddings, corporate events, birthdays, and more.
They advertise this service on their Instagram page.
Here’s what the El Cantito Yonkers NY location looks like in the most recent picture from Google Maps street view…
El Cantito reviews after Kitchen Nightmares
In general, the El Cantito Cafe reviews seem to be fairly positive.
On Yelp, it has an overall 4 star rating on 87+ reviews, which includes reviews from both before and after the El Cantito Gordon Ramsay visit.
On Google reviews, things are even better…
El Cantito has a 4.4 star rating on 330+ reviews.
Again, those numbers include reviews from both before and after the episode.
However, you’re probably most interested in seeing what the reviews are like from after Gordon’s visit, so that’s where I’ll focus (as always!).
I would say that most of the reviews are positive, though there are definitely some negative reviews mixed in.
People seem to praise the quality and authentic nature of the food.
The service at El Cantito also seems to get a lot of positive comments.
Many of the negative reviews that I saw seemed to focus on issues with small portion sizes and feeling like they didn’t get good value because of the high price.
I would say this is definitely the most consistent complaint, as I found it mentioned across several reviews.
Some people also complain that El Cantito seems to automatically apply a 20% tip/service charge.
That one I kind of agree with – if tipping 20% is mandatory, just build it into the price of the food.
There are a few complaints about food quality, but most people seem to still like the taste.
Even the negative reviews seem to still also be complimentary of service at the restaurant, so El Cantito seems to be handling the service aspect very well.
Here’s a sampling of a few positive and negative El Cantito reviews to give you an idea of real customers’ experiences at the El Cantito restaurant…
I’ll share the positive reviews first and then I’ll get to the negative reviews.
4 star Yelp review from September 2023:
I am so happy that this restaurant opened up in Yonkers, NY.
The food is amazing and fresh.
It’s authentic Puerto Rican food that reminded me of my grandparents.
The service was absolutely amazing.
I highly recommend this restaurant if you love Puerto Rican food.
My family and I loved it!
5 star Google review from October 2023:
Today I had the opportunity to visit El Cantito Cafe.
Talk about excellent customer service and authentic Puerto Rican food.
The food took me back to island and into my abuela’s kitchen.
I have not had such great native Puerto Rican food in a restaurant in at least 16 years which is how long I have been living in Yonkers.
Congrats El Cantito Cafe for bringing a little bit of Puerto Rico into Yonkers.
4 star Yelp review from August 2023:
Ambiance – small but nice…cozy
Service – Debbie – overall very welcoming & friendly…..a nice old school family feel.
Food – Tasty – we had the pork chops / chicken stew & pernil…empanadas were good too
Small portions & price WAY too high for what you get….
our suggestion, go to a $18 price point per meal for the amount you serve….
& we would definitely come back & probably more often, as I’m sure many people would agree….
we want to see you make it!
Here’s a screenshot of a very long positive review from September 2023:
Now, let’s take a look at a few negative El Cantito restaurant reviews…
2 star Google review from September 2023:
Food portions are small and overpriced!
The Pollo Guisado was bland and did not taste fresh.
The ceviche was okay but definitely not worth the $16 price tag.
Service was very good, however for any size party there is a mandatory 20% tip and then they ask for an additional tip on top of that.
Rice & Beans were well seasoned and the cocktails were also very good!
1 star Yelp review from September 2023:
Prices too high for the amount of food served!!
Love Puerto Rican food.
But too expensive for the amount of food on plate and also too oily.
1 star Google review from August 2023:
Food was extremely oily.
Definitely not even close to authentic.
Portions are absolutely tiny for the price attached to them.
Most Latin restaurants give you more food as a single order than this spots “meal for 2”.
Very bland and lackluster food.
And mandatory 20% gratuity automatically added.
The service was decent so didn’t mind that, but everything else was not good.
Finally, here’s a screenshot of a very long negative review from August 2023:
In general, though, people seem to universally praise the food and service.
If they can find a way to figure out the complaints about the small portion sizes, I think the reviews would be even better.
Final thoughts on El Cantito restaurant
Overall, El Cantito restaurant seems to be doing fairly well after the Gordon Ramsay visit.
It’s still open and serving customers, which is a good starting point.
More importantly, I would say that the post-Kitchen Nightmares reviews are generally positive, though not perfect.
A lot of people seem to really like the food.
However, some people are unhappy about what they see as not getting good value because of high prices and small portion sizes.
If you’re in the NYC area, give it a try and let me know your experience in the comments section.
That wraps up my El Cantito Kitchen Nightmares update.
If you want to see some other nearby New York Kitchen Nightmares episodes, you can also check out my updates for The Olde Stone Mill in Tuckahoe NY, Fiesta Sunrise in West Nyack NY, and Kati Allo in Flushing Queens NYC.
If you want to see updates for other restaurants from the 2023 season of Kitchen Nightmares, you can read my updates for Love Bites Cafe in Saugerties NY, The Juicy Box in Brooklyn NY, Da Mimmo in Dumont NJ, and In the Drink in Wayne NJ.
And if you want to share your thoughts on the El Cantito restaurant episode, you can do so using the comments section below.
As always – thanks for reading!
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Last updated: 2023-11-22 05:28