A Night at Superbueno Is Pure Joy
NYC’s most beloved bartender opened his new spot this spring, and it’s quickly become one of the best bars in the city
When Ghost Donkey — a convivial Mexican bar that lit up Bleecker Street seven days a week — closed, New York lost one of its very best watering holes. Not only because the drinks were fantastic and the wild mushroom nachos were ridiculous and the scene was always rowdy and fun and friendly, but because suddenly there was nowhere to hang with head bartender and the heart and soul of the bar, Ignacio “Nacho” Jimenez. But as the old saying goes, sometimes one door closes and another opens, which is exactly what Jimenez did with his new spot, Superbueno. And although it’s only been open since spring 2023, the bar is already becoming an icon.
Jimenez grew up in León, an industrial part of Central Mexico in the state of Guanajuato. “There’s not much to say about my town,” he told me during a phone conversation a week after I visited Superbueno. “I never really liked it growing up, but I come from there and I do have family all around the state.” Jimenez also spent most childhood summers in Mexico City, as well as a lot of time in a very small town near Guanajuato, where his grandparents lived and had a ranch. “So I also have this experience as a child of going to small towns with very traditional customs of Mexico,” he adds. “All of that is part of who I am.”
Mexico is incredibly diverse. The culture and food is completely different from state to state, and even city to city. The vibrancy of his home country certainly inspired Superbueno, as did Jimenez’s time in the States. “I have been living even more time here in the States than I ever lived in Mexico,” he says. “So I’m also so much a part of this community, of this city, of this country. I wanted to kind of mesh them both together, so that’s when I decided to name Superbueno not a mezcal bar or a cantina, but a Mexican-American bar.”
It’s true that Superbueno feels like a cool hybrid of something you’d find in New York’s East Village (where the bar is located) and a bar in Mexico City. It seems like most patrons know someone on the staff, and hugs and jovial chatter are exchanged as people settle onto bar stools or crowd around the tables that fill the space. Cumbia had me dancing in my seat during our visit, which is all part of the point. “We play a lot of the music that you’ll find in the street markets in Mexico — it’s joyful music,” Jimenez says. “How many people really come and listen to cumbia nowadays? I feel like I have a platform to present it in a different way to many people who’ve never listened to this style of music and make it feel cool.”
Superbueno is cool without even trying — it’s effortless for Jimenez and his staff. And it doesn’t hurt that the food and cocktails are outstanding. We tried every drink on the menu that evening. The Mole Negroni is an old favorite from the Ghost Donkey days, while the Green Mango Martini spotlights Mexican ingredients in a very of-the-moment classic. But the Vodka y Soda, a drink I did not expect to like the most, is a truly special highball.
“Right where my girlfriend lives, there’s a Mexican deli that sells tacos until 3:00 a.m,” Jimenez says. “So I found myself going there for some tacos, and I saw this beverage called Boing, which is a fruit nectar juice that I grew up with. I saw the guava flavor, drank it and the first thing that came to my mind was, ‘how can I make this drink into a more sophisticated highball?’ Guava is so delicious, this drink is so fruity and it reminds me so much of my childhood.” Guacamole and chips and al pastor tacos are tasty ways to soak up all those cocktails, and the fruta fresca con chamoy (which can be served with an agave spirits tasting) is a sweet, tangy nod to Mexican fruit vendors.
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Jimenez also wants Superbueno to feel like a sanctuary of sorts, a place to celebrate Mexican culture without holding back. “It really tells the story of me as an immigrant and opens the door to anyone who wants to make this a home where they can welcome their friends, where they can feel who they are,” he says. “It hasn’t always been [like this] for me as a Mexican — I’ve never felt this righteousness that I can be who I am. And in Superbueno, I can be who I am. I want it to be a home for all people who are immigrants. Maybe they were marginalized or they were discriminated against or they never felt they could feel proud being who they are. So I wanted to build a home for all of those people.”
In addition to highlighting Mexican food and music, art and culture are a huge makeup of Superbueno’s fabric. Our table was situated right in front of a wall filled with luchador masks that were procured from a collector in Mexico City. “Luchadores are a big part of our culture and what we do,” Jimenez says. “My brother’s friend has been going to this mask collector for the past 15 years. They’re not beautiful pieces. They’re amazing and unique, but some of them are cheap and have defects, but I feel like that’s perfect. What matters to me is the story that we’re telling, and every single mask is actually [modeled after] a luchador.”
It’s easy to spend hours in Superbueno, drinking and snacking and dancing, potentially even jumping into an impromptu conga line when the bar turns into a real party after 11 p.m. Jimenez says that he encourages the staff to sometimes stop what they’re doing and just join in — drinks can wait when there’s a conga line to join.
“And that is the joy of everything,” Jimenez says. “Creating a moment where you feel a connection with someone, no matter what it is. It could be a highball, or it could be the music that we play, or it could be a dish that we’re doing, or it could be my personality with you. Creating that moment for me is the true magic of hospitality.”
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