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Buen Provecho: A Bushwick Food Tour of Latinx Cuisines   — Guides on Bushwick Daily

Buen Provecho: A Bushwick Food Tour of Latinx Cuisines

From Peruvian ceviche to Honduran baleadas!

Matt Fink

fattmink@gmail.com

Bushwick boasts a beautiful array of cuisines South of the US border. Here’s our list to where to find representation in every corner of our neighborhood, many from OG residents of North Brooklyn. Eat delicious food and support local biz!


Mexico: 

Percentage of Bushwick’s latinx population: 20.9 percent. 

While in the context of Latin-American food Mexican cuisine is arguably unparalleled in its complexity and variety, just a few things tend to dominate menus in the United States, with tacos, quesadillas and burritos being the most common. (It should be noted, though, that a burrito in Mexico is to its stateside version what Danny De Vito was to Arnold Schwarzenegger in the great ‘80s classic “Twins”). Sadly, it’s much harder to find the real thing in New York than in, say, California (or Chicago, which has become a Mexican food mecca). 

Image courtesy of @nori_rolls.

Where to Eat: 

For my dollar, the best no-nonsense Mexican food, unadulterated by gratuitous dollops of sour cream or shredded iceberg lettuce, is found in small local delis, like Taqueria Sofia (187 Suydam), Guadalajara de Dia 2 (566 Seneca Ave., just over the border in Ridgewood), and especially Regalo de Juquila (1209 Myrtle Ave.), where you can pluck a cold Pacifico from a row of fridges and sit down with your food (the lengua taco, in particular, is excellent) and watch Spanish soap operas and local latinx-centric news.   

For something more creative (without any tweezers or molecular gastronomy), try Amaranta (887 Hart St.), owned and run by a family from Puebla. The chilaquiles are an amazing hangover tonic and their tamales were dubbed “thrilling” by the New York Times. 

For fresh tortillas made in-house (and not, as far as we can tell, much else of note), go to Tortilleria Los Hermanos (271 Starr St.). Fresh tortillas can also be netted at Mi Barrio Tortilleria (913 Flushing Ave.) 

A high-end option is La Loncheria (41 Wilson Ave.), a mescal-centric spot run by hip, young Mexicans, featuring a long counter, a smattering of tables and a small back patio. The tacos are more expensive than the delis, but tasty and surprising. 


Honduras: 

Percentage of Bushwick’s latino population: 1.8 percent.

The food of this small country, like many others in Latin America, is an emulsion of influences, thanks in part to both Spanish colonialism and the international slave trade’s interaction with the food ways of indigenous peoples. Your average eater would profess not to know much about Honduran food, but much of it would resonate to anyone with a passing acquaintance with other Central American and Caribbean countries. 

They share mondongo, a tripe soup, with Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. A popular street food snack, meanwhile, is the baleada, a very thick flour tortillas folded over, most commonly, with refried beans. One dish that seems to be identified only with Honduras is sopa de caracol, or conch soup, which features several of the tiny, delectable mollusk swimming in a broth of its own liquid, coconut milk, various spices, cilantro, yuca, and green banana. 

Baleadas at La Perla de Ulua, courtesy of @cardonagus.

Where to Eat: 

Just one Honduran restaurant popped up on our radar: La Perla de Ulua (354 Melrose). The place’s hole-in-wall family vibe and the fact that it caters to the local Honduran community rather than white people, makes it a worthy stop for the curious. Get the baleadas and horchata to-go for a lovely picnic across the street at Maria Hernandez Park.


El Salvador: 

Percentage of Bushwick’s latino population: 0.8 percent

Tiny, but with an outsized historical footprint on the political scene of the Americas during the late 20th Century, El Salvador’s table is known best abroad for one thing: the delicious stuffed pocket of masa known as the pupusa. Commonly served with these plump, steaming cakes is a bowl of curtido. An acidic, spicy condiment of shredded cabbage and other vegetables, you can’t throw back a pupusa without it. 

Amanda's Kitchen via Instagram.

Where to Eat: 

Satisfy your lust for pupusa-and-curtido at Alegria (264 Suydam St., formerly Amanda’s Kitchen). Better yet, order a big hot batch to go and eat them on a bench across the street at leafy, boisterous Maria Hernandez Park. 

Alternately, head over to the perpetual riot of activity below the Myrtle Street M line tracks, near the spot where they bend onto Palmetto Avenue. There, you’ll find El Salvador (1544 Myrtle Ave.), purveyor of, yes, pillowy, tender pupusas, but also a nice homie sopa de pollo (chicken soup) to mollify your Manhattan-Brooklyn commute blues. 


Puerto Rico: 

Percentage of Bushwick’s latino population: 26.9 percent.

