Overlooking the Cross Bronx on a vacant strip of East 174th Street, El Rincon de Los Taxistas—a five year-old truck serving up Dominican street fare—is at the heart of a Bronx crossroads lacking in good food. The block is flanked by two of the borough's most vital arteries, Jerome Avenue and the elevated Grand Concourse. While pedestrians come by now and then, owner Rafael really targets livery cab drivers.
The kitchen, staffed by two women who speak serviceable if limited English, produces a smattering of chimichurri (popularly known as "Dominican Hamburgers"), juices, and cuchifritos and frituras (various fried items). The last, on display behind glass, includes chicharrones, empanadas, fried cassava and yucca, bollitos (boiled cornmeal rolls) and Dominican turnovers (paster en hoja). An adjacent stockpile of pig's ears, sausage, and other meats invites further investigation. Heartier stews are also available, as is Fish on Fridays.
El Rincon's claim to fame is their chimichurri, popularly known as "Dominican hamburgers," not to be confused with the Argentinean grilling sauce of the same name. You can get one with chicken, pork, pork chop, or beef, all $5 apiece. They're damn good, if a little heavy on sauce, and exactly the kind of fare you'd need to get through a long night on the road: hefty, but not quite gut-busting.
The bread, pan de agua, is toasted on the flat top and slathered with a mayo- and vinegar-based sauce. Cabbage, red onion, and tomato are then added. When mixed with the cabbage and onion, the sauce pulls the sandwich together: it tastes like a sweeter coleslaw, the vinegar coming through in bursts. Once the meat is cooked through, the sandwich is assembled and pressed on the griddle, allowing the bread to develop a more serious crust.
Both the shredded chicken and pork are solid choices for chowing, but the flavor of the meat doesn't come through as distinctly as in the beef. The beef is ground, mixed with minced herbs, and molded into an oblong, flattened patty about the length of the bread. Cooked lightly, it doesn't develop much of a crust, but the flavor is just right. With the cabbage, onion, and tart-creamy sauce, the sandwich evokes memories of summer grill sessions.
Wash down your chimichurri with one of the intriguing drinks on offer, served over ice. Options include avena con limon ($3; granola and lime), naranja ($2; orange), chinola con leche ($3; passionfruit with milk), ceresa ($2; cherry), and moril sonando ($3; a popular Dominican drink typically consisting of orange juice, crushed ice, chilled milk, and cane sugar).
Of those available, the chinola con leche—sweet but not sugary, and a little tart—stood out as the best. Even on a cold and overcast day, a second serving proved too hard to resist. Good, too, was the cherry, thought it did taste more like nectar of Blow Pop than actual cherries.
Restaurants are sparse on around this stretch of Jerome, and seating here is limited to a couple purple chairs chained to the adjacent fence, enclosing a vacant lot that Raphael maintains for the city. But El Rincon is worth the diversion, especially on a balmy summer afternoon when those juices come in handy.
El Rincon de Los Taxistas
East 174th Street between Jerome Avenue and Townsend Avenue, Bronx, NY 10452 (map)
About the author: Chris Crowley is a former Serious Eats intern and the author of the Bronx Eats column. You can follow him on twitter here, or pay a visit to his new food blog, Sound Bites, over on Wordpress.