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(Photograph by Jason Crowley)
In addition to run-of-the-mill Middle Eastern fare, this Van Nest sit-down churns out some exciting Yemeni specialties. Try the fahsa salta, a fenugreek seed-laced stew of celery, onion, potato, tomato and shredded beef cooked in broth that—so the story goes—has its origins in the Turkish occupation. Heavily spiced and a tad bitter, it makes a grand entrance, frothing and ready for flat bread.
700 Rhinelander Ave. at White Plains Rd. (Map)
Bronx, NY 10462
New Yorkers intent on savoring the city’s most unusual flavors, take note. Here at the Bronx’s premier venue for West African cooking, this dish of stewed sweet potato greens employs palm oil and fakoye, a reclusive and utterly unique Malian herb. Musky and earthy, the dish is redolent of pü-er tea and fields of dried grass. Mix the greens with white rice and bites of chewy goat and hints of smoked fish. Just don’t forget to pass the pepper, ami. Available Tuesdays and Saturdays only (look for “Sauce Feuille de Patate” on the menu).
Coqui Mexicano’s owners hail from Mexico and Puerto Rico, and their creative, home-style cooking straddles both countries’ cuisines. From the tortillas to the tamales, everything at this three-table Melrose eatery is made fresh, from scratch. Try the chayote salad, a traditional Puerto Rican dish that tosses the tender, squash-like vegetable—lightly sautéed in onion, garlic, cumin and other spices—with roasted red peppers, Spanish olives, vinegar, fresh avocado, tomatoes and cilantro. Add a few shakes of Coqui’s homemade hot sauce and dig in. -Clare Trapasso
I’m convinced that burek is like sex and pizza: Even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. But when burek is really good, it’s soft and gooey and awesome. The bureks at Dukagjini Burek, a four-table operation in Bronxdale, are even better than “really good.” Pulled straight from the oven, the meat burek is crisp on the outside, blissfully doughy on the inside and stuffed with wonderfully spiced ground beef.
El Atoradero is a tiny Pueblan grocery that seems to be expanding its territory—if not in size, than at least in the hearts of the local Mexican and Central American community. Unfortunately, its kitchen is only open on the weekends, starting in the morning and continuing through an early lunch. Walk in on a Saturday and you’ll be rewarded with the scent of a deep cauldron of carnitas simmering before you. Picaditas are similar to sopes, and I figure the difference is really just in size, but here the fresh corn tortilla is elongated and even larger than usual. El Atoradero’s salsas are excellent, but the tomatillo truly shines for freshness and variety. They make only a small amount of picaditas daily, so ask for a taste, and marvel at their complexity. Weekends only.
El Nuevo Bohio is a Puerto Rican pork fantasy land where you can have any part cooked any way. Try the roasted pork plate, served with a plate of tostones (fried green plantain), as men with machetes hack away at whole pigs behind the counter.
- $1.50 for small
(Photograph by Miriam Finkelman)
The tacos and cemitas at this Michelin Guide-recommended joint are some of the best in the Bronx. In winter weather, though, you may want something more than mole to keep you warm. Estrellita’s champurrado, a rich, hominy flour and chocolate-based beverage, is thick as pudding. If you’re looking for a jolt, try the soothing café de olla. Flavored with cinnamon and panela (unrefined whole cane sugar), it’s devoid of bitterness and uncharacteristically sweet. Take it black.
This festive Puerto Rican snack truck’s eponymous lechón (here, heavily salted and roasted pork belly and rib meat) is one of New York’s best. Just below the rack of pork, though, is a tray of alcapurria, a fritter typically made from mashed yuca and filled with spiced meat. If you get the chance to step into the truck, try La Piraña’s banana alcapuria. The edges are deep fried to a crisp brown, the mashed banana is mildly sweet, and the ground beef inside is well spiced. Weekends only.
