New York is not known for great Mexican food. It's also not known for...California food. (Whatever that is...Maybe fresh produce? Presumably someone will just stick an avocado on top and say done.)
Suffice to say, seeing Playa Betty's tagline as "California-style beach food" prompted some red flags among some other California natives and myself. (Although, noticeably, that tagline does not say Mexican food, despite that definitely being an influence on the menu as well.)
Whatever is going on here, let's dive in.
Despite the sign below, the vibe inside is definitely more Malibu than Montauk. They got the vibe down in that I thought I could be on Manhattan Beach (near L.A.) than the Upper West Side.
The menu is extensive and you should be able to find anything to fit your fancy. There are also a lot of vegan and vegetarian options, and perhaps that's where they're going with the "California" vibe. But to counter that suggestion, there are *plenty* of vegan-friendly eateries on the UWS, not to mention I know plenty of carnivores in California, so the whole veggie-means-California food argument is moot.
We got a number of different items for three people, including a few appetizers, but I'd recommend getting at least one main per person. I ordered the vegan enchiladas, which were tasty, but didn't actually remind me of enchiladas. They were more like flautas, if that makes sense, as they weren't drenched in sauce and they were more on the crunchy side. Nevertheless, I still really enjoyed them! But if you're going to be a stickler, you might be disappointed.
Drinks-wise, there are plenty of options. I started with the house rosé sangria, which was a bit watered down, to be honest. The house margaritas, however, more than made up for that in their taste and value. Sometimes I can't have more than one margarita just because I find the sweet and sourness usually falls more on the sweet side and repulses me. The house margaritas here were fantastic—and a bargain at $35 a pitcher. I lost count how many glasses we each had per person out of one pitcher.
Finally, dessert might be what really put this place on the Manhattan map thanks to the uber-Instagram-friendly dessert: the churro ice cream sandwich. (This did not originate here but it might be one of the few—if only—places in New York that serves them.) We asked for the ice cream on the side to accommodate one of the diner's dietary restrictions, and they easily and kindly obliged. It was pretty easy to divvy up after that, and the churro was the best part anyway.
We went for dinner on a soon-to-be-rainy August afternoon on a Saturday, when most New Yorkers in this area probably are actually in Montauk. That said, the place was packed by 6PM, and if you want dinner, seating outside, etc. Definitely make a reservation. It's not difficult.
I'd definitely go back, even for dinner, but the brunch menu looks even more appetizing. Breakfast burrito, I'm looking at you.