Off the Beaten Path: Patacon Pisao's Carne Mechada Patacón
"Shredded beef, special sauce, ketchup, mayo, lettuce, fried cheese, on a double-fried plantain bun."
The name of this Venezuelan joint in Elmhurst, Queens, translates to "flattened plantain." Guess the otherwise happy looking plantain on the awning is fleeing said smashing. The jaunty little chap is the first anthropomorphic vegetable I've seen on a Latin American restaurant sign—usually animals like Pollo Campero's chicken are depicted urging patrons to consume their brethren. That frilly bit below the sign proclaims, "El Verdadero Sabor de la Comida Venezolano," or "the true taste of Venezuelan food."
As pupusas are to El Salvador, so patacónes are to Venezuela. The hefty sandwiches resemble burgers, save for one key difference—rather than bread, the "bun" is two disks of flattened plaintain that have been fried twice. Thanks to a combination of ketchup, mayo and the restaurant's special sauce (made from a secret combination of veggies) this carne mechada patacón ($5) smells sort of like a Big Mac, but it's way better.
Sandwiched between the crunchy, nutty-tasting fried disks is a generous helping of stewed shredded beef, topped with lettuce and the aforementioned condiments. Those ingredients would be perfectly tasty on their own, but there's also a small disk of slightly salty fried cheese.
"Shredded beef, special sauce, ketchup, mayo, lettuce, fried cheese, on a double-fried plantain bun," may not have the same ring as the Big Mac jingle, but a carne mechada patacón is still far more delicious than a Big Mac. It's also far messier. By the end you'll understand why you were given a generous stack of napkins and a wetnap.
Patacon Pisao also offers several other types of patacon (pernil, queso, pollo) as well as an array of arepas and tacuchos. If you look closely at the sign you will note that the bit of text on the left reads, "Patacon Pisao #2." The original location is a truck in Inwood that opens in the evening and closes in the wee hours. Good to know if I ever find myself hungry after a night of hoofing in a Dominican dance hall.
85-22 Grand Avenue, Elmhurst NY 11373 (map)
431 West 202 Street, New York NY 10034 (map)