This place, just barely, gets 3 stars. I came here around 11:30 p.m., after a couple hours of beers and conviviality, happy that it's open so late.
Cosmic Cantina has many small tables up front and is a pulsating, tiny, black-light bar in the back. The crowd looked cool and definitely more interesting that what you'd find at a "normal" bar in that part of town. If you're a biker, a hippie, or a vegan, this is a good place to be.
My friends and I all ordered the same thing: a "juicy tofu burrito" without cheese ($9). It's the only thing that stood out on the menu, which is large, extremely confusing, poorly designed, and literally difficult to read (thanks to the choice of a weird, scratchy sci-fi font). I didn't want to waste any more time trying to decipher the mysterious code that is the Cosmic Cantina menu.
The burrito was excellent. It was small, but the ingredients (guacamole, tofu, rice, etc.) were all super-fresh and the thing just tasted great. The tortilla was also superb---I normally don't like white flour tortillas, but this one was soft, silky and wonderful. They also offer spelt and wholewheat tortillas, but they were out-of-stock when I was there.
But things went wrong on other fronts. For one thing $9 is a lot for a small burrito, no matter how good it tastes. Also, tofu is a pretty simple protein option; I don't think Cosmic Cantina realizes that there's a Chipotle in Chelsea (149 8th Avenue) that now offers Gardein chicken, which is WAY more interesting than tofu. Chipotle also offers a much larger burrito for only $7. And I suspect every Chipotle will eventually start carrying Gardein chicken.
To make matters worse, my friends asked for hot sauce but were told that it costs extra. Seriously? How much could 8 drops of Tabasco cost? This is pathetic nickel-and-diming.
Also, Cosmic Cantina accepts credit cards, but only for purchases of over $15. First, businesses can't do that. It's a direct violation of their agreement with credit card companies. If they had told me, "We prefer that you pay cash for your $9 burrito, but we'll take credit cards as well," I would have paid in cash, just to show them I'm a nice guy, even though I hate paying with cash. Instead, they refused to take my credit card and effectively forced me to pay in cash, which produces the same outcome either way, but the latter method makes me annoyed and angry.
I suppose I would return to Cosmic Cantina if I were hungry late at night and had enough cash in my wallet. The burrito was good. If they really want to keep my business they should: make their menu easier to read and understand; accept credit cards with no minimum charge requirements; offer mockmeats to compete with Chipotle; and reduce their prices by at least 10%.