Puerto Rican cuisine doesn’t yet command the same respect or notoriety as Mexican or Peruvian food on the wider culinary stage, but its star may be on the rise. Here in New York, of course, there is no shortage of mofongo, arroz con gandules, or pernil, to name a few specialties. 

Nowrind's jibarito, courtesy of @arieatsworld.

Where to Eat: 

The neighborhood’s brick-and-mortar spokesperson for Puerto Rican food is unquestionably La Isla (there are two Bushwick locations: 1439 Myrtle Ave. and 6 Graham Ave.). They dispense cheap, delicious island comfort from an endless row of chafing dishes behind the counter, which are replenished when needed by a team of cooks in a big noisy back kitchen. 

Steaming whole huge hunks of slow cooked pork topped with crisped skin (chicharron) are loudly chopped with fat cleavers on giant wooden blocks and scooped onto plates next to heaping portions of yellow rice and perfectly cooked and seasoned beans (habichuelas in Puerto Rican parlance).  

For something a little less rough and tumble (La Isla is a 24-hour, counter-service-only eatery) try Norwind’s (1043 Flushing Ave.), a sit-down restaurant with a full bar and a more manicured take on Puerto Rican food. Popular dishes include the mofongo, which is surrounded by a moat of light red sauce dotted with shrimp, and a king-sized jibarito, an island creation best described as a steak sandwich with fried plantains in the role of bread.


Dominican Republic: 

Percentage of Bushwick’s latino population: 25.8 percent

The DR, like El Salvador, went through its own 20th Century horror show of dictator-led repression. But it has nevertheless enjoyed a relatively brisk post-Trujillo tourism trade. For those visitors willing to venture out of the hermeticism of seaside resorts, various gustatory diversions await. Sancocho, for instance, which while not exclusively of the DR, is nevertheless often identified with the nation. Something uniquely Dominican is mangú, a breakfast consisting of boiled and mashed plantains, red onions, fried cheese, a local version of salami, eggs, and sometimes avocado. 

Mangu at El Dorado, courtesy of @stuffandeatnyc

where to eat: 

A lot of Dominican restaurants in Bushwick are, like the Puerto Rican stalwart La Isla, casual chafing dish affairs. You order at the counter and they slap your food onto a plate and thrust it into your eager hands. D’Montazo Restaurant (216 Wyckoff Ave.) is no exception, and neither is Exquisito (1542 Gates). Something slightly more formal can be found at La Rubia (861 Wyckoff Ave.) and El Dorado (54 Myrtle Ave.), the latter ensconced in free-standing ‘50s-era diner, long and brightly lit. A specialty at La Rubia is the mangú con tres golpes, a variation on the above-mentioned breakfast featuring cheese, salami and eggs (the “tres” in “tres golpes”). 


Cuba: 

Percentage of Bushwick’s latino population: 0.6 percent

Cuba needs no introduction in political terms. Cuban food marches lockstep with its Caribbean and Central American neighbors in terms of its cuisine’s unapologetic heftiness. All the lovely carbs and starches are present: yuca, rice, plantain, potatoes, ad nauseum, arranged and combined in ways not dissimilar to those same neighbors. 

Millie's Cubano sandwhich, courtesy of @milliescubancafe.

Where to Eat: 

Just one Cuban spot popped up on our radar, Millie’s Cuban Cafe (151 Wilson). It’s cute, very cute. It is very serious about its ethnic pedigree, however. Owner Danny Teran conceived Millie’s  and its menu as a paean to his Cuban heritage. 

At the same time, concessions are made to Bushwick’s newer, more finicky residents in the shape of the “Impossible Picadillo,” which subs out ground beef in this classic of Carribean cooking for fake flesh manufactured by Impossible Meats. But bringing it all back down to earth are soulful snacks like maduros (sweet plantains), tostones (twice fried plantains) and yuca fries, plus a raft of sandwiches, including a grilled chicken and the classic Cubano. 


Colombia: 

Percentage of Bushwick’s latino population: 1.1 percent.

Colombia beckons in all its protean glory. Fat, moist Carribean breezes waft over the seaside ramparts Cartagena de las Indias, down whose gleaming streets both General Simon Bolivar and Marlon Brando once strode. That breeze turns alternately oppressive, dry and thin as it moves south through the swampy region dominated by, among other waterways, the Rio Magdalena, then west to temperate Medellin and then south again up through rugged mountains to the immense, high altitude capital of Bogota. Throughout its journey, the breeze witnesses Colombians of all colors munching on the ubiquitous arepa, which may house a variety of different ingredients, and spooning underrated Colombian soups, which include ajiaco, a stick-to-your-ribs chicken soup.

Empanadita at Maite, courtesy of @patriciavega101.

Where to Eat: 

Two of three Colombian spots listed here (Calibella,164 Wyckoff Ave. and Son de Cali, 877 Wyckoff Ave.) are bakeries specializing in a variety of sweet treats and a small selection of savory lunch items. 