Lechonera La Piraña Truck
E. 152nd St. at Wales (Map)
Bronx, NY 10455
(Photograph by Miriam Finkelman)
In a dining world of reclaimed wood and dressed up comfort food, the un-manufactured ambience of Loeser’s is a real breath of fresh air. Little has changed, including the recipes, since Freddy opened the shop 50 years ago. Any of the overstuffed standards—all served on cushy rye from New Jersey’s Certified Bakery—will do. But the best of the bunch is corned beef, complete with Freddy’s luscious Russian dressing and sauerkraut. If you’ve got company, order a side of homemade coleslaw (it’s good enough to end a life-long aversion) or some mushroom barley soup for spooning.
On the side of a residential building on 167th Street is a green door that appears to lead down into a basement compactor. However, if you venture down the creaking slender passage you will find it opens into a cavernous domino and pool hall. Anita ‘La Paleta’ is busy in the tiny kitchen, tending to cauldrons of her Dominican specialties. The lunch specials, which change daily, come with a variety of sofrito-blasting sides, and are usually completely gone by 4:00 p.m. If you come on a Tuesday be sure to order the cerdo con molodrones (okra with pork). When served with rice, soupy beans, tostones (fried green plantains), an ice cold beer and bowl of crunchy pegao (browned rice from the bottom of the pot), this dish is about as down-home-D.R. as it gets.
Nano Billiard Café
185 E. 167th St. at Grand Concourse (Map)
Bronx, NY 10456
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Bhartas, essentially mashed side dishes, add an extra flavor kick to most Bangladeshi meals. At Neerob in Parkchester, these accompaniments—seasoned with seriously hot chilis, ample garlic, fresh cilantro, and mustard oil, with its pungent, wasabi-like flavor—transcend their secondary meal-time status. Order a sampler of the half-dozen bhartas available on any given day with a huge charred roti to enjoy a spicy, boldly flavored meal. The sutki (fermented fish) and green-hued “mixed vegetable” bhartas are my favorites; the begun (smoky roasted eggplant), daal (rich chickpea lentils), tomato, and alu (potato) varieties are tasty too. -Anne Noyes Saini
- Under $10
Popeyes founder Al Copeland, a man whose taste for life was so unhinged that he literally met his end by cancer of the salivary gland, wasn’t messing around when he flipped us this particular bird. It may be made from factory-grade chicken parts uncomfortably close to the margin of cost, but Popeyes’ spicy fried chicken is consistently moist on the inside, crunchy on the outside, fluffy in the folds and loaded with artificial and natural flavors. Even as new, gourmet fried chicken options abound, New York is hard-pressed to find a cost-to-pleasure ratio as golden as this.
This unassuming street vendor in the South Bronx has been serving one of the best South Mexican tamales in New York for over a decade. Each $2 burrito-sized tamal, wrapped in banana leaf and served from an insulated stock pot, is composed of a masa so smooth and creamy that it comes with a plastic spoon. The fillings, shredded chicken and pork matched with fiery salsas, are generous. Just show up before the morning commute is over; by 10:00 a.m. they’ll be gone.
Standing in the shadow of the Webster Houses, The Krab Shack is a Bronx seafood oasis. In just a few summers, the Shack has transformed from a street corner card table with a hot plate to a surreally painted pop-up trailer, with lip-slamming shell-fish and a line down the street. Cars pull up from near and far to get their fix in the form of two dollar bags of spice-dusted crab claws. The stuffed-to-the-limit sandwich bag of claws takes about 15 minutes to eat and borders on being a controlled substance. Buy some beers and a cup at the bodega across the street, and you’ll never want to leave. Spring and Summer months (April-August) only.
The Krab Shack
E. 168th St. at Webster Ave. (Map)
Bronx, NY 10456
- (Photo by James Boo)
People flock to Tony & Tina’s not only for the pizza, but also for a great burek. This Albanian spot covers the usual meat and spinach varieties of this flaky pastry, but have you had a sweet burek before? Tony & Tina’s pumpkin burek has an unusual, spiraled shape and does not need the customary yogurt on the side for dipping. Most everyone else in the place is using it, though, so you might as well.
This pizzeria is as 70′s as you can get, with heavily painted walls, blackened corners at every crook, pop-out signage and four arcade games in the back. The slices are big, fluffy, cheesy and doughy—this is pizza the Bronx way. There’s little sauce to wash it down; some will hate it, and some will “get it.” Do you?