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- Photograph by Max Falkowitz
It’s difficult to go wrong at Carnitas El Atoradero, where owner Denise Lina Navarro serves home-style Pueblan cooking that goes way beyond tacos. Should you find yourself in this cozy, 10-seat cafe on a weekend, zero in on the albondigas, pork meatballs stuffed with tender quail egg. Beautifully browned and dripping with the smoky, soupy chipotle sauce they’re served in, they are meatballs of the porkiest order. Available only on weekends.
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.
Despite the rise of serious Mexican fare throughout New York, most of the city is sadly limited in its choices of antojitos (Mexican street-style snacks). Take the memela, a long and often oblong corn cake, brushed with asiento (rendered pork lard). Hailing from Oaxaca, memelas are seldom seen here. You’ll find them, though, at this tiny, Bronx-based Pueblan grocer, where the cakes made fresh to order. Order yours with owner Ofelia Isabela Mendez’s fiercely tart salsa verde and tender, flavorful carnitas, and bask in the glow of pork fat.
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
Marañón—the accessory fruit of the cashew nut—is popularly consumed in Brazil, Honduras, El Salvador and parts of the West Indies, but it’s difficult to export because of its highly perishable nature. At relative newcomer Seis Vecinos, Honduran at heart but pan-Central American in the kitchen, you can find marañón alongside more standard juice options like pineapple and passion fruit. The initial nuttiness, slightly musky in the vein of mangos, gives way to a deep, smooth sweetness—a perfect chiller.
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.