The third, however, is Maite (159 Central Ave.,), a roomy sitdown restaurant that offers an elevated take on food from Colombia given a dash of European techniques and flavors. The interior is warm, light emanating from chic exposed bulbs, dark wood and intentionally mismatched chairs, all of which may put you in the mood to slowly sip on one of several clear or dark spirits crowding the wall behind the long bar. 

The menu is seasonal and drawn onto one big chalkboard, and typically feature items that showcase owner Ella Schmidt’s European (particularly Basque) heritage and upbringing in Colombia.  


Venezuela: 

Percentage of Bushwick’s latino population: unknown.

Venezuelan food has become increasingly available in New York thanks to an uptick in immigration to the city, an influx prompted by the economic and social chaos that has stricken the country since Nicolas Maduro took power post-Hugo Chavez. 

Arepa vegetariana at Guacoco, via Ally L. on Yelp.

Where to Eat:

Bushwick boasts two worthy entries. The first is Arepera Guacuco (44 Irving Ave.), a friendly, family-owned affair with just the right amount of polish. Their specialty, of course, is the arepa, which they serve with savory fillings like pernil (pork shoulder) and mariscada (squid, shrimp and mussels and tomato). Grab their coconut milkshake for dessert.

And considering there are so few Venezuelan spots in Bushwick, it’s rather extraordinary that you can walk between Arepera Guacuco and Venezuelan street food restaurant Santa Salsa in less than five minutes. However, Chef and owner Sergio Barrios bravely eschews arepas for other food staples like burgers, hot dogs (one of which is made from carrot instead of meat) and pepitos (sandwich). His joint also comes complete with a full bar. 


Ecuador: 

Percentage of Bushwick’s latino population: 15.6 percent.

 Colombia’s coastal neighbor to the south enjoys a vigorous presence on Bushwick’s cultural scene, made manifest by the plethora of Ecuadorian restaurants on and around Wyckoff Ave. And given that the small country’s cuisine, unlike Mexican, isn’t yet popular with the wider American populace, Ecuadorian cooks are more likely to make food meant for, in the main, actual Ecuadorians. 

The country’s topographic and climatic diversity is echoed in what those cooks conjure, which ranges from encebollado (a fish stew) and the nation’s take on ceviche to seco de chivo (goat stew) and cuy (cute little roasted guinea pigs, an Andean specialty), often served whole, splayed out like a suckling pig. 

Encebollado at Encebollado de Rossy, photo courtesy of @carlichinyc.

Where to Eat: 

Given that the aforementioned encebollado is such an integral part of Ecuadorian cuisine, it’s no surprise there are at least two restaurants whose titles pay tribute to the dish. But both Encebollado de Rossy (293 Wyckoff) and Encebollado de Victor (338 Knickerbocker Ave.) have plenty more in the offing. 

The former serves up a giant, delicious bowl of Andean locro, a rich, starchy stew consisting of corn, beans, potato and one or meats; the latter, which specializes in coastal fare, features ceviche triple, i.e., ceviche served three ways. Other neighborhood stalwarts include Esmeralda’s (1497 Myrtle Ave., don’t miss the whole fried fish), pork-specializing Rosita (283 Wyckoff Ave.) and Sol de Quito (189 Irving Ave.)


Peru: 

Percentage of Bushwick’s latino population: unknown. 

Of any country in Latin America, superseding even Mexico at times, it enjoys the greatest international prestige; several Lima restaurants routinely appear on lists of the world’s best restaurants. While many a Latin American cuisine can be said to derive from a panoply of influences, Peru has managed to alchemize its own - indigenous, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, African - into something eminently exportable. That being said, Peruvian food has a fairly low profile in Bushwick. 

Peruvian ceviche at @nazca_linesbk.

Where to Eat:

On the very low end there’s Inka Chicken (122 Wyckoff Ave.), a counter rotisserie across the street from Wyckoff Medical Center. 

For a radically different experience, zip across town to Barchaa (567 Wilson), which seems like two or three restaurants rolled into one (and unashamedly uses the endearingly outdated term “fusion” in their full title). 

And of course, there is Mulata Grill (formerly Chimu Express), an unpretentious affair that splits the difference between the prior two establishments. Don’t visit without trying the anticuchos (skewered and grilled beef heart) or a soulful lomo saltado (stir fry of beef, vegetables and soy sauce), a national dish of Peru that reveals the cuisine’s indebtedness to the Chinese. 

For dessert head on over to Ridgewood’s Peruvian ice cream shop, Creme&Sugar, serving up imported tropical flavors like lucuma, maracuya, and chirimoya. They also do a ceviche and tamales pop-ups on the weekends called Nazca Lines.

Did we miss your favorite Latinx joint? Let us know at hello@bushwickdaily.com.


Cover image courtesy of @malvivant, featuring Millie's roast pork bowl.

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